Archive for the ‘ iOS ’ Category

Final Pre WWDC Thoughts

What’s going to happen Monday at the only real tradeshow/conference that Apple actually attends?

Stone Cold Locks

1. iOS 6 – Not that this was actually in doubt, but the banners at WWDC confirm the announcement of the new OS. In addition, iOS 6 will feature the start of the de Google-ization of the standard iOS apps with Maps being the first to fall.

2. New MacBooks of some kind. There’s some confusion over this announcement with some analysts predicting new MacBook Pros current form factor and new MacBooks with a new thinner form factor. Both will be available in 13/15 inch sizes. I just don’t see Apple making their product lineup confusing by having 13 inch Macbook Air, Macbook, and MacBook Pro. So new Macbook Pros or MacBooks but not both. And the new “MacBooks” are thinner, lighter, no CD/DVD, and SSD only. These new MacBooks will offer an retina display on some models.

3. Mountain Lion Gold Master release to developers, and release in the next 30 days.

Very Likely

1. New Mac Pros in a new case featuring Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. Apple has not updated this machine and it’s due for an update. But Apple could do something unique here with a new type of Mac.

2. Retina Display iMac in a new case. The iMac has been untouched for over 2 years as well. Not a radical redesign, but lighter and thinner.

Potentially Game Changing/Stock Skyrocketing

Apple TV SDK – new Apple TV OS and the OS for the eventual Apple TV display. This could be game breaking, the third tier for the iOS market. A serious long play product for Apple but when you have 100 billion in cash, then you can afford some longer play strategic initiatives. We will see some of the control elements via Siri? We will see how Apple TV can/will work with existing video feeds such as cable boxes? We will get to see some imaginative Apple TV Apps/Games?

This could be an iPhone type announcement moment if Apple has something to disrupt the current TV industry. It could also be a definitive sign that Apple can continue to innovate post Steve. In addition, who introduces this new OS will be interesting to track. A major new product initiative at a keynote could set the stage for the start of the Tim Cook era.

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Apple’s New iSight Camera??

While the entire Apple obsessed world both analysts and rumor sites were trying to divine any hints about the proposed Apple TV display, iLounge dropped a stealthy unique not previously suggested rumor power bomb. With so much Apple coverage, how did iLounge accomplish this feat? By suggesting a product that on the surface seems just crazy, an Apple branded camera.

Initially this rumor just seems broken, the digital camera business is currently being destroyed by the ever increasingly capable smartphone cameras. The point and shoot camera business in particular is a disaster right now. The only camera product line with some buzz right now is the micro Four Thirds thinner cameras with swappable lenses like the Sony NEX lineup. Improved future iPhone cameras are a given, but a stand alone camera just seems silly. Or does it?

iLounge does a great job laying out the argument. Here’s an image from 9TO5Mac of the article that started the rumor found in the iLounge’s great iPad User’s Guide.

iPhones/iPads will reach a limit in camera capability due to the ever increasing demands of weight, battery life (interior space for a battery), and drive to keep down thickness. In particular, the ability to optically zoom is the main issue. The thinness requirement won’t ever allow a real optical zoom lens.

In the drive to add more features and capabilities, camera OSes/interfaces are total mess of buttons and menus. Horrible GUIs and horrible navigation experience. Sounds like ripe territory for a certain company that creates ground breaking intuitive interfaces.

Cameras are still a $68 billion business. So there’s cash to be made there.

A networked camera or camera that auto syncs wirelessly with an iPhone/iPad and then with iCloud would seamlessly work with the entire Apple ecosystem of hardware and software.

Photography was always a passion of Steve Jobs. Jobs’ frequently acknowledged the influence of Polaroid founder Ed Land.  Jobs was fascinated with the new Lytro camera that works on a completely new light capture principle. Graphics have always been a key industry for Apple. So unlike a TV, this is more in Apple’s wheelhouse. It’s a classic area where art (the humanities) intersects with technology.

Apple has renewed their hold on the trademark/brand name iSight, and adjusted the trademark to cover a stand alone camera. And there are a number of job listings at apple.com related to camera technologies.

What does MoD think of this rumor which iLounge goes to great pains to point out came from an excellent source and that the device is being developed to launch after the rumored Apple TV display?

Well Apple did have a digital camera before, and it was overpriced piece of junk, so that’s certainly on the negative side of things.  Apple used to make printers too, and could probably create an excellent printer, but I don’t see Apple getting back into that business. While the camera industry is $68 billion right now, is that number just going to continue to drop leaving only the high end professional camera industry left? The high end camera industry requires a large investment in R/D to maintain market position. Is there really a significant enough delta in picture quality between what the iPhone camera will be able to do in the future and a stand alone camera in the sweet price range ($300 to $400 for the stand alone cameras).  Can Apple create something before the super Four Thirds designs eventually drop to that sweet price spot? Wouldn’t Apple’s resources be better spent on developing API s or a communication protocol to work with other camera companies in the same way AirPrint works with wireless printers?

However….

The megapixel spec war that drove the digital camera industry is becoming increasing irrelevant. Apple could develop a camera OS interface that is so easy and innovative that it gives back power to the average user to take great photos in all kinds of environments. If Apple could bury all the tech and all the specs/settings behind this GUI, then it could to use Horace Dediu favorite term “disrupt” a large part of the photography industry. Apple could even open the device to application developers. Perhaps the first camera has a power zoom lens that is not swappable, but works for 80% of the situations. It’s the iPhoto of cameras, then later maybe Apple releases the Aperture level camera with swappable lenses and perhaps partners with a major player for lens compatability. Still I’m imagining something like the Sony NEX – 3 with an iPhone type touch screen on the back.

4/23 Random Thoughts

–  Apple is announcing their March 2012 Quarter numbers tomorrow, here are 3 significant numbers that MoD will be tracking:

1. Mac Laptop Numbers – This is purely anecdotal but I know of numerous (US based) individuals holding off purchases for the new MacBook Pros. If Mac growth numbers can be sustained in this new product free quarter, then the growth numbers for Q3/Q4 when the entire lineup should be upgraded (Ivy Bridge processors at the very least) could be significant.
2. iPad ASP – Again purely anecdotal but Apple stores in Chicago only inventory issues since launch have been the the 64GB Verizon LTE. The retina display iPad in conjunction with the vastly improved cellular data access could push the ASP higher with the obvious margin impact as well. Since Apple won’t break out sales by iPad versions, ASP is really the only indicator of product mix.
3. Like everyone the iPhone numbers are going to be fascinating to review. How many iPhones can Apple produce a month and what is the real global market for the iPhone? The Pros and Amateurs who track Apple’s earnings and iPhone numbers have a wide disparity in estimates ranging from 33 million to a high of 44 million.

– WWDC Announcement. Based on historical trends, in order for WWDC to hit the June timeframe previously suggested Apple has about 1 week to announce the event. WWDC is important because Apple should announce iOS 6 during the keynote. And iOS 6 release date will almost certainly be in the same time frame as the iPhone 5 launch. June WWDC could mean a August/September iPhone 5 whereas a July WWDC would mean a September/October release. So all iPhone launch speculation is in a holding pattern until we get a WWDC date.

AAPL hits $600, iPad (3) hits 3 Million, iPad (3) costs…

So some number topics to discuss.

First, AAPL just hit 600 today fresh off the announcement of a dividend and a repurchase of stock program. The stock shows no signs of slowing down and now that Apple has provided some answers on dispensing of their cash that issue is also resolved. The dividend also opens up AAPL to a whole new class of investor further increasing the interest in AAPL. Dec 31st 2011 AAPL was at 405, now it just went over 600. To quote Tim Cook “the pipeline is full”, new laptops are coming (Retina Screen MacBook Pros?), the new iPhone (5), and perhaps the iTV product.

Apple in their press release stated that they have sold 3 million iPads over the weekend. That number probably represents sales at all retail locations sales and pre-orders delivered on Thursday/Friday/Saturday. In terms of comparison, Apple was projected by analysts to have sold 1 million iPad 2 last year. Apple’s supply and manufacturing teams were ready for this launch with the kind of inventory numbers that were not available last year. In addition, Apple’s launching in more countries faster than ever with their best equipped/most standards compliant 3g/4g/LTE device ever. Apple was only able to sell slightly over 4 million iPads last year in their product version transition quarter. If Tim Cook has the supply chain able to ramp up quickly to provide significant inventory, it bodes well for Apple’s numbers all year long with a calendar full of potential new launches.

A couple of small notes. One, at the two Apple Stores I visited the stores had inventory save for 64GB LTE versions, or Apple’s highest margin product. Two, 4G LTE versions seems to be far more popular than their previous 3G counterparts. Still, not as popular as the WiFi only version but it looks like the percentage is narrowing and there’s significant margin/revenue there for Apple as well as making Apple very popular with Verizon and AT&T. Also, the rumors sourced from repair facilities receiving spare parts of the new iPad were all on target. When all the hype starts around the iPhone 5, this will be MoD’s benchmark for tracking this rumor. Also, as we have speculated before the supply chain for the iPhone may be so massive that Apple will really has no chance of unveiling a legit surprise. And it doesn’t need to, it’s far more important that Apple has 20 to 30 million iPhone 5s ready in the pipeline at launch.

So how did Apple add a Retina display, better camera, bigger battery, and better processor. iSuppli has done their usual thorough job at estimating the cost of the device and estimates that Apple is going to take a margin hit on the new device since it will cost 30% more than the iPad 2. The older iPad 2 WiFi according to their projections cost $245 while the new iPad 16 GB WiFi is $316. While it’s understandable that the new screen is going to cost Apple more, you have to wonder if iSuppli can accurately project what Apple is paying for solid state storage or what Apple is paying for the 5 MP camera parts (same camera part as the now 2 year old iPhone 4). And if the Retina display and LTE lead to a higher mix of 32 GB + models with LTE, then Apple can easily offset the costs with the higher margin versions.

Now, if we take the iSuppli data at face value, it presents a bigger problem for Apple’s competitors. Apple has better component buying power than any competitor save for Samsung, so hitting a lower price point on a similar equipped retina screen iPad is going to be difficult. But let’s say that for arguments sake a competitor can match Apple’s price point, same hardware overall specs. In order to have a significantly cheaper product than Apple, the competitor would probably need a $399 price point matching the iPad 2 price with higher specs to really dent Apple on price. Factoring in retail markup of about 10%, a manufacturer is going to have to survive on about 40 bucks or 10% margin on the product. Again, no one has been able to match Apple’s pricing on components to date (last year’s XOOM was more expensive than the iPad2 according to iSuppli), and the new display requirements may only increase that gap.

Apple Bred A Secret New Cat

MoD argued last year that Apple was getting so big that perhaps it was unable to really surprise the tech media any longer. And while that maybe true for the iPhone and iPad, Apple still has a trick or two in their super secret HQ.

MoD would love to link to any rumor sites story prior to today on OS X Mountain Lion, but they don’t exist. Not a single site had the codename/product name right. Now, some of the rumor sites did accurately guess some of the features, namely iChat becoming Messages, further iCloud integration, and a Notification application for OS X. However, no rumor site came close to predicting an OS X update being released this summer.

While the update has a number of interesting features, here’s an excellent recap of the features by MacWorld writer Jason Snell. There are several items about OS X Mountain Lion that are interesting about the future of Apple.

OS X Mountain Lion looks like a great update and while Apple didn’t announce a price for its’ newest cat a price figure of $19.99 seems logical, certainly no more than Lion’s cost of $29.99. With so much hardware revenue, Apple seems almost disinterested in OS update revenue.  Apple is more interested in folks upgrading their OS to the latest version. Microsoft cannot be happy about this trend from Apple, and is going to have to be very careful about how it pitches OS costs for both tablets and PCs that use the “same” version of Windows.

Apple instead of a media event to release the new software invited a half dozen of the most influential tech media for a personal media event at Apple HQ. John Gruber over at Daring Fireball has a great description of his personal media event. Apple seems focused on releasing new initiatives when they are ready, but also not abusing their media event buzz. iPad 3 will get the next media event slot in March, but Apple didn’t want to wait to launch the developer release of OS X Mountain Lion. It was ready to go, and now developers have time to be ready for WWDC and a summer launch. Also, despite just a handful of media members getting an early preview the news was all over the tech blogs by 10am that morning. In a Twitter universe the right 3 tech bloggers have the same impact as 200 media members.

Tim Cook recently discussed the iPhone Halo where Apple had 180 million iPhone users who were now also potential Mac and iPad customers. With that ever increasing population in mind, Apple is going to make OS X as user friendly as possible to the iPhone base. iCloud is being developed as the bridge to make a for a seamless user experience.  Apple wants users to have the same experience of accessing their key data across the two platforms without thinking about it.

OS X is going to get yearly updated for the near future. Instead of de-emphasizing OS X, Apple is going to expend a lot of energy to make sure that the OS X is in sync feature and capability wise with its’ multi-touch twin iOS who will be getting an upgrade to version 6.0 this summer. In addition, this yearly update indicates that Apple has expanded their OS development team to support annual upgrades to both OS X and iOS. Perhaps, a clear sign that Apple recognizes that it is a $120+ billion a year company, and has to have the resources to act like one.

Speaking of iOS 6, iOS 6 could easily get the same special invite media request treatment. March is going be all iPad 3 all the time. So instead of a second full blown media event in a short time frame, media members are given iPads 3/iPhones running iOS 6.0 for a week under embargo. Apple could then stealth announce iOS 6 later in April. WWDC in June will feature app demos of both new OSes and probably OS X and iOS versions of apps in data harmony thanks to iCloud.

iCloud features and abilities have only just started. iCloud is going to be a huge future part of the next gen releases of iOS and OS X. Apple is “all in” in terms of internet storage/internet data. Competing products should be wary since Apple is going to bake this functionality into everything they do.

Pay attention to the iCloud version of the Save files window. This extremely simplified look could be an early glimpse into a simplified Finder for OS X. A full screen file management application for new users. The old Finder would still be there for veteran users but new users may be given a whole new graphical way of managing files.  Here’s the new iCloud Open/Save screen image from Pocketlint

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.

The End of Apple’s Ability to Surprise?

Is it possible that the effort needed by Apple’s supply chain has ended any ability for Apple to release a surprise product?

It certainly looks that way.

Five years ago, Apple was a much smaller company in terms of the number of products it develops and ships. Sure there were the varieties of iPods and Macs but that was it. The last existing product lineups that had genuine surprises from Apple were probably the MacBook Air and iPad Nano (replacing the very popular iPod Mini).

Can Apple still spring a surprise of a product that has not been sent to production? Sure, it can show a product/final prototype like the original iPhone or iPad and then announce sales in 60 days. That type of product can still be a surprise. The alleged new Mac product line could be that kind of surprise like the old Apple. An integrated Apple branded TV could be that next kind of surprise, unveiled then launched 60 to 90 days later.

But for the next gen  iPad/iPhone/and even the MacBooks, Apple is shipping in such large quantities that the supply chain/development process has to involve so many moving parts/third party vendors that keeping total secrecy is going to be nigh impossible.

For the iPhone in particular, Apple looks like it’s going to need upwards of 20 million phones a quarter maybe as many as 10 million a month, and cannot logistically pull off shutting down volume of an older version and ramping up production of a new iphone without word of those changes spreading throughout contacts in Taiwan/China. In addition, as the iPhone 4S launch taught us, spare parts are going to leak out prior to the unveiling. The supply chain will have to start sending out various repair parts samples before launch. The repair business for these products has become too big and too important. If there is a big screen iPhone 5 coming next year, our first concrete sign will be replacement back cover or a replacement LCD unit.

For the iPad 3, the production of that many retina display quality LCD panels is not going to go unnoticed. We also can guess based on the recent iPhone 4s launch that Apple is going to keep the iPad 2 in production at a lower price point even after the iPad 3 launches (Apple didn’t do that for the iPad 2 launch, and sales numbers for the original iPad product reflected the ramp down and ramp up problems). Two production lines churning out different iPad versions is going to create some noise, enough that news sites/analysts are going to be able to track down the impact.

Mac volume especially for the MacBook lineup is getting close to that kind of volume. Mac volume if current growth trends continue will be over 5 million a quarter, and already sees the impact of customers delaying purchases waiting for the hardware refresh. For the recent MacBook Air launch, Apple was able to build up inventory before release due to the coordination of launching the MacBook Air with OS X Lion. Again, in these kinds of volumes, the scaling back of production and the ramping up of the new product line is going to create noise.

Apple cannot do the “prototype unveiling/product launches 60 days” with the iPad or iPhone or risk hurting sales for almost 2 quarters due to the demand drop in the quarter right after the announcement and then the inability to meet the pent up demand in the following quarter after launch. That potential problem is only going to increase as the installed base (upgrade base) continues to get larger and larger. The analysts all thought that iPad sales were slowing down in February-March (calendar Q1) when it was more a case of customers waiting on the new product and then not enough iPad 2 inventory to meet that demand in calendar Q2 (April thru June). Apple may in the future have to pre-announce a price drop (letting customers know a new model is coming) and take the hit in margin something it has been reluctant to do especially for the iPhone. But a price drop prior to the announcement and mass availability of the new iPhone 5 could keep sales going of the all iPhone variants with no real dip seen at launch.