Vacationing across Australia and Indonesia, a young surfer found himself struggling to figure out how to take decent selfie of himself while on his board. Taking a 35mm camera and strapping it onto his hand – via a rubber band no less – he quickly discovered that quality and practicality was lacking, but the idea merited exploring. Nick Woodman had given birth to GoPro.
Vans to trade shows, and hard work to hustle, GoPro started going viral, finding a market replacing the point and shoot camera. Smartphones, lead by Apple's camera quality, were absorbing the pocket camera market. Canon and Nikon countered, pushing higher-end pro-sumer and HDSLR cameras. GoPro had found a solid and vacant space, going public in June of 2014. Would GoPro strike Wall Street gold as it had the quality selfie video market? On day one, GoPro closed over $31 a share. Fast forward to today and GPRO continues its meteoric climb, now over $62 a share on swelling sales. Where will it end? Perhaps in Cupertino.
When the MacBook launched this spring, it answered everyone’s questions about what Apple was going to do with the rumored 12-inch screen. Or did it? While the MacBook does use a unique 12-inch screen size (in comparison to Apple’s other notebook offerings) is that the only purpose for the 12-inch screen?
Some suggest Apple is working on a 12-inch iPad Pro device. This product would launch in the fall of this year in conjunction with the release of iOS 9 — which will allow for split screen computing. iPad sales figures have been disappointing in recent quarterly reports earnings. If these rumors are true, it appears Apple may be trying and reignite the iPad’s mojo with a larger device.
It seems like a lifetime ago when Steve Jobs took over Apple for the second time as iCEO. Jobs ran Apple for nearly 15 years before pancreatic cancer took his life. Tim Cook stepped into the CEO position and has run Apple for almost four years. At the time Tim Cook was a good choice. He was a safe choice. He wasn’t going to rock the boat or try to pretend to be Steve Jobs II. He would take what was a growing and great company and drive it forward, building on its success.
That was back in 2011, and times were different. Apple’s needs were different. While Cook has indeed grown Apple’s value and savings account, the question is what kind of leadership does Apple need going forward? Is safe and steady the right formula or does Apple once again need a visionary to lead it into unchartered waters?
Last September, during an Apple special event, Tim Cook finally showed off what engineers at Apple had secretly been working on for years — Apple Watch. It was simply amazing. The watch’s hardware was impressive as was an entirely new OS that took touch and tech to a new level. In the aftermath, many eagerly anticipated saving enough money to be the first on their block to own and wear one. Then the worst product launch in Apple’s recent history occurred.
Unfortunately, all the launch excitement for Apple Watch was sucked out the room when all of Apple's inventory had been purchased online in less than an hour. It would be another six-eight weeks before one could walk out of an Apple retail store with an Apple Watch.
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)?
When I learned that another new photo editing application was coming, one that claimed it would be able to take on the juggernaut of the industry, Adobe Photoshop, I rolled my eyes. “First this software will need to be able to knock off Pixelmator,” I thought. I downloaded Affinity Photos immediately, and within one day of using the software I realized that Affinity was no competition for Pixelmator – it easily surpassed it.
The company in charge of Affinity is Serif LTD., located in Nottingham, England. Serif has been around since 1987, and has a host of web and creative editing tools, largely focused on the consumer and educational markets. If you have never heard of them, as I had not, there is a big reason for that. Until Affinity Photo, all Serif's software was built exclusively for Windows. However, with the Mac continuing to grow and stay firmly entrenched in the creative markets, Serif set off in a new direction. Affinity Photo was engineered from the ground up for OS X. There is no Affinity Windows counterpart. There no shared code or pallet design ported from the platform best forgotten. Affinity Photo is 100% OS X goodness, and already includes Force Touch capability.
Apple TV is coming! Apple TV is coming! We've heard the battle cry from analysts to rumor soothsayers en masse for many years, and yet only minor revisions have come to Apple's diminutive hockey puck-like set-top box. This fall looks to be far different for a variety of reasons, but filter out the noise and there are three areas Apple TV will require in order for it to become the must-have living room entertainment device.
Many cord cutter's dream is an a la carte network service. Yet with Disney and Comcast/NBC owning bundles of channels, each making money off multiple cable TV subscription sales, cutting off their $15 a month bundled channel fees, only to sell EPSN for $4.99 a month makes little sense. Apple has run into this bundled juggernaut for years, gaining zero ground. It appears the only way for Apple, or any other cord cutting solution, to win channels is via mini-bundles, similar to that of Dish Network's Sling TV service. If Apple can deliver roughly 20 of the highest rated channels, and sell it for $30 a month or less, Apple would not only gain millions of cord cutting subscribers, but move millions of additional cable/dish customers to their streamlined package.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into whether it should open a formal investigation into whether Apple’s new music streaming service is illegal due to the way the Apple’s App store treats rival services. According to Reuters at the heart of the complaint is Apple charging $9.99 for their own streaming service, while competing services must pay Apple 30% of their pricing to Apple’s App Store. In order to compete with Apple’s $9.99 price, companies such as Spotify will only make $7, squeezing any margin out of the company, as 30% goes to Apple. But does this complaint have any meaningful merit?
Spotify has already complained of Apple’s practices to the FTC earlier this year, and it appears other competitors such as Deezer are also urging the FTC to open a formal investigation. But a larger issue beyond streaming music services may be become a prerequisite. Does Apple have a monopoly which it is leveraging to create additional monopolies?
Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge was supposed to be the “next best thing” in mobile phones. Commercials have this device touting its curved-edge display that lights up the side-panels, illuminating in blue for Craig, green for Gavin and red for Ramona, with text and other such items displayed. Really? Moreover, Samsung continues their staccato plucked strings as background music, trying to add as much intrigue to their product as possible. All the background music does for me is to notify me it's time to change the channel.
Wander any mall in the U.S. and you will not see many people, let alone any lines, trying to get into a mobile phone outlet looking for the latest Galaxy. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 was to drive massive traffic to such stores, in an attempt to stem Apple's iPhone momentum. It hasn't worked.