Tim Cook talks new product categories, downplays chances of larger iPhone

Apple event 20111004 (iPhone 4S unveiling, Tim Cook closeup 001)

Apple’s Q2 earnings conference call just ended, and by most counts it went rather well. The company beat Wall Street estimates for iPhone and iPad sales, and revenue, and announced a huge initiative to return $100 billion back to investors by 2015.

So why has Apple’s stock fallen from its huge after-hours spike back down to where it started? Well, it might have something to do with Tim Cook’s comments on Apple’s product pipeline. The CEO indicated that we won’t see any new stuff until the fall…

Cook’s actual comment was that “Apple has some amazing new hardware, software, and services coming this fall, and throughout 2014.” Obviously, this sparked some curiosity, and during the Q&A session of the call, it came up (via MacRumors):

Q: You alluded to fall announcements. Does that mean there won’t be big announcements before then or are you being more general?
A: Don’t want to be more specific, but we have some really great stuff coming in the fall and across all of 2014.

Does that mean that we won’t see any new or refreshed products from Apple until then? Not necessarily, but that seems to be the impression that analysts got. The good news, though, is that it sounds like the company has some cool stuff in the works:

Q: Did you mention new product categories in the introduction?
A: One of our areas for growth are potential new categories.

Q: Would that be in the next year?
A: We didn’t announce a specific time frame.

Of course, there’s been no shortage of Apple rumors regarding new products. On the hardware side, there’s been a lot of recent talk about the so-called iWatch, and iTV rumors have yet to die off. And as for software, iRadio chatter has been picking up steam.

And speaking of rumors, Cook was also confronted on the call about growing speculation that Apple has a larger iPhone in the works. But he was quick to downplay the probability of the company releasing a 5-inch+ smartphone anytime in the near future.

“My view continues to be that iPhone 5 has the best display in the industry. We always strive to create the very best display. Some customers value large screen size. Others value other factors such as resolution, color quality, white balance, reflectivity, power consumption, compatibility of apps, portability. Our competitors have made some significant tradeoffs in many of these areas to ship a larger display. We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these tradeoffs exist.”

While his point on larger displays sounds negative, this seems like the same kind of comments we heard regarding LTE handsets and 7-inch tablets a few years back. And obviously those products came to be. So I wouldn’t rule out a larger iPhone just yet.

I would have to say that my biggest takeaway from Cook’s comments is that he divulged a lot more intel than normal. Remember, he has a strict set of pre-prepared notes. So if he said something on the call today, you can bet that it was in fact intentional.

Perhaps he mentioned the fall timeframe for product releases in order to set expectations for Wall Street and the media. Keep in mind that Apple’s projections are extremely low for next quarter, which further suggests a lack of any big announcements.

But the list of things people are expecting to see this year is getting pretty lengthy. In addition to the aforementioned iWatch and iTV rumors, we’re also looking for an iPhone 5S, a budget iPhone, an iPad 5, a new iPad mini, and refreshed ATV and iPods.

Could Apple be waiting to introduce all of these things in the fall? What do you think?