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Apple hints at ‘exciting new product categories’

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(CNN) — Gadget fans eagerly awaiting the next wave of Apple products just got some good news, and some bad news.

First, the bad: Based on CEO Tim Cook’s comments Tuesday on the company’s quarterly earnings call, Apple appears unlikely to announce a major new product until this fall at the earliest. If so, that would mean the company, which typically rolls out new stuff every three or four months, will have gone an entire year — an eternity in tech-industry time — without launching a new gadget.

And now the good: Cook also said Apple sees potential in some “exciting new product categories.”

On the surface, there’s not much news in that last statement. But as the most-watched tech company in the world, Apple’s every utterance is parsed for its deeper meaning. Many observers see those four words as further evidence that Apple is moving beyond laptops, phones and tablets into other areas of computing — most likely a “smartwatch” that could display messages, or a long-rumored connected TV.

“Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services, and we are very excited about the products in our pipeline,” Cook said, adding “we can’t wait to introduce (them) this fall and throughout 2014.”

This may just be corporate PR speak, aimed at assuaging investors concerned about Apple’s plummeting stock price. But it could serve to re-energize the Apple faithful who line up to buy whatever new gizmos the company makes and may be growing impatient for new ones.

Of course, Cook made similar comments early in 2012 when he said Apple was working to deliver “some products that will blow your mind.” What followed were the usual updates to Macs and iPods, plus the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini — solid if not groundbreaking products.

Blogosphere reaction this week to Cook’s comments has been mixed.

“Apple almost never spills any beans about what its product plans are, so it’s worth getting excited about fall based on Tim’s willingness to talk about that specific period, as well as his mention of ‘new product categories,’ ” wrote Darrell Etherington in TechCrunch. “Still, unless he’s purposefully trying to throw us off the scent, people eager for new Apple products might also want to sleep through the summer.”

Slate’s Will Oremus thinks Cook’s teases about mind-blowing future products reflect a shift in Apple’s approach to promotion since co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011.

“In the past, Apple didn’t have to promise exciting new things,” he wrote. “It just delivered them.”

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