updated 10:45 am EST, Thu February 9, 2006
Apple birthday suprises?
Apple may be planning a birthday bash in the form of exciting new products, according to a new analyst report. Charles Wolf of Needham & Co. says that Apple could use April 1--Apple's 30th birthday--as an opportunity to introduce an Intel-based iBook as well as the "real" video iPod. Wolf says that a failure by Apple to have an Intel iBook ready for purchase by the May beginning of the K-12 school-buying season would significantly jeopardize Apple's education sales, in which the iBook represents an "increasing fraction." Wolf noted that "at the end of his Macworld keynote address in January, Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, noted that the company will celebrate its 30th birthday on April 1, 2006. While it's possible that Jobs was simply pointing out the longevity of Apple, we interpret it as a signal that Apple will hold a major birthday party in the form of new product event around that date, most likely in early April."
Wolf cited saying that his source indicate the new version will feature a screen that occupies the entire front of the iPod, and utilize a touch-activated scroll screen that may incorporate Apple's recent touch-screen gesture patent). If the "real" video iPod retains the same form factor as the current-generation iPod, the new screen will be three times as large, delivering an entirely new experience for video watching.
"In our opinion, the rapid increase in the iTMS's video offerings is a strong signal that an iPod with a much larger screen is on the way," says Wolf. Apple has added to the amount of video content available at iTunes with the addition of Showtime series, MTV, COMEDY CENTRAL, Nickelodeon, ESPN, and more, fueling the video iPod speculation. Wolf also predicted the addition of more content as the relationship with Disney becomes stronger.
"In view of Apple's increasingly cozy relationship with Disney, we would not be surprised to see ESPN's Sport Center show up at the store in the near future," Wold said his research reprt. "In our opinion, the rapid increase in the iTMS's video offerings is a strong signal that an iPod with a much larger screen is on the way."
In addition, he noted reports of Apple shutting down production of the current generation of the video-iPod.
"The other event that could signal the imminent arrival of the video iPod are reports coming out of Asia that Apple has materially reduced its orders of the iPod with video viewing capabilities that it introduced last October. One hypothesis is that sales of this model have fallen below Apple's previous expectations for he quarter. An equally plausible hypothesis is that Apple is draining inventories of the iPod from the distribution channel in advance of its introduction of the new model."
Wolf also speculated on the possible release of a new Mac mini for use as a "digital content management and delivery device for the living room," indicating that a new version is in the works.
Wolf maintains a 'hold' rating on Apple stock.