The Calm Before the Storm

It’s no secret things have been quiet on the Apple front this year.

Short of Haswell-powered MacBook Airs and Logic Pro X, Apple’s PR archive for 2013 is basically quarterly results, shareholder payback information and WWDC announcements.

However, if my running list is correct, this is what we should see between now and December 31:

  • New iPhone(s?)
  • New iPad
  • New iPad mini
  • iOS 7
  • New Mac Pro
  • OS X Mavericks

If we assume Intel’s Haswell chips are ready to go, Mavericks may usher in new iMacs, Mac minis and/or new MacBook Pro with Retina display models. I’d say it’s safe to assume the iPod line will also be tinkered with before the holidays.

(Don’t forget Tim Cook’s mystery “new product category,” either.)

The downside to all of this is the phenomenon we’ve witnessed this year: a virtual vacuum of Apple announcements and releases. In that vacuum, just about everyone with an Internet connection and following has doubted Apple’s ability to produce compelling products and innovate, leading the industry forward.

Will this be the case every year from here on out, or will Apple work in 2014 to spread things out a little better?

WWDC’s summer schedule, coupled with the fact that Apple likes to marry new hardware with new iOS releases means it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see a spring release of an iOS device ever again. Mix in the simple fact that the majority of Apple’s revenue comes from the iPhone, and I think we can kiss spring iOS releases goodbye.

The Mac family is probably a better candidate for a spring release schedule. However, a quick look at The MacRumors Buying Guide shows that most of the Mac line is ripe for updates. Here are the last times the various models[1] were refreshed:

  • iMac – November 30, 2012
  • MacBook Pro with Retina display – February 13, 2013
  • MacBook Pro – June 11, 2012
  • Mac mini – October 23, 2012
  • Mac Pro – June 11, 2012

Could Apple push through the holiday quarter with most of its Mac line at least a year old? I doubt it. With OS X Mavericks due this fall, I seriously doubt Apple would wait.

If Apple were to get the Mac line back on a spring release cycle, at some point, some products have to wait a half-cycle to land at the right time. Alternatively, Apple could refresh things pretty close together, but with Intel’s roadmap, that’s hard, too.

Granted, I’m just a blogger. Apple’s smart enough to figure out how to get off the RELEASE ALL OF THE THINGS IN THE FALL train. The question is this: does it want to?

It doesn’t take being a genius to understand that Apple’s biggest quarter each year is the holiday quarter. Just check out this graph from MacStories’ Q3 2013 coverage:

(In case you’ve blacked out, those “Q1” bars are the one we’re talking about.)

Of course, Apple’s not run by idiots. Over the last several years, the company has shifted its release cycles to take advantage of the fact that people spend a lot more on consumer electronics in the weeks leading up to Christmas than the rest of the year.

It sure makes for a boring 9 months each year, though.

  1. Just for fun, I checked when the Thunderbolt Display was last updated. September 15, 2011. Ouch.  ↩