Apple has one advantage in saying very little about future products. It gives the media plenty of space to make things up, or at least attempt to speculate about what form those future products might take.
This year’s Apple product focus begins with the next versions of the gear with which we’re already familiar, such as the iPhone and the iPad and, to a limited extent, Macs. So it is assumed that the next iPhone must be the iPhone 6, because Apple uses full model numbers without subversions in alternate years, and the current model is the iPhone 5s. Sure, Apple could change this predictability with the stroke of a different model number designation, but let’s take it as correct.
So it’s easy to consider that the iPhone 6 must be a major change, at least physically, from the current version. That would appear to include changes to the case design and, of course, a larger display. Well, maybe. Some of the rumors talk of two different sizes, but it may be that Apple is just sampling different display configurations before deciding on which one to produce. Yet another rumor says it’ll be just one, perhaps 4.7 inches.
Speculation about a bigger iPad? Well, Apple already made the big changes last fall, particularly with the arrival of the iPad Air. But some rumors spoke of a 12.9-inch version, but whether such a form factor is practical or would even attract a large audience is questionable. Don’t even ask me.
Regardless, it seems as if the rumors of an iPad Pro, advanced by no less than the Wall Street Journal, have died down of late. Supposedly Apple has postponed the product, or has given up entirely. Once again, I suppose it’s possible word of a prototype leaked from the supply chain, and reporters ran with it. Just a possibility.
But what about the new product categories that Tim Cook has promised?
Well, Mac|Life magazine has entered the fray in their April 2014 issue with articles predicting the possible design and feature sets of an iWatch, an Apple connected TV and, of course, that iPad Pro.
At least with the last, you sort of expect it to be a big iPad Air should it come to be. But the rest remains lost in the alternate universe of rumors and speculation. You know that Apple is interested in the potential of wearables, because Tim Cook has said so. But does that mean offering health-related apps and other features in iOS, or in the next generation iPhones and iPads? Or does it mean a whole new device that will resemble a fancy electronic wristwatch, to be dubbed iWatch? Or does it mean some other device that only has a passing resemblance to a smartwatch, at least because it’s small?
The question of a TV set is even murkier. It all goes back to that oft-quoted statement from Steve Jobs, as quoted in Walter Isaacson’s official biography. Sure, Apple might have developed the greatest TV interface ever, but does it have to appear in a TV set? What about a revised Apple TV?
Indeed, speculation about the next Apple TV is mounting. Apple recently moved it from the Accessories spot to its own space on the online store. That clearly signals a greater emphasis, as there should be since Apple took in $1 billion in revenue from the product last year. You can hardly call that a hobby, since entire companies make do with far less.
What’s more, there is yet another quote attributed to Steve Jobs, that there is no profit in the TV industry. That’s something that the current manufacturers seem to be demonstrating over and over again. As prices go down, they struggle to find more snazzy technologies to entice you to buy a new set, preferably one that costs more.
So we had 3D, but there were few takers. Even after 3D moved down to cheaper sets, there wasn’t much evidence of interest, and so you see fewer 2014 models that sport the feature. But there are also reports of a new 3D technology, one that doesn’t require the glasses, which may debut next year. So the TV makers are still trying.
Another scheme to get you to pay more is 4K or Ultra HD. Having four times as many pixels, twice as many horizontally and twice as many vertically, may sound great on paper. But it’s mostly a specs game, because you need a really large set to see much of a difference. There’s still the question of delivering higher resolution content on today’s Internet pipes. Samsung’s answer is to sell you a $300 hard drive on which 4K movies are installed. If you want more movies, buy another drive I suppose. But this is from the company that brought you the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, so I’m not expecting much.
But the long and short of it is that an Apple Store is not configured to be a big box retailer. The TV market is more than saturated, and Apple would probably do as well or better with an enhanced Apple TV, along with content deals with the entertainment industry and the cable providers. There are even recent published reports that Apple is talking with Comcast about delivering content through an Apple TV. Clearly things are happening, but it doesn’t seem to be about a TV set with an Apple logo.
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