Apple podcast service, tags for lost items expected at iPad launch event

Apple may also release tracking devices called AirTags that would use the same technology that helps Apple customers locate lost phones

At an event Tuesday, Apple Inc may sharpen its focus on rival Spotify with a new podcast subscription service and finally may show off tiny tags meant to locate lost items.

The event, being broadcast from Apple's Cupertino, California headquarters, is also likely to include an update to Apple's iPad Pro tablet and its iMacs.

Apple shares have risen nearly 95% over the past year, faster than the 63% rise in the Nasdaq Composite Index, thanks to a record $274.5 billion in sales for fiscal 2020 as consumers stocked up on electronics during the pandemic. Apple shares were down 1% ahead of the event.

Macs and iPads accounted for $52.3 billion during its fiscal 2020, and analysts expect updates to the top-end iPad Pro models on Tuesday, including better display and processing technology.

"The Pro iPads are not the volume sellers, but they blur the line between Mac and iPad. How Apple differentiates between the iPad Pro and the Mac will be very interesting to watch," Ben Bajarin, principal analyst for consumer market intelligence at Creative Strategies.

Analysts also expect Apple to take aim at podcasts, which have become a focus for its streaming music rival Spotify Technology SA, with a subscription service.

Apple may also release tracking devices called AirTags that would use the same technology that helps Apple customers locate lost phones and ear buds to locate lost wallets or keys.

The release could result in a new round of complaints to lawmakers that Apple is hurting smaller rivals. Tile, a startup that has sold a competing tracker for nearly a decade, last year testified before the U.S. House of Representatives that Apple's App Store rules had made it harder to use Tile's products and will be called before the U.S. Senate to testify on Wednesday.

Apple has said it subjects all apps, including its own, to the same App Store review rules.

Bob O'Donnell, head of TECHnalysis Research, said he does not believe the trackers will become a big business on their own. "Because they are so late to this, it might not be that much different than when Apple got into set top boxes like Apple TV. They're a player. They're there, but they're not huge," he said.

But Bajarin said the trackers could keep people tied to their iPhones if they rely on them to find items like keys and wallets.

"The more you buy into just one hardware product, the less likely it is you'll ever leave," Bajarin said.

O'Donnell said other announcements could include Apple moving some of its iMac models to its own processors from Intel Corp's chips; and a consumer computer monitor in a lineup that recently has only had a high-priced screen for video professionals.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)



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