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Apple hints at new categories of products, but in 2014

The computer maker remains vague about what's up its sleeve for the rest of this year and next, with CEO Tim Cook referring to the company's entire skill as a clue during a discussion of fourth-quarter earnings.

In Paris, Apple sequestered the earliest arrivals in the line to buy the iPhone 5S and 5C into a section near the Opera store. People dressed warmly for the cool but dry weather.
Apple fans wait in the line to buy the iPhone 5S and 5C in Paris. Stephen Shankland/CNET

For anyone hoping to get a peek at what Apple has in store next year for totally new product categories, don't count on clarity from Chief Executive Tim Cook today.

During a conference call to discuss Apple's fourth-quarter results, Cook said Monday he was standing by his statement from earlier this year that its customers and investors would see "exciting new products" and new categories of products during the fall of this year and across 2014. Cook mentioned "a long road map," with Apple's latest additions -- such as a 64-bit smartphone and a fingerprint sensor -- at the very start, but he kept his explanation to broad strokes.

Asked by an analyst about his promise for new product categories, so far unfulfilled, Cook vaguely gestured to the breadth of Apple's capabilities.

"If you look at the skills Apple has, from hardware to software to services and an incredible app ecosystem, this set of things are very very unique," he said. "We obviously believe we can use our skills in building other great products that are in categories that represent areas that we do not participate today."

Touch IDs were introduced with the high end of the new iPhone class, but the fingerprint recognition capability was left off the new iPads revealed last week. Given Apple's proclivity for October to be iPad announcement month, we may need to wait until this time next year for such a feature.

Cook made the comments Monday as Apple said sales of 33.8 million iPhones swept its earnings higher than Wall Street expected, reporting fourth-quarter earnings of $8.26 per share on sales of $37.5 billion.

Apple also said it sold 14.1 million iPads, 4.6 million Macs, and 3.5 million iPods during the quarter.

Among the categories that would mark big departures for Apple would be wearable computing and an HDTV.

With Samsung, Qualcomm, and Sony all throwing their hats into the smartwatch ring, Apple's contribution to a wrist wearable has been elusive even if hints of the company's interest are not. The new M7 "motion coprocessor" chip added health tracking capabilities to iPhone 5S, so the potential is there.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook Sarah Tew/CNET

An Apple HDTV has been rumored to be in the pipeline for years. Comments about Apple's living room aspirations from Steve Jobs and later Cook stoked the speculation, but in the meantime, its Apple TV set-top box has been wallowing relatively unattended.

Among other items on a wish list held by Apple faithful, a big-screen iPhone has been a rumored experiment for a while, but both new iPhones introduced last month were the same 4-inch size of their predecessors. Compare that with 4.7-inch, 5-inch, and bigger that are becoming the norm from other makers like Android and Windows Phones.

Apple upgraded its iPod Touch and redesigned the iPod Nano in 2012, keeping its old Shuffle in the ranks. Some new polish on the iPod Touch, such as a better camera or faster processor, would have made sense for the holidays.

Finally, a gaming console element to Apple TV and gaming peripherals like Bluetooth controllers have also been a wish, but so far neither has surfaced, nor has a keyboard in the vein of Microsoft's Touch Cover for its Surface tablet.

Updated at 3:24 p.m. PT: with further comments from Cook about road map and context.