Apple's (AAPL 1.56%) CEO Tim Cook has promised new products in 2014. Of course, Cook hasn't revealed what these products are (though he's dropped hints), or when exactly to expect them; but that hasn't stopped analysts, investors, and pundits from speculating.
In recent days, however, reports have piled up suggesting that some of these products may have been delayed, or possibly cancelled entirely. If that's the case, it could limit Apple's growth in 2014, and reduce the pressure facing firms like Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) and Intel (INTC 1.81%).
Big, but not that big
Everyone from David Tepper to Donald Trump has been badgering Apple to release an iPhone with a larger screen. A bigger iPhone may be coming in 2014, but it might not be as big as many were hoping.
According to analysts at UBS (via Barron's), Apple is working on two new iPhone models, each model with a different screen size. The first would sport a 4.7-inch screen (making it competitive with Samsung's Galaxy S5), while the second would come equipped with a 5.5-inch screen (making it comparable to Samsung's Galaxy Note III). While UBS says it is nearly certain that the 4.7-inch model will ship later this year, it is not confident that the 5.5-inch model will go on sale at the same time.
While a 4.7-inch screen would (for big screen fans) be a notable improvement over the current 4-inch iPhone 5S, it would still fall far short of the phablet category. Samsung's original Galaxy Note started the trend back in 2011, and the Korean tech giant has seen notable sales increases with every new Note model released. In particular, Asian buyers are favorable to the larger form factor, with phablets outselling both tablets and PCs in most Asian countries.
Last week, analysts at ISI Group argued that Apple's forthcoming phablet would help fuel a major upgrade cycle, and could even convert some Samsung loyalists to Apple's platform. While a 4.7-inch iPhone may accomplish that, it would still be too small to cannibalize the market for Samsung's Galaxy Note.
Taking over the living room
It seems clear that Apple is interested in the TV space: Cook has been bragging about the growing number of Apple TV set-top boxes sold in recent quarters, while Apple confirmed that it had acquired PrimeSense (the creator the Xbox 360's Kinect motion sensor) last year.
But a full-fledged Apple-made TV set is starting to look less likely, particularly in 2014. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had only recently engaged Comcast in negotiations about a forthcoming Internet-based paid-TV service, while Yukari Kane, in her new book Haunted Empire, reports that Steve Jobs hated the idea of making a TV set, calling the business "terrible."
A new take on the existing Apple TV set-top box could be likely, but analysts have been expecting the company to release a full-on iTV in the coming months. Most recently, Wedge Partner's Brian Blair argued that a 4K iTV could help drive Apple share price higher (via Barron's).
If Apple does release a TV set, it will compete directly with Samsung's many different models. Currently, the Korean tech giant sells about one in every four TVs worldwide.
Expanding the iPad's reach
Apple's iPad business has experienced fairly lackluster growth in recent quarters, while it has ceded control of the tablet market to manufacturers that rely on Android (the biggest of which is Samsung). But later this year, Apple could be about to boost the demand for its iPad significantly.
Apple's decision to label its latest 9.7-inch tablet the "iPad Air" is interesting, in the context of its Mac nomenclature. An iPad Air almost demands a corresponding iPad Pro, and one could be coming later this year -- or maybe not. According to Digitimes, an outlet with a fairly good track record, Apple has "shelved" its larger iPad project. Finding little support among its partners, and seeing Samsung struggling to dominate the space, Apple may have changed its mind.
If that's the case, it would be great for Intel, which stands to lose a lot of business if Apple's iPad Pro catches on. Earlier this year, analysts at Evercore Partners predicted that Apple's forthcoming iPad Pro would revolutionize the laptop market, with iPad Pros further cannibalizing traditional PCs. Given that Intel dominates the market for laptop processors, such a development would be a further blow to a firm that's largely missed out on the mobile revolution.
Reigniting Apple's growth
With the demand for high-end smartphones seemingly near its peak, Apple will need new products in new categories to reignite its growth. Those products should appear in 2014, but which products and when they'll be released remains unknown. While analysts appear overly optimistic, investors shouldn't rely on products that might never see the light of day.