Does anyone still remember the olden days when doomed Apple [AAPL] shipped products? Those days appear gone, giving Foxconn a headache and turning all our predictions upside down, 205 days have passed since Apple gave us a significant product release.
[ABOVE: It's sure been a while since anything new.]
Nothing to see here
Take the Mac Pro: Writing in an email Apple CEO, Tim Cook, last year promised an upgraded model this year, many hoped it may make its debut at or around NAB. It didn't.
The only fresh Apples since last year have consisted of a processor upgrade for Retina Display models of MacBook Pro and a higher-capacity iPad, but that's it.
Apple's last big reveal took place on October 23, 2012 when the iPad mini, iPad 4, Retina Display MacBook Pro (13-inch) and new iMac took their bow. This 205 day wait since a significant Apple hardware product release is the longest gap I can recall in a decade.
Even then, Apple's Cook recently admitted the iMac launch should have been delayed as production problems meant many waited longer than expected to for these systems to actually ship.
Expectation of new product has eclipsed reality consistently this year. The iPhone 5S/6 has variously been expected to make its debut in June, July, September or later in the year. There's talk of an iWatch, an iPhone mini, Retina Display iPad minis, an iPad refresh -- none of which have emerged from the speculative mist.
We've heard that contract negotiations with major labels may remain a stumbling block for Apple as it attempts to introduce iTunes streaming music services, aka "iRadio".
Cook recently told analysts not to hold their breath, promising jam tomorrow he said:
"Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services that we can’t wait to introduce in the fall and throughout 2014."
That's as plain a warning as you can get that Apple lovers needn’t stint on their summer holiday plans in hope of shiny new things.
The latest launch party lull is reflected in the company's financial guidance for the current quarter -- revenue between $33.5 billion and $35.5 billion. In the equivalent year-ago quarter it reached $35 billion. Without fresh stimulation, Apple expects things to remain flat.
The demand is there.
Pent-up demand is something Apple likes to build. The company is good at it. Its history is chock-full of moments when shiny new toys generated more consumer excitement than you'll probably find in a basement club populated by rubber-clad dancers.
I'm not certain the company is being deliberate. I'd imagine that as it makes changes in its supply chain it may need this lull to bring new partners up to speed. Apple has also spent lots of cash on capital investments across the last year, some of which must be for new production processes.
Anticipation isn't just hitting Apple consumers, analysts are getting a little bit bored too, but Needham & Co analyst Charles Wolf doesn't think the company cares, saying:
“Apple doesn’t pay attention. It does what it does and releases products when they’re ready. Wall Street was clamoring for Apple to release a netbook in 2010. Instead it put out the iPad. Look what happened there.”
Out of steam, or playing it sharp?
This lull is lowering Apple's Mac and iDevice sales in all markets, as the rosy sheen of optimism and fresh product lust evaporates. Part of the its recipe for success has always been to keep its stalls replete with fresh fruit to tease and tantalize its customers. The fruit on offer don’t seem so fresh no more.
It remains to be seen if Apple will be able to translate this dearth of product news into excitement at WWDC, when it reveals the future of its operating systems.
There's an interesting tangent to this lack of news in that competitors -- who tend to march in time with the company -- have been forced to show their hand before they see the Cupertino's cards hit the table, for a change.
"It's very important that Apple not become the developer for the world. We need people to invent their own stuff," Cook said last year.
Could Apple's reluctance to introduce new systems in the last few months be an attempt to force those arrayed against it to focus on inventing "their own stuff"?
Apple places high value in what it does.
"We want to make great products, and that's what we're about," Cook has said. "I'm not going to comment about what we're going to do in the future because that releases our magic -- and I'm not going to do that."
So is the company cooking up a spell, or is everything quiet in its R&D kitchen? We know the kitchen isn't quiet: it spent $1.12 billion on R&D in its just gone quarter and across the six months ending March 30, R&D expenditure climbed 33 percent.
This extensive launch lull in combination with significant increases in capital investment and R&D is the clearest signal yet that when Apple does put its cards on the table, it will have some new cards to play.
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