Apple teases 'new product categories'

Apple CEO Tim Cook said new products will be released starting in the fall and through the end of 2014

Invoking the success of Apple's game-changing iPhone and iPad, CEO Tim Cook has hinted that Apple will introduce "exciting new product categories" starting this fall and through the end of 2014.

Speaking on the company's quarterly earnings call, Cook didn't provide details but mentioned twice that Apple aims to create new categories of products. He also dropped a reminder, as if it were needed, that Apple is the company that brought us the iPhone and iPad.

Guessing what new areas Apple might tackle is a tough business. "If I could imagine the new categories I'd be Steve Jobs and not me, there's that problem," said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. Building a new product is easy but creating a whole new category is much harder, he noted.

The new products might bring the "Apple experience" to the living room in the form of some new entertainment device, he suggested. There have been rumors for years that there will be an Apple TV, for example.

"When they talk about new product categories, I'm just thinking about all the things you can Apple-ize in some way," Kay said. "Your Apple car? Your Apple refrigerator?"

Apple has said it is working on a successor to the Mac Pro workstation/server, which has received only incremental upgrades in the past few years. But that wouldn't be a new category of product.

Rumours have also swirled around Apple developing a smart wristwatch, but smart watches already exist, Kay noted. And he doubts a wearable computer is in the works. Apple does a lot of research before it launches new products, and a wearable device might not be well-received. "I'm just concerned about how much people want to wear computers," Kay said.

The iPad and iPhone ignited new product categories and propelled Apple to success. But since Tim Cook became CEO in 2011, taking over from Jobs, Apple's most significant new product has been the iPad Mini.

Cook's comments came after Apple reported a rare drop in profits for its second quarter. Its profit was US$9.5 billion, down from $11.6 billion a year earlier. Revenue was $43.6 billion, up from $39.19 billion in the second quarter last year.

"We acknowledge our growth rate has slowed," Cook said.

Apple is now looking for new products to drive continued growth in the future.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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