Thursday March 17, 2016
I'm Brad Stone, technology editor here at Bloomberg News. I will be your live-blogging guide Monday for Apple's spring product unveil at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET).
On tap is a new, smaller iPhone, a classically-sized iPad with some of the features of the beefed up iPad Pro, and perhaps some Apple Watch news. We'll also look for CEO Tim Cook to address Apple's ongoing dispute with the U.S. Justice Department over encryption. Welcome!
Monday March 21, 2016
Here's a list of today's contributors:
- Brad Stone, Lead Blogger, Senior Executive Editor Technology
- Gerrit De Vynck, Tech reporter
- Alex Webb, Tech reporter
- Shira Ovide, Bloomberg Gadfly Columnist
- Caroline Schaberg, Social Media Editor
- Dani Burger, Stocks Reporter
- Galen Meyer, Bloomberg Intelligence Editor
- Anny Kuo, TOP Editor
- Caleb Solomon, TOP Editor
- Romaine Bostick, TOP Editor
- Tal Barak Harif, TOP Editor
- Marc Perrier, TOP Editor
Here are the key things to watch for today:
- A 4-inch iPhone -- an upgrade to the 5S, with hardware improvements such as the faster A9 processor.
- iPad -- the updated tablet comes after several quarters of faltering sales. Look for some of the specs of the iPad Pro being introduced to the smaller models.
- FBI -- Tim Cook's words will be closely parsed for any reference to improved privacy measures on devices and their implications for law enforcement agencies.
The invitation to the event at the Apple campus on 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino was characteristically cryptic, declaring `Let us loop you in' under an Apple logo in shades of gold, pink and grey. That prompted speculation that the `loop' referred to new wristbands for the Apple Watch, while the colors possibly suggest the hues of the new handsets.
In January, Apple forecast its first quarterly sales drop since 2003 amidst slowing iPhone shipments. Concern that Apple is reaching the limits of iPhone growth has prompted a 20 percent stock decline since July.
It bears repeating: Apple's fortunes are highly dependent on the direction of iPhone sales. Why? Because two-thirds of Apple's revenue comes from iPhone sales. The dependence wasn't as strong five years ago, when 39 percent of Apple's revenue came from the iPhone.
In trying to give iPhone sales a lift, Apple is swimming against some tough tides. Economic hiccups in big countries like China, Russia and Brazil are hurting iPhone sales, as have price increases for Apple products in some countries, caused by the strong U.S. dollar.
Plus, the whole smartphone market is shifting into a lower gear. Research firm IDC expects smartphone shipments globally will increase 5.7 percent this year from 2015, down from growth of 10.4 percent and 28 percent in the prior two years.
Apple has added 13% since its January low. But let's put that gain in context: shares still sit 20% under last year's high.
Whether or not investors like this launch is not only important for Apple shares, but for the U.S. equity market as a whole. Since the Feb. 11 low, Apple has lifted the S&P 500 more than any other stock, adding 8 points to the benchmark. That's more than Facebook, Amazon and Netflix combined.
Apple has relied on the iPhone for two-thirds of its revenue during the past two holiday quarters:
Still, Apple's earnings results have beat analyst estimates over the past five quarters:
Apple will introduce a new phone with a 4-inch screen. It'll be similar to the iPhone 5s, which has been around since 2013, but will have some new components, including the company's speedier A9 processor. The trend over the last couple years has been for bigger phones in the 5-inch screen-size range, but Apple clearly thinks there's an important part of the market that still wants a smaller phone.
One (perhaps niche) audience for a smaller screen iPhone: farmers. I received an email today from a farmer who said the popular large smartphones don't fit in the front buttoned pocket of his Dickies work shirt.
We're also expecting a new, smaller version of the iPad Pro. It's likely this one will support the new Apple stylus and keyboard unveiled last fall. The stylus, which the company calls the Apple Pencil, was an overture to designers and artists who have been using other companies' digital drawing pads.
Looks like Apple Watch enthusiasts will have to make due with a few new wrist band options rather than a whole new watch today. For that, you'll likely have to wait for the company's autumn event.
Apple shares gain 0.5% heading into the event, trading near its highest price for the year.
Apple's live stream is up at www.apple.com (available only through Apple's Safari browser). They're playing Beats 1 Radio. Got to advertise where you can.
Apple is engaged in a legal battle with the Justice Department over its refusal to develop software which will help the FBI hack a terrorist's iPhone. The most recent round has seen Apple seeking to portray the request as a threat to all iPhone users' privacy, while the DoJ has sought to focus the debate on a single handset. A hearing in California tomorrow will review the evidence anew.
Read more here:
And the proceedings have officially begun here at the Apple theater at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, where Apple CEO Tim Cook has just taken the stage to applause from about 200 gathered execs, employees and press.
"Normally we don't spend a lot of time looking back but we are about to celebrate Apple's 40th birthday on April 1st," Cook says. Recently the company passed a major milestone: there are now more than a billion Apple devices in use around the world. "An incredible milestone," Cook says.
Cook is using this moment to address the FBI debate. "We built the iPhone for you, our customers." And we know its a deeply personal device. For many of us the iPhone is an extension of our ourselves." He continues, "we need to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and our privacy."
Apple is entering corporate middle age at age 40. Microsoft -- Apple's sometime enemy -- turned 40 last year.
He says he's humbled by support from Americans. 'We did not expect to be in this position, at odds with our own government. But we believe strongly we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and your privacy."
Cook seems fiercely determined. "We will not shrink from this responsibility." Employees reward that with applause. And now on to the products.
Opening message from Cook, before new iPhone, before new iPad: We will not back down on the encryption fight.
First up is an update on Apple's environmental initiatives. Lisa Jackson, Vice President, Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives has taken the stage.
Apple's goal is to use 100 percent renewable energy in its facilities. Jackson says 93 percent of facilities run to some extent on renewable energy. It's not clear how much of those facilities are completely renewable though. In Singapore, solar arrays on rooftops cover 100 percent of company's needs in the country.
Jackson says Apple is powering its stores with 100% renewable energy in 23 countries, including Canada, China, Australia, Spain, the U.K., U.S. and Singapore.
Apple is showing off a nifty video of a robot named "Liam" who deconstructs old iPhones to make them more recyclable. Critics might say Apple should make its phone components replaceable without having to buy a whole new one.
Jackson says the company is working on reducing packaging. 99 percent comes from paper that is recycled or from "sustainably managed forest." (Perhaps they should also get rid of all that styrofoam that accompanies Macbooks and iMacs.) And recycling: Jackson plays a video showing a machine that disassembles an iPhone and extracts the materials like silver and tungsten that can be reused.
The second initiative to be discussed is health - a year after the introduction of the developer tools called Research Kit. COO Jeff Williams is up to talk about that.
Jeff Williams: Research Kit studies are the largest in history. Lots of big medical institutions are using Research Kit, and data from Apple devices like the iPhone and Watch, to study ailments like Type 2 diabetes and autism.
Apple's ResearchKit has been around for a year now, they're highlighting some of the researchers who've been using it and what they've found.
Johns Hopkins researchers are using Apple Watches to measure physiological data from people while they're having seizures.
You can see a small dip here during the environmental initiatives presentation. Looks like investors are feeling some anxiety waiting for something big and newsworthy.
Jeff Williams says that empowering people with data about their health is important. So Apple is rolling out CareKit, a set of developer tools to let people "take control of their health." The first app is for sufferers of Parkinson's; medical institutions like Stanford and Johns Hopkins will be using it with their patients to study the effects of various drugs.
Here's another example: hospitals can create apps to give post-surgical patients info on their recovery plans. Patients can record information on their progress, entering data like their temperature or even their exercise activity. Patients can share that with their doctors, who can modify their care plan - "something just not possible with a sheet of paper," Williams says.
Looks like Apple is aiming for CareKit to be the way people with chronic diseases manage their healthcare. Still has a connection to research institutions doing studies.