There’s no one right way to generate hype. With upcoming products, some companies roll out flashy ads for months before a release. Some bank on media product placement or celebrity endorsement, some take it as an opportunity to experiment, while others keep every detail under wraps until the last possible moment.
At their recent annual shareholder meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a slightly different approach: Keep it vague, and the hype will come to you.
As the internet rumor mill went into overdrive, abuzz with stories of speculative features, upgrades and release dates for the tech giant’s next iPhone models, Cook shifted the discussion. He reportedly told the crowd of shareholders that Apple has some products on the horizon, other than the iPhone, that will be “essential to Apple’s growth,” saying that the company is investing a “fair amount” into research and development of “future stuff [he] can’t talk about.” Cook didn’t go into any further detail, said CNBC.
Investors and consumers had been wondering for awhile if post-Jobs Apple had the same capacity to innovate with hardware offerings. While more recently the iPhone 7 and 7S had helped to boost earnings numbers (sort of), it wasn’t with the same vigor as previous offerings — and that was after some lackluster numbers in past quarters.
Apple is renowned for its technologically innovative combinations of functionality and sleek design, but when the innovation is lacking, design isn’t enough to keep consumers interested. There’s a reason people have been talking about the iPhone 8 since almost immediately after the 7 was released—because it’s where the real smartphone hardware innovation could take place.
Apple’s next release’s rumored features offer actual advancements: faster and more efficient chips, long-range wireless charging, an iris scanner and facial recognition technology, hi-res curved OLED screens, and so on.
So where does the hype machine go from here? Toward “future stuff,” of course.
As for what this could entail — augmented reality (AR) seems a likely end-game for Apple. AR has been in the ether since September of last year when Cook discussed how interesting both virtual and augmented reality are, noting that the commercial use cases for AR are a huge opportunity. Cook also shared his enthusiasm for AR and its ability to enable a common shared experience between two people on Good Morning America around the same time.
At the time, it appeared as though AR could make its Apple debut as an iPhone feature. Now, it’s possible that Apple could be working on something larger for the technology — dedicated AR hardware, perhaps?
CNBC recently reported that Apple may already have over 1,000 engineers working on an AR-related project in Israel. If it is AR, Apple’s capabilities in hardware, software integration and design could potentially lead to some groundbreaking consumer products in the future. UBS certainly seems to think so.
UBS analyst Steven Milunovich reportedly wrote in a note to clients, “Our work suggests that AR could be the next major innovation from Apple and that its competencies could make the company a winner .... Augmented reality is an area where Apple could leapfrog competition in providing a superior user experience.”
All the hype in the world only goes so far. Eventually, the products will have speak for themselves. Whatever future stuff Apple’s got hidden up its digital sleeve, it’s still got to wow once it’s on the market. Given the company’s history of innovation (barring some small missteps), success with future stuff seems likely.