We’re still months out, but I see Apple’s fall announcements shaping up to be substantial. Tim Cook finished off the new iPad announcement with the words “across the year, you’re going to see a lot more of this kind of innovation, we are just getting started.” Since then, we’ve seen a new Retina MacBook Pro as well as some moderate updates across the MacBook line. But Cook seemed to really be driving home that this year has a lot in store.
We’ll be seeing a new, likely taller iPhone. It is probably going to resemble the ETrade Supply part. A taller screen, redesigned dock connector, Nano-SIM, LTE, and NFC chip are the most commonly rumored features. Keep in mind, this won’t be the only iPhone. Expect Apple to maintain the $0 and $99 subsidized price points that have yielded lots of growth since October. I would imagine the iPhone 4 will be replaced by the 4S, but as to whether the 3GS stays at the bottom or gets replaced by the iPhone 4 is another question. The lower resolution screen and plastic back likely make the 3GS still much cheaper to manufacture. It will be interesting to see where the lineup settles.
The iPod family is traditionally updated in the September timeframe. There are some rumors of a new iPod Nano which looks at least plausible. Notably, by this fall it will be two years since the iPod Touch has had any significant changes. The iPod line in general is a decreasing slice of Apple’s revenues, but the Touch in particular seems like an important device strategically. It’s the lowest price point, no-contract iOS device. It’s a big Christmas device for kids. It’s a device that helps maintain their strong position in the handheld gaming market. I would expect at least another minor update, and we might see some pricing changes, especially if…
A 7.85-inch iPad rumor has been trending up and down for the last several months. It seemed highly improbable when Steve Jobs denounced the form factor at an earnings call after some early Android tablet announcements. But keep in mind, Steve Jobs has been known to shut down speculation on possible product ideas in the past, famously, the video iPod. It’s a shrewd business practice to downplay rumored products that are months or years from being introduced in favor of driving sales to products on the market today.
Android tablets have been settling on the 7-inch size for one main reason. It’s the only way they can ship a tablet that is price/value competitive with the iPad. Apple has a stranglehold on components for building portable devices, and they aren’t shipping a 7-inch model right now. Amazon and OEMs building Android tablets can leverage this to ship these smaller tablets at a low starting price point. Given their powerful supply chain relationships, Apple could sell a small tablet at or under the cost of these Android tablets. However, Apple is more likely to target a price close enough to the competition to lure potential buyers, but with enough of a premium to maintain a healthy profit margin. I would expect the smaller iPad to fall between $249 and $299.
It’s true that we saw some new Macs just last month. But the Retina display is clearly coming to the rest of the line over time. We probably won’t be seeing Retina in desktops for a while as the projected display sizes butt up against current Thunderbolt transfer speeds, though there is still a rumored non-Retina iMac update coming soon. Also, there has been some evidence pointing to a 13-inch counterpart to the new Retina MacBook Pro, as well as rumors that they’ll be arriving this fall. The roll-out of Retina displays will likely take a while, so seeing it show up in a model or two at a time doesn’t seem out of the question.
We all want Apple to make an awesome TV, but this rumor has been stale lately. This might just fall under “doubling down” on product secrecy, but if Apple is going to release a physical TV, it’s hard to imagine it being just a flat panel running the current Apple TV software. That isn’t a big enough bet for Apple, and it certainly doesn’t sound like Steve having “finally cracked it”. Pre-Christmas would be a great time to release a TV, but my gut says this one’s not fully-baked yet.
And the rest
Apple has been dismantling complicated things a lot lately. On the Mac, reminders have been pulled out of Calendar into their own app. Notes received similar treatment being pulled from Mail. Just recently on iOS we saw Podcasts get their own app signaling an expected removal from the Music app. This trend is likely to continue in other crowded apps. Is it possible that this is the year for iTunes dismemberment? Probably another longshot, but a guy can hope.
We always major on getting excited about hardware and operating system announcements, but sometimes other software announcements are just as interesting. We haven’t seen a lot of major changes to iWork or iLife lately on the Mac, and there are always some surprises that can come out of left field. Like Ping!
Speaking of Ping, it seems likely to get shut down at or before this fall. It is admittedly not the thriving network Apple had envisioned, and with Apple bringing new integration with Facebook, it’s hard to imagine Ping being with us much longer.
Even half over, it looks like 2012 still has “a lot to look forward to”. Just a few of these things would make for an incredible event this fall. If they both come through, the new iPhone and 7.85-inch iPad are likely to steal the show, but all the little things will still add up. After all, it’s how Apple handles all the little things that makes the company so great.