Historically Apple has launched a new version of each of its products once a year dating back to the iPod. Even Macs follow this cycle for the most part but October saw a new version of the iPad announced only 8 months after the iPad 3 This has started putting doubts in peoples minds about the practicality of this yearly release cycle. Every iOS product was refreshed in the last quarter of 2012 and if we wait a year for each of them then we’re not going to see any new ones until Q4 2013. That’s not a problem in and of itself but elsewhere other manufacturers are turning out admittedly less successful products at a much higher rate (Samsung released 37 phones last year, Apple released 1).
Other sites are full of reasons why Apple’s success is slipping, why they’re not as innovative as they used to be and why their popularity isn’t what it used to be. I’m not going to add my voice to that because almost all of the available hard facts and numbers point to no such problems.
The only slight issue Apple has with not currently having a 6 month product cycle is that people have a good idea of when the next refresh is coming and as a result sales have a tendency to slow in the quarter preceding an announcement. They slow down by Apples standards that is. Even when those device sales are at their slowest and the product is about to be replaced, they are still far outselling even their most recently released competitors.
That brings us to 2013. As I mentioned these rumours have started because at the very least between now and WWDC, Apple has no expected product launches. We might get a preview of OS X 10.9 but a preview doesn’t make money and isn’t focussed on the public so doesn’t really count. Apple doesn’t need to launch anything between now and then. Their products are still selling incredibly well and are still wanted and bought by millions of people. Apple’s Q1 results (their fiscal Q1 not the calendar Q1, it gets confusing) are due later this month and I expect it’ll be another blockbuster holiday quarter that will still somehow disappoint Wall Street.
There are of course some benefits to Apple switching to a 6 monthly schedule. They are more likely to catch upgraders at different times of the year because they’re products will be inherently fresher. It would possibly alleviate some of the bad press Apple gets whenever they release a spec bumped product after a full year because the so called “S” versions of products wouldn’t be such a “disappointment”. Apple doesn’t care about that kind of stuff though. The only people who do care, are the people that make a living writing about it. As I said on last weeks podcast, every time Apple doesn’t change the physical design of a product they rob each and every reviewer of several hundred words.
There are arguments to be made by both sides here but to put it bluntly, Apple doesn’t need to do any of it. The same as they didn’t need to launch a cheaper iPhone in 2011, or one with a Keyboard in 2008. They didn’t need to launch a netbook either. I’ve lost track of how many times Apple has needed to launch a specific product and then gone on to have unprecedented success in spite of not making it.
The point I’m trying to make here is that Apple could do it if they wanted but only if they want, not because the blogosphere thinks they should. Maybe, just maybe, there is a very specific reason why the first 6 months of 2013 are clear for Apple?
Let’s be crystal clear, Apple doesn’t do coincidences.