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.
Dutch royalty once shopped in the century-old fashion house where Apple now sells iPads.
FORTUNE -- Queen Emma of The Netherlands, who in 1879 married a man once described as "the greatest debauchee of the age," used to buy her gowns in the building that now houses Apple's (AAPL) retail presence in Amsterdam. So did her daughter, Queen Wilhelmina. And so did Wilhelmina's daughter, Queen Juliana.
In its heyday, the building Leo Hirsch erected on the Leidseplein to MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 23, 2014 4:15 AM ET
The average forecast of 40 analysts: Earnings up 2.4% year over year, revenue down 0.2%.
FORTUNE -- With one day to go before Apple (AAPL) is scheduled to report its earnings for the March quarter – Q2 in Apple's fiscal year -- the expectations of the analysts polled for Fortune's quarterly round-up are not high.
In fact, they're either flat or down across the board according to the 40 analysts we've heard from so far. MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 22, 2014 8:17 AM ET
Tim Cook responds to criticism from environmentalists with a video message of his own.
FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) continues to come under pressure from environmentalists and human rights groups to clean up its act.
Currently making the rounds on college campuses is filmmaker Heather White's Who Pays the Price, a 9:30-minute video that begins in the style of a soft-voiced Apple promo ("This is what matters. The experience of a product. Will it make life better...") but quickly MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 21, 2014 1:50 PM ET
Average estimate: $10.32 per share on sales of $43.5B. Apple's guidance: $42 to $44B.
FORTUNE -- Apple's (AAPL) share price got clobbered in after-hours trading three months ago when the company announced its earnings for the Christmas quarter. The problem was not the record sales of Macs, iPads and iPhones -- although the iPhone numbers came in a bit lighter than expected.
No, what knocked nearly $45 billion off Apple's market cap that night was MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 21, 2014 3:22 AM ET
Estimates range from $4 billion to nearly $5 billion, but growth continues to slow.
FORTUNE -- Apple's (AAPL) No. 4 revenue stream -- after the iPhone, iPad and Mac -- is a line item the company calls iTunes, Software and Services.
The category is something of a hodgepodge -- a grab bag where the company tosses, to quote from a footnote in its SEC filings, "revenue generated by sales on the iTunes Store, the App Store, the Mac App Store and the iBookstore, plus revenue from sales MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 20, 2014 2:29 AM ET
The estimates range from 3.7 million to 4.8 million. Average: 4 million, up 2.8% from 2013.
FORTUNE -- Once Apple's (AAPL) biggest money maker, the Mac at 12% of total revenue is now No. 3 after the iPhone (52%) and iPad (20%).
[No. 4 at 7.6% and climbing fast is the category Apple calls "iTunes, Software and Services."]
The good news for the axis of Apple's digital hub strategy is that the year-over-year declines the Mac suffered for MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 19, 2014 5:26 AM ET
The analysts' estimates range from 15 million to nearly 22 million. Average: 19.3 million.
FORTUNE --Although the heyday of the iPad -- when it basically owned the tablet computer market -- may be over, the product line is still Apple's (AAPL) second most important source of revenue, holding steady at roughly 20% of total sales.
With growing competition and the rise of the phablet (mini-tablets that double as phones), nobody is expecting a repeat of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 18, 2014 6:57 AM ET
The analysts' estimates range from 34 million to nearly 43 million. Average: 38.2 million.
FORTUNE -- In the analysts' notes to investors leading up to Apple's (AAPL) quarterly earnings report next week, the iPhone is topic No. 1.
And with good reason. iPhone sales remain the company's single biggest source of revenue -- 52.6% of total revenues, to be specific, at this time last year.
In a note issued Wednesday, Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi rattled off a list MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 17, 2014 2:02 AM ET
Remember those snarky TV spots mocking Apple customers waiting in line for an iPhone?
FORTUNE -- Here's an interesting sequence of events, buried between the lines of a Samsung e-mail trail that Apple (AAPL) entered into evidence as part of its big patent infringement suit, now in its third week.
-- Oct. 4, 2011: From Samsung's VP of U.S. sales Mike Pennington to Samsung America CEO Dale Sohn and chief marketing officer Todd Pendleton.
"As you have shared MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 16, 2014 2:45 AM ET
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