New product categories, ahoy!
Combatting worries that Apple’s days of innovation might be behind it, CEO Tim Cook’s here to tell you that it’ll all be all right. The head honcho spoke to Wall Street Journal reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi and reiterated that the company isn’t just sitting on its hands. While the article focused on Apple repurchasing $14 billion of its own stock in the last two weeks (after a share price decline the CEO found “surprising”) Cook also found time to once again tease Apple’s secretive upcoming pipeline.
“There will be new categories. We’re not ready to talk about it, but we’re working on some really great stuff,” Cook told the Journal.
Of course, this isn’t Cook’s first time promising new and delightful products. In April 2013, during the company’s second quarter financial conference call, Cook said:
We see great opportunities in front of us, particularly given the long-term prospects of the smartphone and tablet markets, the strength of our incredible ecosystem which we plan to continue to augment with services, our plans for expanded distribution, and the potential of exciting new product categories.
Six months later, on the October call, Cook doubled down:
I didn’t say in April that you would see them in this year and the first half of next year. So just to be clear on that. But what I have said is that you would see some exciting new products from us in the fall of this year and across 2014.
Gene Munster - Piper Jaffray: Just a follow-up to some of the previous questions. Tim I got to ask it, in the previous quarters you have talked about specifically product categories multiple and that’s different than variations of existing products. That by the end of 2014, I just want to be clear that’s still on track and consistent with some of the expenses that we have talked about earlier in the call?
Tim Cook - CEO: Yes, absolutely.
So, listen up folks: Tim Cook is telling you that there will be new product categories. Now, of course, even the term “product category” is a bit vague, but when the Journal’s Wakabayashi buttonholed the CEO about whether he was referring to updates to existing products, Cook told him anyone “reasonable” would consider them new categories.
Rumors of new categories have generally been focused on two fronts: wearables—including the mythical iWatch—and an actual Apple television set. But while I was combing through past transcripts, I found this insightful quote from Cook from the October 2013 financial call:
In terms of new product categories, specifically, if you look at the skills that Apple has from hardware, software, and services, and an incredible app ecosystem, these set of things is very, very unique, I think no one has a set of skills like this, and we obviously believe that we can use our skills in building other great products that are in categories that represent areas where we do not participate today.
To compound the interest—how do you like them financial expressions?—the Journal interview spent some time discussing Apple’s acquisition strategy, including the tidbit that Cupertino has snapped up 21 companies in the last 15 months.
Many of these we know, such as the ones focused on maps and transportation and others that deal with 3D sensors, wireless, and data compression. The companies tend to be smaller—Wakabayashi says that none cost more than $1 billion—but Cook said Apple would “have no problem spending 10 figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term.”
Looking at all those companies in the aggregate might provide some insight into where Apple believes those new product categories are. (Wireless, 3D-sensing maps. Clearly.) And while a smartwatch or a television set might seem like logical theories, there’s always the possibility that we’ve simply bought into our own very very loud hype.
Even in the case of those “known” products, it’s wise to consider what missing ingredients there might be. There were those who wrote off the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad when each debuted, and each went on to become a runaway success. Which just goes to prove that it’s never wise to believe you know exactly what Apple has up its sleeves—even if it looks like a watch.