Credit Suisse analyst Bill Shope says Apple tablet might be coming

According to Silicon Alley Insider, Credit Suisse analyst Bill Shope has been doing some research on Apple.  His conclusions seem pretty reasonable…with some caveats.  Here are his findings and our thoughts below:

  • New iPods: "More likely." Apple refreshes its iPod line in the fall, and there’s no reason it won’t this year. To compete better with the cheaper iPhone, Apple could offer higher-capacity iPods at lower prices, one possible explanation for its warning about low gross margins.
  • Refreshed MacBooks: "More likely." No major shape/size changes, but faster laptops at lower prices.
  • Apple Tablet: "More likely." Shope wouldn’t be shocked if Apple released a tablet soon to take advantage of its exclusive, multi-touch technology on a product with a bigger screen.
  • iPhone nano: "Less likely." It makes sense that Apple would extend the iPhone family the way it’s done with its computers, iPods, etc. And a cheaper, slimmed-down iPhone could reach a broader audience than today’s. Just not so soon after it launched the iPhone 3G, which has strong demand.
  • Super-cheap laptop: "Less likely." Eventually, Apple will need to come out with a laptop under $800 to tap into new markets. But Shope’s conversations with Apple "suggest that the company may not be ready for such a drastic change in product strategy in the near-term."
  • Super-cheap desktop: "Less likely." An all-in-one, not the Mac mini, which would expose Apple to the "sweet spot of the desktop market fairly quickly." Just not convinced Apple is ready to play in the "discount PC market" yet.
  • Mac TV: "Even less likely," a "long shot." Apple could skip the set-top box by building its Apple TV software into a flat-panel TV. While Shope (and we) would probably be buyers, he thinks "this seems a bit outside of Apple’s normal sphere of business for now."

Our Take:

  • New iPods:  Yes, of course, a lock for September.  Nanos in colorful arrays we know.  More interestingly, maybe we’ll see some more iPhone features in the Touch.  Bluetooth, GPS, speaker, and camera are all contenders.  Maybe even a long range wireless capability – 3G, WiMAX?  What can you do with the shuffle?…Making it the size of a Bluetooth headset is the only way to make it smaller – a combo would be cool but unlikely  – Also look for a big announcement next month with 24 Hour Fitness and Nike (with a backend designed with RG/A) to include bringing "exercise-gaming" to the iPod.
  • Refreshed MacBooks: 99% certain.  More than just a processor and specs update like Shope postulates, however.  Glass trackpads and total laptop redesign.  Cut from one piece of Aluminum.  Thinner.  Late September.  Bet.
  • Tablet: Disagree, won’t happen until 2009 unless you count enhanced iPod Touches.  We would like to see something like the Nokia N810 specs but hopes are low.
  • iPhone Nano: No, no, no – never.  Is $200 really too much to spend on an iPhone?   In some places it is already free with an expensive plan.  Is the iPhone too big?  Not really.  If anything, Apple will go more upscale in the coming year and the current devices will be the low end. 
  • Super cheap laptop?  This is Apple.  No.  But somewhat smaller and less expensive are realistic longer term possibilities.
  • Super cheap desktop?  As much as we’d like to see one, nope.  Psystar-like specs, mass produced in a nice enclosure for $400 would be nice, however significant specs updates to the Mini without price movement would cover this market and are much more likely.
  • AppleTV? Actually, unlike Shope, we think a game change is very likely.  If Apple could cut deals with HD screen manufacturers across the board (like it did with movies studios) and at the same time beef up the hardware to do 1080p, Apple could turn its hobby into a serious business.  We know Apple wants into this field so badly that it is willing to subsidize the cost.  Components are costing less and less and at some point it will cost about as much 20 movies or a few seasons of a TV series.  The opportunity to entirely subsidize the cost of the device will arrive at some point soon.    The biggest obstacle?  The state of US broadband.  Bottom line, look for movement – there are many opportunities ahead.   —-Also, adding a gaming component to the AppleTV would be cool but a long way off – a deal with Nintendo to bundle the AppleTV with the Wii might be cool.

We would also like to see some more work on Apple’s Pro Hardware.  Most of this equipment hasn’t beeen significantly upgraded since PowerPC days.  What do you think?



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