Apple’s 2012 Bigger than 2011??

First I apologize for the inactivity but after the October iPhone announcement everything just stopped news wise.

But 2012 is just getting going.

Apple just posted an unreal December 2011 Quarter blowing out all predicted numbers and showing growth across all products lines not named iPod (iPod numbers are being cannibalized by Apple’s power twins of  iPad and iPhone).

4 amazing numbers stand out: $46 Billion in revenue, 37 million iPhones, 15 million iPads, 5.2 million Macs.

As incredible as those numbers were the results were generated by a product line up that was relatively unchanged from 2010. 2012 though could see some significant changes to all 3 product lines and a 4th big ticket product if the Apple Flat Panel TV rumors prove accurate.

iPad for 2012: March should see the arrival of the Retina Display iPad 3. The iPad 3 will be the flagship tablet the entire industry will have to chase. Apple’s buying power and supplier access could easily mean that the supply of these high resolution displays are denied to other manufacturers, or  that Apple is going to get a price per unit cost that the rest of their competitors won’t be able to match. In addition, Apple is likely to continue producing the iPad 2 in at least some limited configuration at a cheaper price point just like the iPhone 4 8GB is available for $99. So, Apple will likely continue to produce the 16 GB iPad 2, and price the device for $399 further putting pressure on competitors. Back to the iPad 3, in addition to processor and graphics improvements expect to see at a minimum a 3G chip set supporting GSM/CDMA, so Apple can simplify their production and inventory supply. Also expect Sprint to get access to the 3G iPad.  4G LTE capability is a great unknown. Both AT&T and Verizon would prefer Apple include LTE support, but LTE is right now predominantly a US feature with serious battery consequences (less of an issue for the iPad). Regardless iPad 3 and iPad 2 stand an excellent chance of increasing and extending the iPad’s sales numbers. The biggest threat to the iPad right now appears to be Windows 8 tablets that won’t appear until late Q3. However, these tablets are total vaporware with no specs, features, limitations, or prices. In particular, it’s unclear what software (since it won’t be able to run the large inventory of Wintel software) would be available for any ARM based Windows 8 tablet since there are already rumors that Intel based tablets won’t come near to the iPad price point.

iPhone for 2012: A redesigned iPhone 5 is coming this year, the only question is a July or October launch date. It’s unclear if the recent October launch was an anomaly or the new SOP for Apple. We know that Apple will continue to build and sell the iPhone 4 at $0 with contract, iPhone 4s at $99 with contract. We know that Verizon and AT&T will want LTE capability in the device, and there’s a strong chance that Apple will add T-Mobile and support for as many Chinese carriers as possible (adding carriers is making a huge difference in market share versus Android). The biggest issue sure to generate significant rumor traffic will be the new design and new dimensions. The burning question will be screen size for the iPhone 5. Android phones are all 4 inches and larger now. Could a bigger screen iPhone also lead to a bigger screen iPod Touch? I think a move to a bigger screen makes sense but Apple will avoid creating a monster phone. I think a new home button configuration previously rumored is a strong possibility which provides more navigation options. Will it have NFC to turn the iPhone into a digital wallet? Apple including this feature on their iPhone could take phone payments mainstream so will the other parties involved agree to Apple’s demands mainly companies like Visa, Amex, Paypal, etc. Apple’s not going to do a mobile digital wallet without control over the user experience.

Mac for 2012: A 15 inch MacBook Air seems like a certainty. A bigger screen MacBook Air would be a natural expansion of the lineup, look for that new machine the same time that Apple updates the processor/graphics on the 11/13 inch models. The other big update should be a completely redesigned MacBook Pro. Expect the DVD drive to be eliminated, it won’t be MacBook Air thin, but expect some reduction in weight and thickness. The big selling feature for pro users will be Retina high resolution displays. Those new displays will provide differentiation from the Air and a compelling upgrade feature. Intel’s new Ivy Bridge platform in April/May would be the ideal new processors for the new Macbook Pros. These updates could drive higher sales of Apple’s laptop business which represents 70% of Mac sales.

iMac update for 2012? If Apple can make it thinner and lighter they will. If display technology allows, a redesign is possible.Retina iMacs?? Possibly. Apple also could make a solid state/conventional drive combo standard to improve performance.  Beyond those kind of tweaks along with the obvious process/graphics upgrades, the current form factor is ideal.

Mac Mini? New processors and graphics. No other changes will probably occur. Mac Mini is probably not in danger of being cancelled this year. Unless…

Updated Mac Pro or  whole new class of Mac? Apple could launch a new class of desktop device that has powerful graphics and scales up to use higher end processors, and expandable ram. Space for two drives, one solid state and one traditional, instead of PCI slots in the chassis the device now relies upon multiple Thunderbolt ports to provide those expansion options. Priced right this headless iMac could find a market, and Apple could offer a high performance version that works for a pro market. Or we could simply see the current Mac Pro updated later in the year when the right processors become available. It’s entirely possible that in a  year or two that the iMac is the only desktop left in the Mac lineup.

Apple Branded Flat Panel TV: The ultimate rumor and wildcard for Apple in 2012. It’s all unsupported speculation but why would Apple even attack this market. Well the flat panel TV market worldwide for 2012 should represent nearly 250 million units old sold. So there’s a huge potential market. In addition, any Apple product in this space would be considered a premium product due to feature set and likely fetch an ASP of at least $1000. So even if Apple was only able to replicate their Apple TV device sales of 1.4 million, Apple would still be adding nearly $1.5 billion to the bottom line each quarter. The market annually is huge, but the upgrade cycle for users is long so any TV move will be a long play, establishing Apple as a player/brand as display technology progresses. If Apple was only able to garner 2% or 3% of the worldwide market that would still represent a significant revenue stream. The potential market opportunity is significant.

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