With a new leader and a strong product range, what will be the key factors affecting Apple's direction and strategy in 2012? Seb Janacek offers his take on the year ahead for the world's largest tech company.
Prediction 1. $100bn in the bank?
Apple forecast monster revenues of $37bn for Q1 2012 at its last quarterly results call. Expect that lofty figure to be surpassed. The company has an $81bn cash stockpile, but could it pass $100bn in 2012?
Apple's coffers will be boosted by sales buoyed by huge pent-up demand for a new iPhone and strong sales of iOS devices over Christmas. Over 1.2 billion apps were downloaded in a single week in the last days of December, according to analytics firm Flurry, as millions of users tried out new iOS and Android devices.
Equally predictable is that despite the record-breaking revenues, Apple will forecast its traditionally conservative figures for the second quarter and the stock price will drop. Don't hold your breath for a special dividend for investors either.
Prediction 2. iPhone 5
Is a pattern emerging? iPhone 3G in 2008, iPhone 3GS in 2009, iPhone 4 in 2010 and iPhone 4S in 2011. It's possible to make a reasonably safe guess that the handset nomenclature goes through a major iteration every two years and a minor iteration every year in between.
Standard US mobile contracts are now two years long, which means 2012 will probably be the year of the iPhone 5. Will Apple revert to the summer release date it used for everything except the iPhone 4S or will it revert to an autumn release in September or October?
My guess is that it will opt for early autumn. There are two reasons. One is that a summer release would mean the iPhone 4S will have had less than a year on the market before being replaced. The other is that the summer isn't an ideal time for a major consumer product release. A few months before Christmas? That's a different matter.
Prediction 3. iPad 3
It seems inconceivable that a new iPad won't be announced. The iPad 3 is another safe bet, unless it's called the iPad 2S. One of the reasons for the iPhone's 'S' increment is with the device's apparent link to the two-year contract with the mobile company. This factor doesn't apply with the iPad where 3G is an option.
The big question is whether the device will ship with a so-called Retina Display, the super-HD display offered on the iPhone. Improvements to the insides and the cameras will be inevitable but the inclusion of a Retina Display on the next iPad will have competitors struggling to keep up.
Prediction 4. No seven-inch wonder
The past two months have been punctuated with reports about Apple releasing a seven-inch iPad to compete with devices of a similar size. I can't see this release happening for a few reasons.
First, Steve Jobs himself derided the form factor as being inappropriate for tablets. He claimed the seven-inch form factor was "dead on arrival". Secondly, apart from the Amazon Kindle Fire, seven-inch tablets are hardly setting sales records.
User experience on iOS devices is as much about consistency as it is about delight. Thirdly, much of Apple's success with iOS comes from the developer community - interfaces need to be redesigned for different screens and the company has long criticised the Android platform for having a fragmented approach.
Prediction 5. Tablet wars claim more casualties
Amazon and Apple will lead the pack with Amazon competing for the low-end, content-subsidised slice of the tablet market and Apple dominating most of the rest. Apple may continue to sell the iPad 2 at a slightly discounted rate to attract the undecided consumers.
Samsung, Motorola and others may find themselves squeezed from both ends. Meanwhile, the late arrival of Windows 8 later in the year may...