What’s up Steve’s sleeve? Probably nothing radical soon — at least according to Credit Suisse analyst Bill Shope, who launched coverage of Apple (AAPL) this week.
As part of his exhaustive review of the company, Shope pondered the likelihood of near-term product launches, from the obvious to the slightly more far-fetched:
- 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.”
Shope, by the way, rates Apple “outperform” with a $200 12-month price target — which would be a roughly 18% rise.
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