Rushing Mixed Reality and Questioning a Questionable Outlook

The Daily Observations

A negative note from a forgotten name, ready or not — Apple’s headset approaches, and welcome to the Apple TV+ trailer park. 

A Questioning Look at a Questionable Outlook

Another annoying headline to start us off this week, though the story underneath is still worth noting. The question posed in the Barron’s (via Apple News) headline, “Apple Stock Is Slowly Racking Up Sell Ratings. What’s Ailing Analysts?” 

On average, the answer is “nothing,” which we know thanks to the same Barron’s piece. “Of the 40 analysts covering Apple stock tracked by FactSet,” Barron’s says, “31 rate it at Buy or the equivalent.” So, 31 out of 40 are positive. Of the remaining nine, the site does not say how many are Neutral or the equivalent. And finally, the firm on which the Barron’s piece is based is not from a big house tracked by FactSheet. 

It’s still got a name you know, though. Or one you might remember. Joe Galone and Walter Piecyk at LightShed issued a note Friday, wherein they dropped their rating on Apple from “Hold” to “Sell” and set a 12-month price target on the shares of $120. 

The last notes I can find on Piecyk are from a little over four years ago. He was following Apple for BTIG in 2019. Back then, the thing that was stressing him out the most where Apple was concerned was the company’s then recent decision to stop disclosing the number of units sold in a given category — specifically iPhones. And guess what has him worried today. Barron’s says the Piecyk and Galone note “pointed to consumers taking more time to replace older iPhones as a reason for their conservative sales outlook.” According to their note:  

Apple’s revenue miss last quarter was primarily driven by weaker demand from the lengthening replacement cycle and not supply issues, the popular narrative…

Worth considering, though — again — grain of salt. Despite the headline’s assertion that “Apple Stock Is Slowly Racking Up Sell Ratings,” the piece only names three firms that have done so, none of which would be considered big league. 

The headline is loud. The talk is quiet. Still worth knowing the talk is out there.

Financial Times: Chicken/Egg Debate with Apple’s MR Headset

Ready or not, a piece from Financial Times says, here comes Apple’s mixed-reality headset. That’s whether the device is ready, not whether you are. 

“After seven years in development — twice as long as the iPhone,” says the piece, Apple’s AR/VR combo is expected to be announced as early as this June. Internally though, word is not everyone thinks that’s the best idea. Quoting the piece:

Apple’s operations team wanted to ship a “version one” product, a ski goggle-like headset that will allow users to watch immersive 3D video, perform interactive workouts or chat with realistic avatars through a revamped FaceTime.

But Apple’s famed industrial design team had cautioned patience, wanting to delay until a more lightweight version of AR glasses became technically feasible. Most in the tech industry expect that to take several more years.

Let us now add in Apple CEO Tim Cook’s enthusiasm for augmented reality. It’s big, for him. And Financial Times argues that the “headset will be Apple’s first new computing platform to have been developed entirely under his leadership.” And so they’re gonna go, even if some inside would rather wait. Quoting the piece again:

In deciding to press ahead with a debut this year, Cook has sided with operations chief Jeff Williams, according to two people familiar with Apple’s decision-making, and overruled the early objections from Apple’s designers to wait for the tech to catch up with their vision.

What remains to be seen — will the headset be a misstep or a first step? It sounds like Apple’s expecting the latter. Unnamed sources tell Financial Times that Apple’s only expecting to sell about a million headsets in their first 12 months of availability, far fewer than iPhone or Apple Watch in their first 12 months of availability. That expectation is based on the headset’s anticipated $3,000 price tag. While a million-units in year-one sounds small for Apple, the piece points out that it would represent about 10% of the VR market in that year. 

At least two analysts think the mixed-reality path makes sense for Apple. The piece has Counterpoint Research associate director Hanish Bhatia saying:

We saw the iPhone thrive as the developer community grew and consumers experienced the power of apps… We expect similar hockey stick growth dynamics for the headset category, with each generation being an improvement over the previous.

Thinking similarly, the piece has Evercore analyst Amit Daryanani pointing out that “Apple often uses a first-generation product to garner the interest of loyal Apple users and serve as a catalyst for its vast developer community.” The way Daryanani sees it:

The product enables app developers to get some sense on how folks are using the product and enables them to identify the most compelling development opportunities…

Ming-Chi Kuo Sees HomePod with Seven-Inch Display for 2024

Talk of a new Apple device from TF International analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. He took to Medium at the end of the week to ruminate on a new HomePod with a screen coming sometime next year. 

In his Medium post, which was primarily focused on display panel supplier Tianma, the analyst said he predicts that “Apple will unveil a redesigned HomePod featuring a 7-inch panel in 1H24…” He thinks such a device “could enable tighter integration with Apple’s other hardware products, marking a significant shift in the company’s smart home strategy.” 

It’s not the first time we’ve heard such talk, though it’s the first time in a while. A piece from Engadget on the idea cites a Bloomberg report from 2017 that says Apple execs “had a hard time figuring out where [such a device] would fit into its product ecosystem.” If Ming-Chi Kuo is correct, they’ve either figured that out or decided to leave it to the consumer where it’ll fit in.

NCAA March Madness App Gets CarPlay and Live Activities Support

NCAA March Madness starts tomorrow, and Apple’s ecosystem is all over it. Or, it’s all over Apple’s ecosystem. 9to5Mac says the NCAA March Madness Live app for iPhone has been updated with a few new features. 

One of the features is CarPlay compatibility. The piece says that addition means users will “be able to start audio playback for a game just by using [the] March Madness app via the CarPlay interface.” While a press release on the app changes points out that roughly “98% of new cars are equipped with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the U.S.,” another change to the app will be even more ubiquitous. That’ll be support for Live Activities. 

We talked about Live Activities last week. That’s the feature that Apple says:

…helps users stay on top of things that are happening in real time, such as a sports game, workout, ride-share, or food delivery order, right from the Lock Screen.

“To start a Live Activity,” the March Madness story says users will “need to manually open the March Madness app and tap on a game.” 

I know we’re talking about up-to-the-minute live info in the palm of your hand. But having to manually open the app and tap on a game sounds so primitive. Wouldn’t you think that would be something a virtual digital assistant could handle…

Anyway — the app is free. It’s available now in the App Store

The Apple TV+ Trailer Park

A First Look at ‘The Last Thing He Told Me’

And finally today, Apple TV+ ended the week last week with three trailers in which to hang out. In one press release, the Cupertino-streamer promo’ed “The Last Thing He Told Me.” Based on the New York Times bestselling novel by Laura Dave, Apple TV+ says:

The series follows Hannah (…), a woman who must forge a relationship with her 16-year-old stepdaughter Bailey (…) in order to find the truth about why her husband has mysteriously disappeared.

Jennifer Garner plays Hannah. Angourie Rice plays Bailey. And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays the missing husband and father. The limited series starts its run with the first two episodes on Friday, April 14. The trailer’s pretty gripping. You can catch it now on YouTube.

‘Eva the Owlet’ Gets a Trailer

Ahead of “The Last Thing…” Apple issued a press release promoting a kids’ show on Friday.

“Eva the Owlet” stars Eva, a creative, cheeky owlet who lives next door to her best friend Lucy in the woodland world of Treetopington. With big ideas and an even bigger personality, Eva goes on high-flying adventures, expressing herself in her diary along the way!

The show is “based on the New York Times bestselling Scholastic book series ‘Owl Diaries’” by Rebecca Elliott. It’ll feature music by singer-songwriter Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums. You can catch the trailer now on YouTube. The show hits Apple TV+ on Friday, March 31. 

Whose Kind of Country?

Before the trip to Treetopington and ahead of “The Last Thing He Told Me,” the Apple TV+ country music competition show “My Kind of Country” makes the scene. Promoting the show, Apple’s press release says:

“My Kind of Country” is a fresh take on a music competition series, breaking down barriers in country music by providing an extraordinary opportunity to diverse artists from around the world.

The press release also highlights the show’s competitors, who really are from all over. Participants hail from Mexico, India, South Africa, California, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee. Produced by Reese Witherspoon and Kacey Musgraves, the show hits Apple TV+ on Friday, March 24. You can scope the trailer on YouTube.

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

TMO Managing Editor Jeff Butts and I kick around the latest MR Helmet talk. Plus Mailbag Monday — back on Monday. That’s all today on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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