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Apple CEO Teases Product Shakeup In 2014

CEO Tim Cook's letter to employees thanked them for their hard work and suggested that the company has big changes planned for its product lines.
Apple Mac Pro: 9 Ways It Wows
Apple Mac Pro: 9 Ways It Wows
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Apple CEO Tim Cook knows how to take advantage of a slow news cycle. As the holiday week kicks off, he sent a letter to Apple employees reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next. Though much of the letter summarizes the company's accomplishments in 2013, it drops one big bomb ahead of 2014 that is sure to kick off a firestorm of rumor-mongering.

The letter, published in full by 9to5Mac, offers some insight into Cook's thinking and what he considers to be important to Apple. Among the successes listed by Cook are the company's launch of the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina Display, and Mac Pro. He also speaks highly of the company's efforts to get iOS 7 out the door, as well as OS 10.9 Mavericks (for free), and the company's 50 billionth app download from iTunes.

Further, Apple donated tens of millions of dollars to charity, including the Red Cross and (Product)Red projects; asked Congress to support workplace protections against sexual orientation and gender-based discrimination; and contributed heavily to several environmental initiatives.

All notable achievements, no doubt. Let's not forget that the company made billions of dollars in profits, too.

[More profits ahead? See China Mobile Agrees To Sell iPhone.]

Cook concludes by saying: "We have a lot to look forward to in 2014, including some big plans that we think customers are going to love. I am extremely proud to stand alongside you as we put innovation to work serving humankind's deepest values and highest aspirations. I consider myself the luckiest person in the world for the opportunity to work at this amazing company with all of you."

Some "big plans that we think customers are going to love," eh? What on earth could Cook be speaking about?

Apple watchers anticipate the company will introduce several new products in the year ahead. For example, Apple has been testing iPhones and iPads with different screen sizes. The company may debut an iPhone with a screen ranging between 5 and 6 inches, and a new iPad with a screen as large as 13 inches. The iPad Pro, as it is being called, might show up sooner rather than later, and could help Apple fend off some of the larger Windows 8 convertibles in the enterprise market.

Further, the company is widely expected to debut a smartwatch -- affectionately called the iWatch -- at some point during 2014. How the iWatch will differ from devices such as Samsung's Galaxy Gear, the Pebble, Qualcomm Toq, or Sony SmartWatch 2 is still anyone's guess. These are the big ones, but some still expect Apple to deliver an Apple TV that actually includes a TV, and other projects.

Whatever Apple has in store for 2014, there's no doubt that it will set the tone for Cook's tenure as CEO. The year 2013 was extraordinarily quiet for Apple, which released no new products during the first eight months of the year. If the company waits until the third or fourth quarter to launch all its new products again, investors -- and consumers -- may not be so happy.

Eric Zeman is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

Too many companies treat digital and mobile strategies as pet projects. Here are four ideas to shake up your company. Also in the Digital Disruption issue of InformationWeek: Six enduring truths about selecting enterprise software. (Free registration required.)