NEW YORK -- "Apple should double-down on Jony Ive." That's what Gene Munster, managing director and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, counseled during a state of Apple presentation at the Business Insider Ignition conference.
"The concept of the Apple's operating system has basically been copied by competitors... The real substance is the hardware side, where Jony Ive plays into it," Munster said. "The difference is in the hardware, and isn't fully appreciated."
In October, Ive was given the leadership role in developing the user interface for Apple's software, in addition to his role as head of industrial design.
After endorsing the tandem of CEO Tim Cook and Ive, Munster -- who has long been one of the biggest proponents of Apple moving into the TV business -- offered his prediction for Apple product launches over the next few years. That list includes an Apple television, an iPhone 5s, and Retina displays for MacBook Airs and the iPad Mini in 2013.
March 2013: Apple will introduce a radio service, similar to Pandora and Spotify; an iPad Mini with Retina display; and an update of the Apple TV box, including an app store.
June 2013: The impact of Ive on Apple software will become more apparent at the annual Worldwide Developer Conference, with previews of iOS 7 and OSX, Munster said. In addition, he expects enhancements to the PassBook digital wallet, commerce integration with services such as Groupon and LivingSocial, and improvements to the maps app. "Letting go of Richard Williamson (who was in charge of the company's maps software for iOS) is an example of Apple pushing forward on maps improvements," Munster said.
Also on tap in June, MacBook Airs will gain Retina displays, he said.
September 2013: An iPhone 5S is expected, and it may include NFC, a faster process, and a better camera than the current iPhone 5. The iPad Mini will get some component improvements, and the 5th-generation iPad will likely come with the A7X processor.
November 2013: An Apple TV, not a set-top box, should be ready for the holiday season. Design would be a critical aspect of the TV, like other Apple products, Munster said. It would cost $1,500 to $2,000, and be available in sizes from 42-inches to 55-inches.
"The average consumer just wants a better experience with their TV," Munster said. "People like all-in-one products, like a TV. The selling point will be the interface, fixing the remote control problem and offering motion capture like the Wii and FaceTime."
However, he predicted that the Apple TV will not have a la carte channels.
"Apple wants it desperately, but it can be successful without it," Munster said.
The future: Apple will need to accelerate the iPhone launch cycle with more frequent releases and lower price points:
Apple tried to come out with iPhone 5 to target larger screens, but customers think it's slimmer and faster. Apple hasn't solved problem of bigger screen. Expect two releases a year, with one in fall, the point upgrade, and the S version the spring. A cheaper iPhone for China and other other markets may be available in the next few years.
Munster said he also expects Apple to develop some major innovations in the years ahead, as it did with the iTunes, iPhone, and the iPad.
"Going forward there has been a suspicion that Apple will stop innovating. But over next decade Apple will cannibalize the iPhone with some other devices in the same way the iPhone cannibalized the iPod," he said. Those innovations will likely come from more automation and robotic technology down the road, Munster surmised.