Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) receives more publicity for the products it never actually releases than most brands do for the ones they do.
Rumors of an Apple television set have kept reporters busy for years, and now news the company has been hiring people with experience creating cars has the Internet buzzing about a potential electric vehicle. That might happen someday, but not in 2015 (no matter how much people wish it would).
Alongside the crazy speculation, the company has some new initiatives and products in its 2015 pipeline.
Not all are as intriguing as a car or even a full-fledged Apple TV, but some will have a large impact on the company in the immediate future. While we wait for a potential game-changing product, Apple is not sitting idle.
New data centers
On Feb. 23, Apple announced a €1.7 billion (about $1.93 billion) plan to build and operate two data centers in Europe, each powered by 100% renewable energy. The facilities in County Galway, Ireland, and Denmark's central Jutland, will power Apple's online services including the iTunes Store, App Store, iMessage, Maps, and Siri for customers in Europe, according to a press release.
"This significant new investment represents Apple's biggest project in Europe to date," said CEO Tim Cook in the release. "We're thrilled to be expanding our operations, creating hundreds of local jobs and introducing some of our most advanced green building designs yet."
The two data centers, each at over 500,000 square feet, are expected to begin operations in 2017.
New store design
Apple design chief Jonathan Ive confirmed in a interview with The New Yorker that he would work with company retail chief Angela Ahrendts on a redesign and reimagining of Apple Stores. Ahrendts, former CEO of upscale fashion retailer Burberry, was hired in 2013 to focus on the customer experience.
Ive did not leak any details about what the retail changes would entail, but 9to5Mac reported the company will overhaul how appointments work at the Genius Bar. According to multiple sources, Apple will "launch a new initiative called 'The new Concierge' that replaces traditional walk-in Genius Bar appointments," the website reported.
Under the current system, customers who need Genius Bar help can walk into an Apple Store, speak to a check-in employee, and schedule a specific time to return for an appointment. Customers can also make appointments online. In the proposed new concierge system, a customer would still speak with a store employee, who would input the request into an iPad application.
"Using a special algorithm, the application provides the customer a wait time based on issue priorities," 9to5Mac reported. "For example, a customer seeking an iPhone screen replacement will automatically be placed higher in the queue than a customer seeking help with a minor iCloud issue." The store will communicate wait times to customers via text message.
This is a major change for Apple's retail operation as it allows for same-day help that has generally only been available during slow times at the company's stores. The move could reduce the crowd of people waiting (and hoping) for help in the stores, since they would be free to leave and return only when notified by text message.
The company would still take traditional appointments online.
Apple paid $3 billion for Beats in 2014 but has done nothing with the company's subscription-based streaming music. However, the Macworld website in the United Kingdom predicted the Beats brand will be relaunched under the iTunes name this year.
This would allow the company to compete with upstarts like Spotify and Rdio while addressing the shift away from music ownership that led to falling iTunes sales beginning in 2013.
iTunes sales were down 13 to 14% worldwide since the beginning of 2014 as of October, The Wall Street Journal reported. That shows the decline is accelerating since global revenue from downloads fell 2.1% in 2013, according to the newspaper.
Apple has not confirmed its plans for Beats, but an Apple-branded music subscription service would seemingly make sense.