FORTUNE -- On Tuesday, Re/code's Walt Mossberg joined the parade of Apple (AAPL) watchers wondering whether the company has lost its innovative magic.
To Mossberg's credit, he points out that there was a six-year gap between the iPod and the iPhone, and that it's only been four years since Steve Jobs -- knowing his end was near -- pushed out the iPad.
Still, the operative metaphor of Mossberg's piece is that Apple is increasingly like Hollywood.
"Studios release blockbuster franchise movies every few years," he writes in Why Apple Is like a Movie Studio, "and then try to live off a series of sequels until the next big, successful franchise."
Some have speculated that Tim Cook this evening might try to brighten what is expected to be a ho-hum March quarter earnings report and disappointing June quarter guidance with some kind of bauble -- a new piece of hardware, perhaps, or a big stock buyback.
The latter is possible. The former most unlikely. Quarterly earnings reports are not the venue for a new Apple product release.
Mossberg believes Apple does have new game-changing devices in the pipeline -- not just iterations on the old franchises -- and he rattles off the usual suspects: A TV, a wearable health monitor, a mobile-payment system.
But he adds that the clock is ticking.
"Sequel time is almost up," he writes. "It's time for a new franchise. And it had better be desirable, logical and elegant."
In a note to clients issued the same day, BCG's Colin Gillis offered a more sophisticated take on why Apple needs a new franchise.
"While we respect Apple's choice to continue its focus on the high-end market (where the profits historically have been)," he writes, "Apple has lost its ubiquity."
He points out that the broader smartphone market grew at 38% in 2013 according to IDC, while iPhones units grew 13.4%. Similarly, iPad unit sales grew 12.9% compared with industry growth of 51.6%.
Gillis is focused on what he calls the service layer, which is where Apple competes with the likes of Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN). Although the company probably sold close to 60 million devices last quarter, he sees cracks in the iOS platform:
I don't expect any answers this afternoon from Apple, but the issues Gillis raises are good ones to keep in mind if you, like me, are monitoring the earnings call with analysts.
It's scheduled to start at 5 p.m. EST, 2 p.m. PST and -- for me -- 11 p.m. Central European Time.
Here's the link: Listen to the Webcast.
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The pioneering company introduces the Illum, a professional-grade "light field" camera that promises sharper pictures and an adjustable depth of field.
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Negative news reports may be little more than a bump in the road for a $10 billion startup.
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Tim Cook responds to criticism from environmentalists with a video message of his own.
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