Apple is on a hardware-launching bonanza ahead of its big TV announcement

Key Points
  • Apple has been on a spree this past week, launching new products every morning so far.
  • The new gadgets include updated iPads, iMacs and AirPods.
  • By releasing the hardware this week, Apple has cleared time during a launch event next week to focus on new streaming TV and news subscription products.
Apple CEO Tim Cook (R) and Apple chief design officer Jonathan Ive (L) look at the new Apple iPhone X during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre on the Apple Park campus on September 12, 2017 in Cupertino, California.
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Apple has announced four new products so far this week, an unusual spree of releases for the technology giant which usually prefers to reveal new products as part of a flashy stage show. This week's announcements of new versions of the iPad Mini, the iPad Air, the iMac and Apple's AirPods were made quietly, through press releases posted early in the morning.

Apple went on its hardware-launching bonanza to clear out time during a launch event planned for next week. On Monday, instead of spending time talking about incremental hardware updates, Apple now has an entire presentation's worth of time to make its pitch to consumers about why its online subscription services are worth buying.

The new products announced by Apple aren't the company's major product lines. The new iPads are updated versions of previous models, the new iMac models got slightly faster Intel and AMD chips, and the new AirPods gained battery life and wireless charging support. While the updates aren't groundbreaking, they are nice — CNBC's review of the new smaller iPad said it was a "great device at a fair price."

Apple has invited journalists, movie stars and industry analysts to its Cupertino, California, headquarters on Monday. Historically, the company likes its new hardware to be the focus of its launch events. But Apple's hardware bonanza this week suggests a different focus for next week's event — a new approach that looks increasingly unlikely to include new hardware products customers can buy when the event is over.

Instead, Apple will discuss products that aren't hardware. Apple will soon launch a streaming video service, CNBC reported last month, which includes free original TV shows as well as a subscription platform for media companies to stream content through Apple's TV app on iPhones, iPads and the Apple TV.

Apple is also expected to release a subscription news service as part of its Apple News app. Code snippets discovered in a recent version of iOS, the iPhone's operating system, suggests that magazine and news content will be bundled into a single subscription. Last year, Apple purchased Texture, a start-up which sold a similar digital magazine bundle for $9.99 per month.

Some investors and analysts remain skeptical about Apple's push into online subscription services, which has been discussed at length by Apple's leadership in a corporate context, but has not been pitched directly to consumers. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in January that iPhones in usage fuels the company's growing "services" business, which accounted for $10.9 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter, and includes subscription products like Apple Music and software from the App Store, as well as revenue such as fees collected from Google.

"While new video and/or news products might help to increase iPhone stickiness, they seem unlikely to make much of an impact on Apple's bottom line," Goldman Sachs analyst Rod Hall wrote in a note distributed to clients on Monday.

But while Apple may need to sway shareholders and investors, it's also looking to position its new subscription services as products that customers want to buy and its new video content as programming that people can't miss seeing.

There are still more products that could be announced this week, like Apple's long-delayed AirPower wireless charger. There have also been rumors that Apple could update the iPod Touch for the first time since 2015.

By launching a slew of new gadgets in the week before its big launch, Apple has cleared more time to discuss its video and news products, and it is taking a chance that shiny new gadgets aren't the only thing that Apple can make its customers covet.

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