Apple stays in its lane, announces no 'new product categories'

While 2013 has reverberated with recurring rumors of the next big Apple product, the company's October 22 event featured no new unveilings. Where does that leave some of the most popular rumored products?
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief
Tim Cook waves goodbye to the crowd at Apple's October 22 event. | Image: James Martin/CNET

Looking for an iWatch? Try the new Nike Fuelband. How about an Apple phablet? Leave that to Nokia. Whither the Apple-branded HDTV set? You may have to wait for the 4K revolution.

Apple took the wraps off a flurry of iPad updates, Macbook Pro updates, the redesigned Mac Pro, and a bunch of free software on Tuesday. But overall, the company stuck to improving its existing product lines and keeping them at roughly the same prices—other than dropping the price tag of the OS X Mavericks upgrade and some of its apps to "free." 

We didn't hear anything about the "new product categories" that Tim Cook said the company is working on. In the poll that ZDNet ran on Tuesday morning, 56% of readers predicted that a smartwatch was the most likely new product that Apple would announce, while a phablet and HDTV set were deadlocked at 22% each.

As mentioned this morning, Apple could still be working on these products but didn't have anything ready to announce for the October 22 event. Apple does not typically hold product announcements in November or December since the lucrative holiday shopping season is already in full bloom by then. So, it's unlikely that we'll hear an announcement about any major new Apple product until January 2014, at the earliest.

Another possibility is that Apple has merely explored these products and decided not to enter these markets, or at least not yet. And, of course, there's the alternative that Apple has no interest in these markets and the scuttlebutt is off the mark. 

However, with all of the iWatch trademarks Apple has filed around the world, I think it's most likely that we'll see an Apple smartwatch in 2014. An Apple phablet is the next most probable 2014 market that Apple could enter, since it has certainly lost some of its early adopter crowd over the larger screens on Samsung, HTC, and Nokia devices. But that would also mean splintering its phone/tablet market into even more SKUs, which belies the company's core value of simplicity. The least likely of the three possibilities is the Apple HDTV set, since the TV business is such a low-margin, brutally-competitive market. However, if Apple was to make a high-end 4K 65-inch model with a ground-breaking gesture- and/or voice-based interface, then that could be an Apple product that might make sense. 

The other disappointment on Tuesday for many business professionals who use the iPad was that Apple did not announce a fancy keyboard cover to rival Microsoft's Touch Cover. For now, Apple appears content to let Logitech and the rest of the accessory vendors make all of the money on iPad keyboards, and to let Microsoft own the innovation crown for the best tablet keyboard.

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