Posted by : BC Bass Tuesday, January 29, 2013

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Apple evangelists and devoted investors have long worried about the fate of their beloved technology innovator since the death of visionary founder Steve Jobs. Tim Cook, the company's current CEO, has done little to live up to the reputation of his predecessor. In the minds of many, he has instead raised the specter of market stagnation and waning shares. Apple's stock tanked 35 percent last week from its all-time high. With shares languishing around $450, Apple appears almost cheap. And on January 25, Exxon again surpassed Apple as the world's most valuable company, with analysts citing a lack of truly new, groundbreaking products -- once the hallmarks of the company. If things continue along this lackluster path, shares could fall even farther over the coming years. Hoping to reassure investors, rattle the competition, and reassert its dominance in the field, Apple uncharacteristically introduced a 128GB iPad on Tuesday in what Wired called a "savvy" response to Microsoft's Surface Pro. But in a stunning double-down, CEO Cook also announced a "revolutionary" new member of the iPad family, the next generation Homonym. Both are slated for a February 5 release.

Apple's 128GB model starts at $799 and climbs to $929 for the WiFi plus Cellular version. And for the first time analysts can recall, Apple has rolled out a product at a price point below Microsoft, its largest competitor, with nearly double the memory.

But the real story centers on Cook's unveiling of the iPad Homonym.

"Apple's stock has been plummeting since the release of its quarterly earnings report last week," said Meyrian Dofskelge, a business analyst who specializes in the electronic gaming and lifestyle technology industry. "That's a rarity for Apple. It could signal the end of its reign."

Part of the problem, Dofskelge surmised, was that Apple -- once the embodiment of innovation -- has failed to produce an original device in over three years.

"Three years is an eternity in the technology space. To be realistic, the last new product was the iPad, which Steve Jobs brought to the world in 2010. Since then, we've seen only slightly different versions of the same thing," Dofskelge said.

Meanwhile, Google continues to release creative products such as the increasingly popular line of Chromebooks and the $199 Nexus 7 tablet, which challenged Apple and forced the reactionary inception of the iPad Mini. Microsoft, for the first time in decades, completely redesigned its familiar OS with Windows 8.

But Cook credited Exxon with the iPad Homonym's inspiration.

"With all deference to Steve Jobs, one of the world's most forward-thinking geniuses, Apple's success was a recent phenomenon; our history, sadly, has been one of struggle," Cook said.

Since its establishment in 1976, Apple has always led its peers in innovation. The company brought floppy disk drives, spreadsheet applications, and graphical user interfaces -- now standards -- to the market during its early years. But despite these revolutionary developments, Apple trailed behind rivals such as Commodore and Tandy. The company fell into further decline between 1986 and 1997, when its expensive products failed to attract the attention of corporate and private consumers who were more willing to sacrifice innovation for the affordable functionality of Microsoft's products.

"For all practical business purposes, Exxon represents the pinnacle of business achievement," Cook added. "For generations, Exxon has managed to dominate its sector with a single product. If it ain't broke, why fix it? But they continue to refine -- literally -- their core offering to remain relevant and marketable. That's how I'm going to run Apple. That's how we win."

With that, Cook demonstrated the iPad Homonym -- a radically redesigned iPad that is impossible to describe as a typical tablet.

"While Google and Samsung flooded the market with fat smartphones that couldn't decide whether they were handheld tablets or phones, we engineered the iPhone 5 -- a taller, thinner device that actually fits in your pocket, even if four inches of it stick out the top," Cook explained. "Given the nation's obsession with compact and portable technologies, coupled with a growing aversion to the American obesity epidemic, our research shows that consumers are more afraid of widths than heights."

The iPad Homonym capitalizes on this design. The 7- and 10-inch tablets have been lengthened by 3.25 inches each, while their widths have been reduced to a mere 2.5 inches. The home and power buttons have been relocated to the side beneath the volume controls. And the Homonym comes in pea green.

The Homonym's software, iOS 7, also boasts new features. The color scheme is now predominantly robin's egg blue instead of silver, the icons have been updated with new graphics, and all of the sounds will now be provided by Siri.

"When the phone rings, Siri says, 'You have a call.' When your alarm goes off, Siri yells, 'Wake up!' or 'Laundry's done,' depending on the settings. And when you receive a text, Siri reads the message aloud over your speakers at high volume," Cook said.

Cook also alluded to another announcement next week for a prototype named iCall: "Unlike any other smartphone on the market, iCall lives up to its name -- it makes and receives phone calls on any provider's network. No apps, no cameras, no music. Just a phone. It's simple, it's compact, and there's nothing else like it on the market."

The iPad Homonym's suggested retail price is $1,999 for the 16GB model. The iCall will likely come in around $500.

(c) 2013. See disclaimers.

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