Apple’s popular consumer desktop systems haven’t received an update since May 2011, so they’re overdue. With Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Ivy Bridge processors making their way into recently announced MacBook Air and MacBook Pro updates, it’s only a matter of time before the iMac receives a similar refresh.
Not long ago, MacPro users were Apple’s core customers. The company’s most powerful (and expandable) machines were primarily used for video and photo editing, tasks that required significant horsepower. But many professional users have been up in arms and threatening to move to Windows after Apple let the MacPro languish for two years without an update.
Now for the fun stuff — the speculation. We know Apple is working on some top-secret projects in a Cupertino “skunkworks.” We’re just not sure exactly what they are, or if they’ll ever see the light of day. These two are on top of everyone’s list.
An Apple-branded TV has been the pursuit of tech reporters for months. Credible rumors that the so-called iTV has been spotted on Apple’s campus and that telcos have been testing it simply won’t go away. One of Steve Jobs’ last quotes: “I finally cracked it,” was about the TV experience. Last month, Foxconn’s CEO was quoted as saying his company is ramping up to produce the iTV.
But Apple remains stubbornly silent on the subject, pointing to its existing AppleTV set-top streaming device when questioned and coming up with enigmatic statements like Tim Cook’s “We’re going to keep pulling this string and see where it takes us.”
Still, I expect to see an iTV before 2013 is out. Apple has the technology and the content, so expanding into the living room could be the next hit it needs to keep growing. Unfortunately, TVs can be risky business, as Sony (NYSE:SNE) has discovered.
Apple has been biding its time, perfecting the iTV and studying the market, but Microsoft is making inroads with the Xbox 360, while smartphone and tablet rival Samsung has become a top TV manufacturer and is moving into app-running, Internet-connected smart sets. Waiting too long might cede the living room to a competitor, but coming in before the iTV is ready for prime time could result in an embarrassing misfire.
It goes without saying that Apple will likely update the iPad again in 2013 (it’s been following a yearly refresh cycle), and the next version will likely include spec bumps and a case trim to make it thinner. The rumor that refuses to die, however, is the possibility of Apple also introducing a 7-inch iPad (or iPad Mini), possibly in time for this year’s holiday season.
Steve Jobs hated smaller tablets, famously declaring them “dead on arrival.” Tim Cook may think differently, however. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) moved a lot of 7-inch Kindle Fire tablets over the holidays (although sales have subsequently leveled off), and while Kindle Fire wasn’t the threat to the iPad that some had predicted, you can bet that Apple would rather have those sales.
A smaller, cheaper iPad might offend some design sensibilities, but there’s obviously a market for these devices. It’s not out of the question that Apple would make a move to grab these customers, too. There’s some risk that doing so might cannibalize iPad or even iPod Touch sales (an iPad Mini would fall between the two devices in terms of display size), but if Apple were convinced that the bulk of the customers would have turned to Amazon or Samsung, it would have little to lose by pulling the trigger.
The summer is usually fairly quiet on the Apple product-release front. The WWDC 2012 hardware announcements are likely the last for a few months. But as fall approaches, prepare for an Apple special event announcing the iPhone 5 — and keep watching to see if the iPad Mini or iTV materializes in time for the holidays.