The auto industry: dull, unimaginative, predictable. The car market has remained relatively unchanged for decades, and a gluttony of focus group developed cars has helped keep it that way. The industry slowly innovates, making glacial ice-ages look fast.
The result is, at best, is incremental improvement, with Detroit scrambling to find the next niche segment to gain market share. But cracks in plodding automotive market are starting take place. From startups, to radical new fuel alternatives, the auto industry is on the precipice of the largest transformation in its history, and Apple appears ready to usher in its own sea change of ideas.
On Tuesday Apple announced updates to its Apple Watch product line this week at Apple’s Special Event held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. New gold and rose gold colored Sports Edition watches have been added to the line up, as well as several new wrist bands — ranging from different colored sports bands to some very stylish (and pricey) leather bands.
Yesterday Apple released its September 9, special event invitation to select media with the message “Hey Siri, give us a hint.” Thousands of people instantly grabbed their iOS devices asking Siri to “give them a hint” to see if anything particular regarding the event came up. At times, Siri does say “Well, I hear there is something big happening on September 9,” but beyond the cute response, Apple's keeping Siri quiet. At times Apple has hidden hints within their invitations as to what may be coming. This invitation may also hold some clues.
Apple’s late summer special events have historically focused on the release of new iPhones. This season’s forthcoming September 9th event appears to be no different, but there is one product that appears ready to grace the stage which rarely makes an appearance anywhere, and it is likely to steal the show. Apple TV. Sorry iPhone, it appears you are about to be trumped.
When the all-new Apple TV arrives, likely introduced by Apple’s Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, it will not be as a feigned hobby. It won't have the same look. It won't have the same remote. It will not have the same interface, and it will host a slew of new features. According to a recent report by Parks Associates, Apple TV sales have slipped into 4th place behind Roku, Google and Amazon streaming solutions. Don't expect this to continue being the case after September 9. When Apple enters a market, they play to win, and not to be one of many participants on the stage. If rumors surrounding the Apple TV are accurate, the diminutive streaming set-top-box should acquire the living room’s top sales spot in a matter of days after its release.
You can forget yesterday’s record shattering numbers Apple CEO, Tim Cook, proudly revealed for Apple’s 3rd quarter of 2015. Ignore the fact that iPhone sales grew 35% year-over-year, or that Apple now has over $200 billion in cash for the first time in history. This is all irrelevant. None of this matters. Why? Because analysts guessed that Apple would sell between 50 - 55 million iPhones in the quarter, when in reality Apple only sold a record breaking 47.53 million iPhones. Apple did not achieve the conjured up sales figures the “experts” spewed forth, and therefore the result was Apple’s stock price must be punished. No offense to the political naive who do not understand history, but in the investment world, this makes about as much sense as, say, cutting a nuclear deal with Iran trusting they will do the right thing. The sad reality is, this vapid illogic is how the stock market largely operates each and every day. Companies stocks rise when they beat the expert guesstimates. Stocks prices fall when companies do not meet the expert expectations. It does not matter how the company actually preformed. It is all about the experts guessing game. Reason and logic need not apply.
Financial reports and comments on them are one thing, but getting those little morsels of coded information from Tim Cook or Luca Maestri are quite another. Today at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time, Apple will be holding their Q3 2015 financial conference call with a host of financial analysts and investment researchers. Apple's financial statement, released at roughly 1:10 p.m. Pacific, should be fairly pedestrian. Financial analysts are anticipating 50-55 million iPhones sold, earnings at the higher end of Apple’s revenue guidance of $48 billion, all while keeping a keen eye for any Apple Watch sales information. But beyond the expected is where questions from the likes of Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster or UBS’s Steve Milunovich come forth precious nuggets of Apple’s future.
There are three major areas of commentary I'm looking for during the Q3 call. The first is HomeKit. It was a no-show at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The likely reason for the omission was due to the second area of interest, Apple TV. Both topics go hand-in-hand, as it is highly rumored that the next generation Apple TV will be, amongst other things, Apple’s home automation hub, requiring HomeKit specific tools. Cook will be asked about Apple TV. The question is, will he deliver any hints as to what may be coming, or how current Apple TV sales have been since the $30 price drop earlier in the year (now only $69)?
With the launch of Apple Watch, a subtle move was made by Apple that may usher in massive change for the company and its next generation iPhone. Apple Watch contains an OLED display, the first time Apple has used such type of display technology on any of their devices. Until Apple Watch, Apple had loyally stuck to LED backlit LCD panels for iPods, iPads and iPhones, but Apple Watch ushered in an OLED display for a variety of reasons. OLED displays are thinner than LCDs, can draw less power, have flexible options, and are more visible in direct sunlight due to their inherent high contrast ratio (the blacks simply do not wash out).
Financially, Apple is “The iPhone Company”. During Apple’s 2Q15, iPhone accounted for over 80% of the company’s profits. iPhone is the vital to the continued success of Apple, and changing any technology within the world’s most popular smartphone is a risk that could bolster its appeal — or completely derail the device. Changing from LED to OLED could represent such a risk, so should iPhone 7 make the jump to OLED?
Apple Watch is likely to be a huge success. By any measure, it is also the most successful smartwatch in history, and it has only just started shipping. The tech industry is ablaze with pushing wearable technologies, whether we seemingly want them or not. Whether you are an Apple lover or Android devotee, wearables are going to be everywhere, but perhaps the question should be, why?
From a strategic standpoint, Google and Apple are racing to protect their smartphone sales, by adding devices that build an ecosystem around their phones. Apple Watch and Android Wear quickly strengthen a nearly inescapable ecosystem built around the smartphone. Both companies wearable devices are heavily dependent on their own supported smartphones. Once a watch is purchased, the odds of people switching to another operating system of smartphone becomes very, very low. For Apple and Google, making their smartphones the mobile digital hub is key for long-term success.
The phablet is all the rage. Half smartphone – half tablet, Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus is on fire. According to Carolina Milanesi, of Kantarworldpanel, iPhone 6 Plus gobbled up 44% of the worldwide phablet market during the first quarter of 2015. China is largely responsible for the overall iPhone 6 Plus consumption, but the U.S. and Europe are also playing an important role. Who is buying all these quasi-tablet/smartphone Pluses? Women.
Cultural differences aside, universally women carry purses, and generally speaking, men do not. Additionally, more men are in the workforce, and that makes a difference in device choice. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 69.7% of men are in the workforce, while 57.2% of women are in the labor market. Businessmen do not carry purses, rather, they slip their smartphones into a slacks or jacket pocket. Women, even those in the white collar labor force, often carry business-like purses. Women working retail or working-for-the-family Mom’s carry purses as well. If you have not caught on yet, a large display smartphone works well for purses, not so much for business suites, slacks or jeans.