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iPhones, watches, iPad? What to watch for at Apple's big event

Image: Apple CEO Tim Cook responds to a question during a news conference
Apple CEO Tim Cook at a news conference at IBM Watson headquarters, in New York. Copyright Richard Drew AP file
Copyright Richard Drew AP file
By Jason Abbruzzese with NBC News Tech and Science News
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The event comes shortly after Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. company to reach $1 trillion in market value.


Apple's big event on Wednesday is expected to feature a variety of new hardware offerings — many of which could answer outstanding questions about how the company plans to expand its sales.

Scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. ET, the event reportedly could introduce a veritable cornucopia of products for Apple fans: three new iPhones, a new iPad Pro, new laptops and new Apple Watches.

Apple, which under co-founder Steve Jobs helped turn product launches into the tech industry equivalent of rock concerts, is riding high. The company recently became the first public U.S. company to hit a market value of $1 trillion and remains atop the Forbes list of most valuable brands.

Apple still faces some questions: How can it continue to make a profit despite a global slowdown in smartphones sales? How can it maneuver the Trump administration's economic policies? And how will it deal with growing skepticism about the role of tech in people's daily lives?

Apple will livestream the event on its website, which can be accessed in most web browsers, as well as on Twitter.

Apple's juice

Plenty of companies would like to have Apple's problem — it has been so successful that it's difficult for the company to grow. Apple has been routinely posting record quarters, including $53.3 billion in revenuein the most recent quarter.

But companies are expected to grow. Gene Munster, a veteran Apple analyst at venture capital firm Loup Ventures, said he expects Apple to launch smartphones with bigger screens in order to boost demand.

Those smartphones, he said, would also be pricier, helping Apple make more money.

"They're adding more stuff toward the higher end of the product line, so what they're trying to do is pull up the average selling price," Munster said. "And I think they'll accomplish that with this lineup."

Munster also pointed to wearables as an area where Apple could expand, in particular with the Apple Watch and AirPods.

The Trump effect

Major changes to U.S. trade policy is one of the few serious threats to Apple's business.

But with President Donald Trump pushing for more tariffs on Chinese goods, Apple faces legitimate questions about whether it will need to bump up prices for some of its products — and whether that could turn some consumers away.

Trump appears to know that new tariffs could be a problem for Apple, pushing the company in a recent tweet to move its manufacturing to the U.S.

Moving iPhone assembly from China to the U.S. would raise Apple's labor costs, which would put the company under pressure to raise prices on consumers. The iPhone makes up almost 70 percent of Apple's total revenue.

Tech under pressure

The tech industry has been under increasing scrutiny for a variety of issues, including the addictiveness of their products, questionable privacy practices and the dissemination of misinformation.

Growing skepticism from U.S. politicians have resulted in a variety of congressional hearings, including some featuring high-level executives from Facebook and Twitter. Cybersecurity concerns also remain front and center with the 2018 U.S. midterm elections less than two months away.

Apple has remained relatively unscathed, and CEO Tim Cook has shown a willingness to point out that it isn't in the same business as companies like Facebook and Google, which make money from consumer data.

Cook is expected to give the keynote presentation on Wednesday. He may choose to focus on Apple's products, but the tech industry will be listening close for any comments Cook has on Trump or the tech industry's struggles.

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