Archive for the ‘ Mac Hardware ’ 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.

Waiting On The New MacBook Pro – Machine Dreams

MoD needs a new MacBook either an Air or a new MacBook Pro. Our old machine died and we’ve been using a backup computer for about 6 weeks. However, due to Intel’s delay on Ivy Bridge processors we’ve been forced to wait and wait on the new MacBook Pros. Without knowing the feature and price set of the new MacBook Pros versus MacBook Air, we’re paralyzed from making a purchase decision. In fact, we’re not even sure if Apple won’t just combine the two MacBook lineups into one product series distinguished by LCD size.

While waiting and hoping to see a news update that an Apple announcement has occurred, what would be my ideal new MacBook Pro?

Screen Size: 15 inch with a resolution higher than 1600 x 1200 (retina display is probably not realistic right now)

RAM : 4 GB at least (user upgradeable to 16 GB)

Storage: Solid State drive 128 or 256. Again user upgradeable as those drives drop in price in the future.

Graphics: Dedicated video card that supports 2 external monitors.

Processor: New Ivy Bridge Quad Core processor.

Weight: the 13 inch MacBook Air just under 3 lbs. The current 15 inch MacBook Pro is 5.6 lbs. So how about the split the difference on the new design. So 4.3 lbs.

Height: current MacBook Pro is .95 inches. MacBook Air is tapered and is .65 at the thickest point. So how about a MacBook Pro that is .65 throughout the whole design.

Thunderbolt Ports: 2 (one on each side). Dual channel Thunderbolt capability. 2 x 10 Gbps channels. Basically one for storage and one for video.

Flash Card Slot: Supports cards up to 256 GB

USB 3.0 capable ports: 2 (one one each side).

No DVD/CD drive

7 hour battery life

I’d buy it tomorrow if the price for a 4 GB RAM/128 GB Solid State HD/Base line processor was $1699

Apple to Announce a Monster March 2012 Quarter?

So MoD is far from a financial analyst type guy, but it’s easy to put 2 and 2 together, or put 2 stories together.

Evidence Item 1

Apple due to increased foot traffic volume at their retail stores is allegedly modifying their scheduling rules to increase coverage on Fri/Sat/Sun and increasing the minimum hours for part time employees. If the foot traffic volume has continued to the point of requiring a change in staffing rules, then it seems reasonable to assume that Apple’s stores have continued their amazing numbers in this 1st calendar quarter of 2012. The new iPad has probably boosted that foot traffic.

Evidence Item 2

Cannacord Genuity Analyst Mike Walkley has published a note to investors indicating that the iPhone 4s has been the best selling smartphone the entire quarter on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Walkley based on his data believes that the iPhone 4S has been outselling all other smartphones combined on AT&T and Sprint and equal to the volume on Verizon.

So the evidence would indicate that Apple’s momentum is just continuing, what could this mean in terms of reported earnings for the quarter in late April?

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt posted his first earnings estimates tracking chart, and right now the Wall Street Pros have Apple at $35.88 billion. The independent analysts like Horace Dediu, Robert Paul Leitao, Daniel Tello, and Andy Zaky  have Apple at $42.68 billion, or a difference of $6.8 billion. If the independent analysts are close to being right, Apple will have had a year over year increase of nearly 72%. For some perspective in  April 2010 Apple announced earnings of $13.5 billion, so Apple could in two years have potentially increased revenue nearly 200% in two years.

How does Apple get close to those numbers according to Horace Dediu?

  • 37 million iPhones
  • 12 million iPads
  • 4.7 million Macs
  • 7 million iPods

So it’s quite possible that Apple’s winter Quarter numbers could come close to matching the sales of their holiday quarter of 2011. Which begs the obvious question of what numbers Apple might hit for the rest of the calendar year.

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

An Estimate of Apple in 2013

The stats around Apple keep getting higher and harder to absorb.

$47 Billion in revenue for a quarter, nearly $100 billion in cash, 37 million iPhones sold, Apple if you count the iPad is the largest PC vendor in the world, Apple is the world leader in smartphones sold, the list goes on and on. Can this amazing growth for Apple continue?

There’s an interesting cadre of independent (amateur) analysts that predict Apple’s quarterly numbers and therefore have to provide estimates on Apple’s sales numbers of iPhones, iPads, and Mac.

Routinely these independent analysts do a better job predicting Apple’s revenue numbers than the professional Wall Street Apple analysts. You’ve seen MoD reference Horace Dediu before with his great charts displaying Apple’s surge into the smartphone industry. Horace of asymco.com is one of these top independent analysts.

Well another member of this club is Daniel Tello who uses the nom de internet of Deagol. Recently, Deagol published a fascinating article about the potential growth of Apple’s products.

So based on the charts in the Deagol report (and he’s suggesting reasonable growth curves based on historical data factoring in both new customers and existing users upgrading hardware)  Apple  in 2013 could hit the following numbers;

Macs – 27 million for (presuming an ASP of $1250) $34 billion

iPhones – 180 million for (presuming an ASP of $600) $108  billion

iPads – 90 million for (presuming an ASP of $590)  $ 53 billion

iPods – the only product category that is in decline 25 million  for (presuming an ASP of $160) $ 4 billion

to get a potential total revenue count from these numbers, MoD added in an additional  8%  for  software, peripherals, iTunes Store, App Store, etc (that percentage comes from Apple’s most recent quarter) and Apple would post annual revenue in 2013 of $216 billion (nearly doubling revenue again from 2011) with a potential profit of over $61 billion.

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.