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Apple Watch: 2016 Predictions
Friday, 2016 January 1 - 12:46 pm
Ah, the old blog. I guess you can't really rely on me to post consistently about much these days, but I'll at least come around once a year to write my Apple predictions. This is more for me than for anyone else... kind of a mental exercise.

First, a look back at my 2015 predictions.

1. Apple TV: YES. Well, yes, a new model came out, but it wasn't everything we thought it might be. There are apps now, and a Siri remote with a trackpad, but we didn't get a cord-cutter TV service, 3D, HomeKit integration, or any number of things that were teased by Apple patents. Still, it's something. Full point.

2. iPad Pro: NO. Well, I was dead wrong on this one. It even has a stylus, for God's sake. It actually looks really useful for graphics professionals. I can't see regular consumers buying it, though. Zero points.

3. Apple 5K Monitor: YES. So, no, this didn't happen either, oddly enough, and we didn't get a Mac Pro refresh either. These products are pretty long in the tooth, and I think this is a sign that Apple really isn't putting a high priority on the pro market. It's not that Apple will abandon pro products altogether, but geez, these are some long product cycles. Zero points.

4. Retina MacBook Air: YES. Got this one pretty much spot on, with the new MacBook. (It wasn't called a MacBook Air, but I got the specs almost exactly right.) Full point.

5. Apple Pen: NO. Well, technically I was right that there wasn't a pen that records things written to ordinary paper... but Apple did come out with the Apple Pencil, a stylus for the iPad Pro that covers a lot of the same use cases. Half point.

6. Apple Pay becomes wildly successful: YES. It's successful, but still not wildly so. My neighborhood grocery store still doesn't support it, despite having installed new NFC-capable terminals. So, I guess I have to say I missed the mark here. Zero points.

7. Apple Maps announcements: YES. None of the things I'd hoped for happened. Ugh. Zero points.

8. Apple Watch sales: 25 million. Apple hasn't published sales figures, but by most accounts it was somewhere in the 10 to 15 million unit range. Zero points.

9. Major acquisition: NO. I guess it's easier to predict a negative, but I'll take the free point here. Full point.

10. 2015 closing stock price: $135. It's been a disappointing year for the stock, but it has less to do with Apple itself and more to do with the global economy, particularly China. The downturn in the Chinese economy has led many to believe that Apple will be hurt by its recent heavy reliance on growth in the Chinese market. Zero points.

So just 3.5 points out of ten for last year... ugh. Pretty dismal performance. On to the new predictions.

1. Apple TV Content Deal: YES. There are many signs pointing the other way, mostly the reluctance on the part of networks to antagonize the cable companies by promoting a cord-cutting service. But the writing is on the wall for traditional broadcast models, and at some point the networks and cable companies need to get on board or get left behind. Similar to what happened with music and MP3s, Apple isn't really the disruptor here: it's Netflix that's leading the charge. But Apple may be the one to navigate the business transition successfully for the rest of the industry. Two parts to this prediction: one, we'll see an Apple-exclusive pay TV package similar to Sling TV; two, we'll see cable subscription integration with Apple TV via apps.

2. Apple 5K Monitor: YES. I'll put this one back on my list, despite Apple's apparent lack of enthusiasm for pro products.

3. MacBook Air line retired: NO. The new Retina MacBook is clearly the long-term successor to the Air, but with its lone USB-C port and its higher price, it's not ready to push the Air line out the door yet. I think Apple will come out with a new MacBook with a second USB-C port and a lower price ($1199?) but the Air will stick around starting at $899, just above the entry price point of the iPad Pro.

4. Industry coalesces around USB-C: YES. The old-style USB ports (with the plug you never get right-side-up the first time) will difficult to displace, but Windows laptop and table manufacturers face the same calculus that Apple does when it comes to size and weight. USB-C allows for thinner designs, and that alone will push the industry towards adoption.

5. Apple Pay becomes wildly successful: NO. I'm going to backtrack on my prediction from last year, for one main reason: Wal-Mart. It's come out with its own digital wallet solution, and while I expect it to fail miserably, you can't ignore the company's stubborn refusal to embrace Apple Pay. Until you get a couple more major nationwide retailers on board with Apple Pay, adoption will remain muted.

6. Apple Watch 2: YES. This isn't a product line where Apple really needs to have rapid product cycles, because people don't want to replace $500 watches very often. However, there is one major thing driving an updated model, and that is improved battery life. I expect the Apple Watch 2 will find a way to greatly improve battery life. We'll certainly see improvements on the software side, but Apple Watch is a big bet for Apple, and I have little doubt that there are a lot of hardware R&D resources devoted to refining the product line.

7. iPhone 7 main selling point: The camera. Apple reportedly has hundreds of engineers working on camera technology, and for good reason: if there's one thing that every iPhone consumer uses, it's the camera. The iPhone 6S already matches DSLR camera quality in many aspects. Now add optical zoom light-field tech, 3D imagery, and even better sensor technology, and... pow. I'm not saying you'll see all those things on the iPhone 7, but I'm guessing Apple's getting ready to roll out something big on the camera front.

8. iPad Air 3 main selling point: Force Touch. It's largely a given that Force Touch will make its way to more Apple products. My point here is that there's not much else Apple really needs to do with the Air, since tablets have already become a pretty mature product category. We might see the capability to use the Apple Pencil with the iPad Air, but otherwise I'm not expecting a lot of wildly new tech in the iPad line.

9. Big new product category: VR headset. You might say Apple is late to the VR game because Oculus and other companies already have all the mindshare, but thus far nothing has really shipped, so the opportunity is still there. My prediction is that Apple's rendition of VR will be quite different from the heavy face-encompassing headsets coming from Oculus; it might be more of an augmented-reality device instead.

10. 2016 closing stock price: $135. I'll reiterate my target price from last year. The global headwinds remain severe, but the U.S. economy is humming along pretty spectacularly, and the rise in interest rates and a recovery in oil prices will help boost equities in general. The main other thing depressing the price now is that analysts (as they always seem to do) think that Apple is simply resting on its laurels and not developing anything new. I think a new product launch (along with ever-improving Apple Watch sales) will help ease those concerns.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

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