"Later this year, we've got the best product pipeline that I've seen in my 25 years at Apple," Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) VP of Internet, software, and services said at the Code Conference last month.
"Wait," some may protest, "Twenty five years? That includes the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad -- the products that define Apple's greatest years under the iconic Steve Jobs. How can Eddy Cue say that?"
For Apple to make such a bold statement, the company should be readying an entirely new product for a 2014 launch. Even more, the new product -- or products -- should be revolutionary. That's about the only way the company could live up to such a statement.
Such a task won't be easy. But Apple seems more willing than ever to bend the possibilities of tomorrow -- even if it requires entirely new materials and new areas.
On new materials
Enter Apple's senior vice president of design, Jonathan Ive, arguably the company's most important executive after CEO Tim Cook. In a full transcript of an interview with Ive (made available yesterday) used for an in-depth profile of Cook by The New York Times that was published last weekend, Ive said Apple is making big moves into new areas and new materials.
I've worked for the last 15 or 20 years on the most challenging, creative parts of what we do. I would love to talk about future stuff -- they're materials we haven't worked in before. I've been working on this stuff for a few years now. Tim is fundamentally involved in pushing into these new areas and into these materials.
One new material that Apple is rumored to be making a big bet on is sapphire crystal. In fact, one analyst says that his supply checks indicate Apple could be prepping to deliver as many as 200 million annual devices with sapphire displays -- a level that would exceed current annualized iPhone sales by about 40 million.
Further, as MacRumors' Juli Clover explains, Apple may also be experimenting with Liquidmetal alloys and grapheme (a new manufacturing material).
On new areas
And contrary to the critics' suggestion that Apple's innovation is faltering, Apple executives seem to think otherwise. Specifically, Ive says Cook has "not neglected" Apple's key tenet to always innovate. But patience for innovation is difficult -- and it always has been, Ive notes. On that note, Ive says he doesn't think anything has changed, "And that includes the clamor for some exciting new thing," said The New York Times writers Matt Richtel and Brian X Chen.
What is the "exciting new thing" Richtel and Chen are referring to? Probably the rumored iWatch. The ever-active Apple rumor mill is expecting the company to launch the device this fall, possibly shortly following the iPhone launch.
Apple investors should rest easy. Apple hasn't given investors any reasons yet to suggest it has lost its spirit of innovation, and it sounds like we'll soon get to see whether Apple can successfully push the boundaries in both new areas and new materials once again. Sitting and waiting is probably the best action Apple investors can take today.
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