Understand that Apple hasn’t held a press event since last October. After last month’s quarterly conference with the financial community, Tim Cook has given speeches, met with the President and granted a few interviews to friendly reporters. But it’s not that a lot of new material can be found in those statements, at least when it comes to unexpected new gadgets and services.
Sure, we have heard about new datacenters powered by renewable energy. This will be a boon to the solar industry no doubt, and certainly it’s nice to know that there will be more employment opportunities as a result. Being able to better cope with growing online traffic will no doubt make your iCloud experiences more reliable, and maybe give Apple enough capacity to cut the price for the optional packages, but it’s not exactly a new product or service, and hence it’s not worth much in the way of a rumor.
Now because something is rumored doesn’t mean Apple is going to deliver anything new. Take that connected TV set hinted by the pithy comments the late Steve Jobs made in a certain authorized biography from author Walter Isaacson. But having the magical interface that would revolutionize your TV experience doesn’t mean that it has to be done with a TV set. After all, the TV market is old and saturated. It’s not the equivalent of music players, smartphones and tablets, where the existing markets were not being well served before Apple entered the picture.
That’s something that the critics haven’t noticed.
The same is true for mobile payments, which basically went nowhere until Apple Pay came along. But financial tools aren’t very sexy.
But what about streaming video players? They are selling reasonably well, sometimes to so-called cord cutters, but they are all variations on a theme and the potential has yet to be realized. Even Apple TV, liberated from hobby status, hasn’t changed all that much except to sport the typically flat interface derived from iOS 7 with more channels. And thus more clutter.
The rumors have more or less eliminated the possibility of a TV set, and are focusing on how Apple might expand Apple TV. Would it sport a new, spiffy interface that echoes the promises, or exaggerations, from Apple’s late co-founder? What it serve as a sort of TiVO, as a front end to existing cable and satellite services, or is Apple planning their own streaming service? Adding 4K support would be an afterthought, since it’s just so expected.
Or is anyone paying attention anymore?
It seems that the focus of recent rumors, up through last week, was mostly about a MacBook Air with Retina display, with an almost 12-inch display. That display size is supposedly based on the resolution of the iPad Air 2 expanded to match the dots per inch of other Macs with Retina displays. Well, except for the iMac 5K of course.
There’s even talk of an iPad Pro that may or may not sport a 12.9-inch display and serve as a pro tablet of some sort. Maybe it’ll be useful for content creators, or perhaps the enterprise, but surely not the mass market. I wouldn’t think of buying one, at least not at this point, but if it somehow stopped the erosion of iPad sales, maybe Apple would consider taking this route.
The rumors about Apple Pay are mostly about expanding the system to more stores and financial institutions, but mobile payment systems aren’t sexy. At least Apple is doing better in this space than other companies, far better.
Apple Watch will arrive in weeks, so maybe there’s little point speculating about the final specs and pricing, although the prospect of a $20,000 top price may appeal to those who feel that spending that princely sum on some fancy electronic gizmo is a badge of honor. Clearly the Apple Watch Edition won’t come cheap and that places this smartwatch in a totally different arena than the competition. The rest are just gadgets that may at times seem attractive enough, but they hardly qualify as jewelry.
So in that sense, Apple Watch, despite the superficial resemblance of some of the features to other so-called smartwatches, really has no direct competitor. Well, until the premium watch makers get in on the act. There’s already the promise of one from TAG Heuer.
Last week, though, talk of an Apple Watch was essentially supplanted by talk of an Apple Car. No, not just the infotainment system, or full control of the dashboard, but the entire vehicle with the seats, engine, transmission, wheels, axles, transmission, sunroof — the whole Megillah.
Such a vehicle, no doubt electric powered, and possibly with self-driving capability, would seem to pit Apple against Tesla. It doesn’t seem as if Apple would enter the car business with an affordable model, at least for starters, though one never knows. Tesla’s smaller, cheaper Model 3, expected to be sold for between $35,000 and $40,000, is not due until 2017. The rumors about Apple’s automotive project, code-named Titan, speak of production by 2020, plenty of time for Apple to consider entering the higher end of the midsized and compact luxury markets. That’s where annual sales expand from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands.
At least with an Apple Car, regulatory requirements and emissions and insurance industry testing will require that they let the cat out of the bag many months before such a product ends up in an Apple showroom somewhere. So ongoing rumors right now are going to be decidedly premature, unless Apple gives up the whole thing and the stories eventually vanish without having anything to sustain them. I mean, some industry executives have suggested Apple has no business building cars. They also said that about music players, smartphones and tablets, and some even said Apple went too far with personal computers.