Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Apple iPhone/iPad/HDTV?

2010 Mac MiniImage via WikipediaFollowing Apple in the press is always interesting. When you're the number one technology company in the world it's very hard to hide what you are doing but somehow Apple manages. They are scary good at it.

There are some leaks but the tricky and fun bit is figuring out which ones are credible. Right now the iPhone and iPad tend to be the two products that get the most press. Here's what I think is going to happen with these products over the next six months based on the various rumors that have been circulating and my own intuition.

For the iPhone I'm going with a September announcement and an October ship date. I don't think we'll see a 4G phone but we will see dual band CDMA/GSM, a slightly wider screen and a less boxy form factor. The iPhone 4 was just plain ugly to me. Softening the edges would get them back to a more aesthetically pleasing design. I also think the rumors of a narrower bezel and wider usable screen are credible. The Core A5 processor should be a given as well.

There has been some debate as to whether the next iPhone is going to be enough of an upgrade to be labeled the "iPhone 5". That is purely a marketing decision. I think they will call it the iPhone 5. There will be enough upgrades to justify that naming and after waiting a year and a half people are going to expect it to be a big upgrade even if it isn't.

I also think there is a better than decent chance we'll see Apple release a new iPhone in June of 2012 called something like the "iPhone 5G" that will have one or more flavors of LTE baked in and modest upgrades to the CPU and graphics but otherwise be pretty much identical to the previous generation.

On the iPad front there have been rumors of a late 2011 update. I don't think this is going to happen. The iPad 2 was a big upgrade over the original iPad and it hasn't been out that long. The minute Apple releases an iPad 3 the iPad 2 becomes passe. We're all conditioned to waiting a year or more for upgrades to Apples major product lines and expect to be able to enjoy having Apples best product in a particular category for a full twelve months. Relatively minor updates that don't impact the aesthetic aren't as big a deal because they are essentially invisible.

The iPad 3 will probably be announced in March of 2012. I'd expect it to be a bit thinner, have a much higher resolution display and sport an upgraded camera, GPU and quad core processor plus at least one other feature that nobody has thought of but everyone will want. Yeah, I'm not being very precise with that last prediction. With Apple half the fun is the surprise and it wouldn't be a surprise if somebody like me could figure stuff out five or six months in advance.

There have been persistent rumors that Apple is going to start releasing HDTV's. Other than being a consumer electronics item I don't see the appeal of going this route from Apple's perspective. We tend to keep our TV's for five years plus or until they break. Apple has primarily been selling products with a two to five year life cycle up until now. A lot of their business is built on driving people to buy new product every couple of years. They've arguably been able to accelerate that time table a bit but they haven't fundamentally changed the consumer dynamic in the product spaces they work in.

If Apple does get into the HDTV business I'd expect them to have their first failure in recent memory. The Apple TV product has only recently become a modest success after a major revision and big price drop. Maybe they learned something from that experience and have what it takes to make a run at the TV business but I have some serious doubts.

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