Channeling pop singer Meghan Trainor, it is easy to think that when it comes to tech giant, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), "it's all about that iPhone."
It is an understandable line of thinking. After all, the iPhone was its own $100 billion business, even before Apple sold 75 million units in its most recent quarter. And thanks to the enviable economics, the device consistently generates the majority of Apple revenue and profits. However, focusing exclusively on the iPhone would be to overlook roughly 45% of that massive revenue base.
From an investing perspective, that is an incomplete style of analysis, which could very well come into sharper focus in the weeks to come. Because according to rumors, a significant portion of the Apple product portfolio could be getting an upgrade in the weeks ahead.
An upcoming Apple event?
Over the past several weeks, the online media has been buzzing with news that Apple will hold one of its highly anticipated product launch events in next few weeks. Details vary depending on the report, but the general consensus is that Apple will use the event to unveil an updated MacBook Air and also an update on the forthcoming Apple Watch.
Like most of its product portfolio, Apple has rolled out incremental improvements to its MacBook Air lineup annually. In terms of specific features, the reports claim Apple will converge the 13-inch and 11-inch MacBook Air models into a single 12-inch version, which will feature the much-touted Retina display. Some reports also claim the new Air will come with a USB 3.0 port.
Then there is the Apple Watch side of this storyline, which could very well be the most significant factor in determining the timing of this event.
On the most recent quarterly conference call, CEO Tim Cook promised the Apple Watch will ship in April. Since Apple packaged the major Apple Watch unveiling into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus event last September, it does not necessarily make sense for Apple to hold another wearable-specific event heading into the launch.
However, shifting the MacBook Air refresh a few months earlier than Apple has done historically creates a useful opportunity for the company to show off some of the developer work that has occurred since last September, while also creating some useful buzz for the Watch. It is the dual agenda that really makes this rumor seem plausible in my eyes.
The future of Apple
As I mentioned above, it is easy for other products to get lost in the long shadow of the iPhone. However, in terms of future growth prospects, both the Mac lineup and the Apple Watch will prove tremendously important for a few reasons.
The dawn of the larger-screened iPhone has helped hasten the demise of the iPad business. As I have noted before, shifting demand mix from the iPad toward the iPhone is actually a win for investors as the shorter upgrade cycles in the smartphone space offer more favorable economics than the tablet space.
However, the slow erosion of the tablet business also means the Mac division could quite conceivably become the second largest product lineup, especially when you consider that the Mac business has actually thrived in recent years even as the PC market struggles overall, the future should remain bright for Apple's original product category.
Even though the Mac will generate more revenue than the Apple Watch in the near term, the new device carries huge weight for investors for several reasons. Most people feel the wearables market could be the next great consumer tech market, but that is far from guaranteed. That being said, if Apple can execute another truly great device, it seems like there is an attractive enough growth opportunity for cautious optimism. However, I will argue the Apple Watch has symbolic value that outweighs its commercial value, especially in year one.
The Apple Watch will be the first device developed largely after the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs. Thus far, the company has proven it can refine and maximize its current product portfolio. However, what made Apple such a successful and enduring company is really its ability to create new product categories. That is the "Apple magic," so to speak. And although it is certainly possible Jobs received too much credit for his role in Apple's success, the Apple Watch will be the first true test of this important hurdle.
This entire storyline could certainly amount to nothing but idle speculation. However, holding a MacBook Air refresh earlier in the year checks a number of key boxes. Ultimately, only time will tell if this Apple rumor will actually hold water.