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Apple’s next launch: Reset your expectations

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Attendees sit in front of an Apple logo at the WWDC 2013 in San Francisco
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Attendees sit in front of an Apple logo at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2013 in San Francisco, California June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Though nearly the entire technology industry has become incredibly dogmatic about having a “mobile first” mindset, even Apple would probably be reluctant to describe its approach as “desktop last.”

Still, the invite to is Oct. 22 launch event which was sent out this week suggests that anything other than the iPhone is something of an afterthought. “We still have a lot to cover,” it reads, which might be initially considered as a variation on Steve Jobs’ habit of introducing “one more thing” at conferences, which often turned out to be the really big thing. In this case, however, Apple is most likely treading water.

In previous earnings calls, Apple CEO Tim Cook dismissed any expectations of an iWatch, an iTV or other new products that break ground in the consumer space. Instead, 2013 is about maintaining momentum. iOS was disruptive enough on the software side, so you won’t see Apple announce much that requires a steep learning curve on the part of developers or users.

That said, we’re likely to see the introduction of the first major overhaul of the iPad since the iPad 2 in 2011, with possibly thinner screen bezels a la the iPad Mini, which may also get an update. This is something existing customers are waiting for, according to Brad Clare, who runs Mac consulting firm iAdvance IT in Toronto.

“When you look at the original iPad, it’s pretty bulky and heavy,” he said. “I’m seeing interest from creative professionals for something more portable.”

To me, however, the big news from Apple may have little to do with portability. I have argued in this space before that the company could zag where everyone else is zigging by innovating at the desktop level, and there were hints back in June of a redesigned Mac Pro that could make its debut this month. Leaked photos of what may be the new Mac Pro show a tiny, cylindrical chassis that may have only one fan to cool the workstation chassis that looks (and may work) like nothing else on the market.

This may also be an opportunity for Apple to grow revenues considerably. A few months ago I contacted Tim Brunt, an analyst with IDC Canada, about Apple’s position in the desktop space. He told me that on a global basis, Apple is priced 29 percent higher than the second most expensive PC seller and 104 percent higher than the average if the top 10 sellers. “That blew me away,” he said.

I expect that after the Oct. 22 event wraps up, many observers will respond with a collective, “Is that it?” But staying the course with an increasingly predictable upgrade cycle could be the best move for Apple. It doesn’t need to out-invent Samsung or HTC at this point. It doesn’t need to take heedless risks in wearable computing right away. It just needs to show customers it’s ready to build upon its success with iterations of existing products that contain genuine improvements. After conquering the tech space with dazzling spectacle, Apple may be ready to start putting more substance beyond the style.

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