07 August, 2007

Apple unveils new iMacs, Software and more at Media Event

Apple Inc. (AAPL) held a special media event today that saw CEO Steve Jobs take the stage for nearly 2 hours talking about new Apple products. This event was Mac focused and that could be seen early on. Most rumors circulating on today's event assured virtual certainty that new Mac desktops would be shown in a sleek new form factor.

My were the experts, rumor-mongers and amateurs right. New iMacs were revealed in 20" and 24" form factors, encased in sleek aluminum with the screen covered by glass, thinner and sexier than ever. The 17" model computer was cut from the lineup completely. Photos of the keyboard circled briefly on the Internet in the days leading up to this event and it seems those too were right on the money. The new Apple keyboards that come with these computers are a measly 0.3 inches tall.

Investors are watching this presentation with bated breath for any surprises out of the Cupertino company as the stock of late has really shown its inherent volatility to rumors, news and surprises. The iMac computer price points have also dropped with this new line, which is sure to entice even more consumers to consider Apple computer purchases. Steve Jobs points out that Mac sales are growing at more than 3 times to industry average. A number that if it can continue for several more quarters would see Apple's computer share climb dramatically and shareholders rewarded handsomely.

On the software side of things, Apple seemed to address their lagging Internet platform .mac by making it completely integrated with the new iLife '08 software package. The .mac platform, was an area of contention as it had been neglected and consumers paid $99/year for the services. The announcement of 1.7Million subscribers was dubbed by Steve Jobs as the starting point for future excellent growth in .mac as usability features are added and integrated through the iLife software suite. Virtually everything you could do with iLife, you can now publish to a ".mac Web Gallery", at home or out and about with your iPhone, which is sure to be a big hit with the growing socialite-nature of this "New Internet".

iLife programs get a revamp for this '08 iteration as the bundle of iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb, iDVD and GarageBand come with new Macs for free and the one year .Mac subscription with 10GB of space is $100. Apple is well known for providing great usable software in a beautiful hardware package and these improvement to iLife will certainly be appreciated by the computer buying public. As foot traffic increases in Apple stores the ability to demo all of these software features in-store, with an expert on hand, is a major selling point, which allows Apple Retail Stores to have much higher sales conversions than traditional electronics stores. Better software helps drive further hardware sales. The upgrade of both the hardware and software cycle will surely bode well during this "transition period" for Apple as it leaves itself 3 months before it has scheduled shipping its new operating system Leopard. So instead of a sales lull, the company should expect steady volume as excitement over new hardware is seen in the early stages, and a secondary sales bump once Leopard ships. A great business model and strategy that should translate into additional shareholder value.

Apple's productivity software suite is also revamped for its '08 iteration. iWork, previously Pages (word processor) and Keynote (Presentation application) were joined by a third application named Numbers (spreadsheets). This was long overdo for some Apple software analysts, but its inclusion now adds that needed productivity application to round out the suite and make it a formidable alternative to Office for Mac by Microsoft. This coming at a time when Microsoft announced delays in bringing the next version of Office to the Mac platform.

Expectations from Apple announcements usually carry unrealistic hopes from antsy investors and if breakthrough products aren't announced the stock can be very volatile. This is a the Apple game short term investors play and it can be a lucrative one. This announcement left a lot of possibilities open, as did the impromptu Q&A session, and may be viewed as a disappointment short term. Apple shares come under pressure when announcements don't live up to the hype but the long term future of the company is safely within Steve Jobs' vision.

Disclosure: Author is long AAPL

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