Unless you’ve been hiding under a bush for the last few months, it will have been hard to miss the avalanche of announcements and new product releases from Apple.
Apple's Kitchen Sink
In the space of six weeks we’ve seen a new iPhone, a new iPad mini, and new iPad 4, new MacBook Pros, new iMacs, and a whole lot more. Apple have thrown everything and the kitchen sink at this quarter. Putting so many major releases into one quarter is risky. This holiday quarter is already Apple’s strongest by far and these releases are likely to make this quarter the biggest in Apple’s history. But where does that leave things for the subsequent quarters as we head into 2013?
Apple have traditionally released a new iPad around March/April but it seems unlikely they’ll be doing that next year after such a recent update to the 4th gen. Whilst rumours are already starting to circulate about the next iPhone (iPhone 5S?), this seems unlikely to shift from a September/October release.
So, what do Apple have planned for the first half of 2013? We can anticipate a new iPhone, an updated original iPad, and - perhaps - a retina screen iPad mini coming in next year’s holiday quarter, but are there going to be any new major product releases before then?
It would seem hard to imagine Apple releasing nothing for almost a year.
The answer - of course - is that we don’t know. But this is Apple, so it’s fun to speculate!
What if Apple really don’t have any major new product releases planned for the first half of next year? Having just had a major executive reshuffle, it may be they wanted to create a window of opportunity for all the executives to settle into their new roles.
In this scenario, it is quite possible we wouldn’t hear much from Apple until their annual World Wide Developer Conference (usually June each year). And then we can safely anticipate the first preview of iOS 7, the operating system that runs all iPhones and iPads.
One caveat to this might well be the next release of OSX, the Mac operating system. February 2012 saw Apple surprise everyone with a preview of the new OS ahead of the summer release of Mountain Lion. They also announced they were moving OSX onto an annual update cycle, just like with iOS.
So it’s possible we might hear about OSX in the first half of next year, but this would seem unlikely to be a public event if this year’s introduction (via selected tech journalists) is anything to go by.
What if Apple has a surprise in store! Maybe they will have a new product to introduce. There is the long rumoured Apple Television we’re yet to see materialise. Or there could be something completely off the radar.
The problem with this scenario is that, due to the nature of the supply chain, it is very hard to keep anything a secret any more. It is practically impossible for Apple to keep any new hardware product completely under wraps.
In light of all this, my guess is that we’re going to see a pretty quiet start to the year from Apple, with perhaps an announcement about the new OSX. Although with the recent executive changes, it’s possible even things like this could change.
Apple Wish List
Having said all that, what are the things it would be great to see Apple working on? Everyone will have their own list, but here are some of the things I would love to see Apple focus on.
I’m a big fan of iCloud. It is a service that isn’t without its flaws, but Apple keep improving it, adding features, and making it more reliable. The fact so many people are using it, more often than not without realising it, reflects the kind of feature and service Apple wants this to be for its customers. Apple want it to ‘just work’ for people, keeping everything in sync across multiple devices, no matter where you are.
For the most part, this is already pretty great. But the premise of iCloud to date is very individualistic. It’s about me and my contacts, my photos, my documents. Other than the new sharing features recently added to PhotoStream, there is very little to aid collaboration.
What if my wife and I have a spreadsheet we both want to work on via the Numbers app? I’d like to be able to have that set up as a shared document. That currently isn’t possible. iCloud only lets me keep my documents in sync with my devices for my own benefit. Adding collaboration would push the usefulness of iCloud documents to a whole new level. Here’s hoping this is on Apple’s to do list for 2013.
Siri is another service that could be classified as a work in progress. There’s a real sense of huge unfulfilled potential here. It seems like we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg so far with how it could be used and developed, and it’d be great to see Apple really push the boat out with Siri, keep expanding its capabilities, and make it increasingly useful across a whole array of different contexts. Ultimately, I’d like to see some pretty dramatic strides forward with Siri in 2013.
Most people will already be aware that Apple dumped Google (or vice versa, or a bit of both) and are now fully self-reliant for both providing the app itself and the content inside the app. This puts Apple in a much better position in that they are now able to control the whole experience. However, there is one important caveat. Apple are miles behind Google when it comes to having a full catalogue of mapping information.
Whilst Apple has built up a lot of trust with their users, the missing and wrong data saga has no doubt cost them some of that trust. Very few people will be suddenly dumping Apple as a result, but there will be a real expectation that Apple quickly gets things right with mapping. No matter how much money they need to throw at it, Apple has to seriously invest in playing catch up with Google in 2013.
Ironing Out The Creases
No matter what we speculate about the products and services Apple may bring to the table in 2013, we can be sure that it’ll be a fun ride following the rumours and product announcements. Apple has a habit of delighting their customers and there’s no doubt they’ll want to do more of the same in 2013.
The challenge is that many of the improvements we would like to see are just that: improvements. They’re incremental, non-dramatic steps of progress. It does feel like Apple have quite a lot of ‘ironing out the creases’ to do with many of their products and services. And though it may not wow us, we should all hope Apple doesn’t shy away from this attention to detail that has served them so well.
Of course it would be great to be wowed a whole new product category, but these moments are few and far between. It is naive to expect them every year, or even every few years. I anticipate 2013 being a year of steady progress and ongoing improvement. Although one to watch – how might Jonny Ive taking over both software and hardware impact the look and feel?
What would you like to see from Apple next year?