Apple streaming event: Why the products announced today could be more important than any new iPhone

Andrew Griffin
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Apple streaming event: Why the products announced today could be more important than any new iPhone

Apple is about to take to the stage in California and unveil its latest product.

But there will be no moment where a laptop is pulled from an envelope or a phone from a pocket. Because its latest product in one sense doesn't exist physically at all.

Instead, its newest announcements will be a series of services: subscription platforms that allow people to sign up to watch TV and films, read the news, and play games.

To ensure that the focus on those services is as strong as possible, Apple has got all of the hardware announcements it had stored up out of the way – while it's possible there will be new hardware announcements, a whole new iPhone or other similar device releases is almost completely ruled out. Last week, it announced new AirPods, iMacs and iPads – all of which had been expected to arrive during the event itself.

With that move, Apple stressed that it would make a major departure from past events: focusing not on that hardware, or even the software that powers it, but instead showing off the subscription platforms it has billed as its future.

It has made those kind of services a central part of its vision of the future of the company. In all of its recent financial calls and in other discussions, Tim Cook and other senior staff have stressed a new focus on services.

It hopes that it can use those services as a way of making more money out of iPhone owners, in a way that isn't encouraging them to buy new iPhones. In recent years, the previously unstoppable growth in the sales of its handsets has come to a halt, and it has been more and more difficult to encourage people to buy the new handsets, which tend to be only iterative updates on the previous models.

Instead, it has tried to get those iPhone owners to pay for more services. It has introduced Apple Music, for instance, which will be joined by the other new subscription services; it has also touted its success in the App Store and requires people to pay for the server space they need to back up their photos and their phones.

Its new strategy seems to be to grow the number of those features. While pricing hasn't yet been announced, Apple presumably thinks it can eventually have people giving it recurring payments not just for music but TV shows, films, news and apps too – all in addition to them buying the phone in the first place.

To do that, it is entering into kinds of work that it has no real experience in – like making shows and films – in a way that could make or break the future of the firm far more than whatever the next the iPhone looks like.

The new event will be the biggest test of that change of focus yet, and a major change and one-off event that could one day be seen as transformative as the first iPhone. But it will also be a preview of the future, Apple hopes, with these services announcements perhaps becoming as important as the annual release of the new iPhone.