Cantillon: Apple hype-machine in overdrive
Rumours abound but tablet news looks likely
Apple still finds itself in the driving seat of a product segment it has effectively pioneered. And that’s why the public – and the media – pays so much attention to Apple events. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
The Apple hype is in full flow. Few firms generate as much free – and often fawning – publicity for a product launch as the design-orientated tech giant. A master of the dark art of PR, it need only send out invites to a media event for the web to become engulfed in speculation about fantastic, and often fantastical, new products.
This week, all the media invites had to say was that the tech giant had “a lot to cover” and the rumour mill went into overdrive. For some “experts”, the clue was in the wording: “cover” was enough to drive speculation yesterday that Apple was planning a range of iPad covers to counter the keypad feature on the Microsoft Surface. Admittedly that’s the only feature Apple should bother replicating from the Microsoft device, given the poor sales performance of the Surface since its launch.
Whatever about new covers, the reckoning is that we are likely to encounter a new iPad and second generation iPad mini at this evening’s launch. Alongside these will be release dates for the new Mac Pro and updates to the MacBook Pro laptop range.
We should, of course, take all this speculation with a pinch of salt – remember all the talk of the iWatch before last month’s Apple media event of the iPhone 5C and 5S? This times there does seem some merit to the rumours, at least concerning new tablets.
Leaked photos suggest Apple is sticking with its 9.7-inch retina display on the iPad but making the design slimmer. It’s also likely to feature the new A7 64-bit processor and perhaps even the new Touch ID, Apple’s fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button of the new iPhone 5S.
In reality a refresh to Apple’s tablet range is needed. Apple needs its tablets to be the star attraction in this growing tech segment. Given that the design has remained static since 2011, the spotlight has moved to its rivals. In the face of these competing devices, mostly running on Google’s Android system, Apple saw its share of the tablet market contract to 32 per cent in the second quarter from 60 per cent a year earlier, according to researcher IDC.
It’s also facing market scrutiny after two straight quarters of declining profits and a share price that has slipped by more than 25 per cent since its record high in September 2012. The reality is that as with its iPhone, its tablets are facing tough competition from lower-cost rivals.
Yet for all the competitive pressure it faces, Apple still finds itself in the driving seat of a product segment it has effectively pioneered. And that’s why the public – and the media – pays so much attention to Apple’s product events.