Were you annoyed that after you bought an iPad 3 in March, Apple(s AAPL) introduced a newer, slightly better model of the same device in October? Now imagine that scenario for, say, your iPhone too; and think about that happening every year. Whether that’s annoying or exciting to you, know that it’s something that some think could actually happen.
Thanks to hints from Apple’s supply chain, as well as some analyst gossip, there’s some speculation that Apple may be getting ready to release a new iPhone model and a new iPad in June 2013. That’s six months from now, and eight and seven months, respectively, since each was last refreshed. That would be way faster than we’re used to from Apple. Since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, it’s been updated once per year. And until this year, the same has gone for the iPad. iOS software also gets a major update once annually.
But before you scoff, think about how Apple managed to get two different iPad models out the door in the same calendar year. Could the company do it again? (And again, and again?)
Horace Dediu at Asymco gathers some tantalizing though circumstantial evidence that points to such a scenario, including seemingly random rises in the company’s capital expenditures, its recent (by all counts successful) experiment with super fast global product rollouts, and Foxconn moving to make the supply chain even shorter. “If Apple is not switching to a six month cycle then there seems to be a lot of stress for no benefit,” he wrote.
The biggest and most obvious sign that something may be up is Apple’s decision to launch almost all of its major product refreshes — iPods, iPhone, iPads, MacBooks — in the second half of 2012. By stacking all of its product introductions at the end of the year — and all of the associate revenue boosts that come with high-profile launches — it leaves the whole rest of the year as a giant question mark. That’s a long time without a new product; what will Apple introduce in the meantime? (Don’t say Apple television.)
This year could have been a one-off situation: perhaps two iPads in one year had everything to do with the bump in the A6 processor and/or getting the iPad on the same Lightning connector as other iDevices. Or, there could be another so far still-secret product Apple is planning to unveil us next spring. But something big enough to offset a spring iPad launch? Not likely — at least not at first. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said Apple won’t try “to do everything” — he is focused on keeping his company focused on its strengths.
Which for now, is perfecting the iPad and the iPhone and getting both to market faster and faster. It would be a crazy huge task to do two major refreshes of both, year after year. But if Apple is able to get another iPhone and another iPad out in about six months’ time it would be Cook’s most impressive feat yet.
It’s possible that what’s been going on behind the scenes is that Apple is transforming into the ultimate Tim Cook-run company: one whose supply chain and operations can churn out two of the company’s most important, and most profitable, devices every year.