Apple is a secret company.
The firm never discusses future products that it may or may not be working on and only ever provides a glimpse into its product portfolio when it takes the stage for new hardware and software announcements. Apple has been quieter this year than others in the past, and that might be perhaps one reason why the company’s stock price has been taking a beating more than other tech firms. Shares of Apple were trading at $700 per share in September but a combination of missed earnings expectations, reports of component order cuts, profit sell-offs and, one could argue its secrecy, have been several reasons why the company’s stock recently hit a $391 52-week low.
Let’s take a look at the secrecy problem.
I think investors, and the general public, can only be so excited about a company that keeps its lips sealed all of the time. It’s tough to consistently guess what features the next version of iOS might have or whether or not a thinner iPad will be enough to turn the company’s fate around. Letting a few projects leak to the public can be a good thing.
Look at Google, for example. The firm is secret to the extent that we don’t know much about Key Lime Pie or its next set of Android devices, but open enough that we know it’s aggressively expanding its portfolio of products and services. Google Fiber is now available in three markets. Google Glass is going to ship to consumers this year. Google is working on self-driving cars. We’re also consistently being hit with updates to its portfolio of applications. Google is secretive, but it also spills the beans enough to let us know that it’s working on world-changing technology.
Apple, meanwhile, doesn’t let us know any of its secret research projects, so we can’t gauge what’s going on inside the halls of its Cupertino campus. Is Apple working on a self-driving car, too? What about augmented reality? Reports suggest an iTV and an iWatch are in the works, but Apple won’t ever confirm them. We don’t know its plans for those products, and so we can’t see how or where the company might change the landscape in the future.
Secrecy worked for Apple in the past, of course. The iPhone took the world by charge and literally turned the smartphone market on its head. The same happened when the iPad launched. The iPhone is still the most popular smartphone in the United States, but can Apple ever hit $700 per share again with its current product portfolio?
Google CEO Larry Page said during the company’s Q1 2013 earnings call that incremental updates to technology simply don’t work, and that’s why Google is constantly trying to imagine new industries that maybe don’t even exist. Apple is famous for its incremental upgrades to products and perhaps even hindered by them. Its phones and tablets sell like gangbusters because they’re easy to use—will Apple hurt its own user base if it adds more complicated features? That argument can surely be made. Even still, the late Steve Jobs—perhaps like Google—was always interested in creating products that consumers didn’t even know they wanted yet.
Is Apple working on those endeavors still, or is it simply focused on making its existing products better? Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks Apple is still working on new products that will “surprise and shock” us. Secrecy is surely the special sauce for surprise, but Apple could perhaps improve its current shape by letting us in on a few of those new products.