Today: Apple invites media to an event March 9 that seems to be geared toward its coming smartwatch
, though a new MacBook
Air could make an appearance as well. Baker noted rumors of a larger, so-called iPad Pro device aimed at enterprise customers and also mentioned Apple's need to update the MacBook
Air, but he doubts those devices will make an appearance at this event. Salesforce roared to a record high Thursday after disclosing that 2014 was its first year with annual revenues topping $5 billion.
Today: Apple invites media to an event March 9 that seems to be geared toward its coming smartwatch, though a new MacBook Air could make an appearance as well. Also: Salesforce roars to a record high.
The Lead: Apple plans San Francisco launch event in March
An Apple launch event planned for March seems assured to focus on the Cupertino company's smartwatch, but experts say there is a chance Apple will show off another new gadget.
Apple on Thursday sent out an invitation to a March 9 event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, while offering little information about the topic. The colorful invite said only "Spring forward," seemingly a reference to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time the day before the event.
The reference to time in Apple's invitation and the event's proximity to the April launch of the Apple Watch immediately focused attention on the company's smartwatch, which was announced along with the latest iPhones last fall. Bloomberg News later reported that an unnamed "person familiar with the matter" confirmed the event will divulge details on the Apple Watch, which could be launching earlier than CEO Tim Cook announced.
"I know they already said April, but maybe production went really well and they're ready to roll the thing out -- 'Spring forward' obviously alludes to time change," Gartner analyst Van Baker said Thursday.
Baker and Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies both predicted Apple will focus on its smartwatch at the event. More important than another look at the actual watch, however, will be information on the apps Apple and third-party developers have come up with for the device.
"What's continued to surprise me is how creative and innovative the software developer community has been. We saw it with the iPhone, we've seen it with the iPad, and we're now going to see it with the Apple Watch," Bajarin said in a phone interview Thursday. "It's hard to predict what a great app will be for me versus what will be a great app for you, but I am excited about seeing what the software developers deliver on the Apple Watch platform to make the Apple Watch something I want to buy."
Bajarin said he has been wearing a smartwatch for a year and a half and has yet to find a "killer app" that makes the devices worthwhile. Baker downplayed the notion of a single desirable application, however, and said that the entire Apple ecosystem could be the key to making the Apple Watch a big seller.
"Everyone has been asking since the smartwatches first came out, 'What's the killer app?'" Baker said. "I don't think there is a killer app. I think there is a portfolio of apps and functionality that collectively is very compelling."
Beyond the Apple Watch, Bajarin said there is "a 50-50 shot" that Apple also announces a new MacBook Air at the March event, mostly because the devices would then be available when schools typically purchase equipment in April and May.
"If Apple wanted to get a new MacBook Air in the school-buying process, they'd have to do something in this time frame. Plus, the MacBook Air needs a refresh," the analyst, who has covered Apple for more than three decades, noted. "However, we haven't heard anything from the supply chain on this, which makes it less likely."
The last time Apple held a March launch event, in 2012, the company showed off a new iPad and refreshed Apple TV. Baker noted rumors of a larger, so-called iPad Pro device aimed at enterprise customers and also mentioned Apple's need to update the MacBook Air, but he doubts those devices will make an appearance at this event.
"They certainly could, but would that detract from the launch of the watch? It might, so I'm not necessarily holding out hope that there's going to be more products in the announcement," he said.
Apple stock rebounded from two consecutive days of declines that followed a series of record highs, adding 1.3 percent to close at $130.41.
SV150 market report: Tech stocks gain as Salesforce soars to record
Stock indexes mostly sagged on Thursday, but Silicon Valley stocks gained and the tech-heavy Nasdaq continued its march to the 5,000 milestone with help from huge Salesforce gains.
Salesforce roared to a record high Thursday after disclosing that 2014 was its first year with annual revenues topping $5 billion. The San Francisco cloud software pioneer's stock soared 11.7 percent to $70.24, pushing its market valuation near $45 billion. The other cloud-software company that showed off earnings Wednesday did not perform as well: Workday fell 5.6 percent to $88.65 despite living up to expectations, as analysts questioned the Pleasanton company's pricey valuation. Canaccord Genuity analyst Richard Davis called the earnings "Solid results for an expensive stock," while Summit Research's Richard Williams wrote, "We think the stock is fully valued and prefer to wait for a better entry point."
As the Federal Communications Commission approved strong net neutrality rules, one of the biggest proponents of such a move, Los Gatos-based Netflix, gained 1 percent to $483.03. Google gained 2.2 percent to $559.29 after announcing that it will begin showing ads in its Android app store, which should help bring in more mobile revenues. The Mountain View search giant also committed $300 million to a $750 million SolarCity residential solar fund, the largest nest egg of its kind; SolarCity dropped 0.3 percent to $52.10. Facebook added 1.1 percent to $80.41 while adding a custom gender option for users, but the Menlo Park company's WhatsApp messaging service was ordered to suspend operations in Brazil and German authorities threatened to sue Facebook. LinkedIn added 0.7 percent to $270.76 while detailing its plans for development in Mountain View, which don't seem as ostentatious as Google's proposal for a fancy new building. Gilead dropped 0.2 percent to $104.19 after a report showed that it shifted billions overseas to avoid U.S. taxes.
In Thursday afternoon's earnings reports, San Francisco big-data software company Splunk detailed a loss of $57 million, or 47 cents a share, on sales of $147.4 million, and shares gained more than 7 percent in late trading. Nimble Storage lost $24.7 million, or 33 cents a share, on sales of $68.3 million, and shares in the San Jose flash-storage company declined more than 5 percent. Aruba Networks, which is reportedly an acquisition target for Hewlett-Packard, earned $5.7 million, or 5 cents a share, on sales of $212.9 million, and shares jumped more than 5 percent in late trading.
Up: Salesforce, Google, Twitter, Tesla, Cisco, Yelp, Apple, Adobe, Facebook, Netflix
Down: Workday, SunPower, HP, Symantec, Pandora, Juniper
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 14, or 0.79 percent, to 1,792.22
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 20.75, or 0.42 percent, to 4,987.89
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 10.15, or 0.06 percent, to 18,214.42
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 3.12, or 0.15 percent, to 2,110.74
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