Today: Apple confirms its Sept. 9 event and again hits record stock highs, as signs point to a new iPhone and some sort of wearable device. Also: Splunk and Omnivision earnings.
The Lead: Next question is what Apple will debut at Sept. 9 event
Apple confirmed Thursday that it will hold an event Sept. 9, as earlier reports predicted, but the biggest mystery remains: What new devices will the tech giant introduce?
While Apple's choice of venue and the construction around Cupertino's Flint Center hint at a historical event, recent history suggests that the focus of the event will be a new iPhone. Apple has introduced a new iPhone in September events each of the past two years, after using an October event for that purpose in 2011.
The new features of a smartphone expected to be dubbed iPhone 6 will receive the most scrutiny at the event. The Wall Street Journal and other organizations have reported that Apple will offer a larger iPhone, commonly referred to as a "phablet," a variation that Android smartphones have used to boost sales.
"Apple definitely needs a larger-screen smartphone soon, particularly to address the demand in the emerging markets," Canalys analyst Jessica Kwee told the Journal earlier this year.
A new iPhone is likely to come with stepped-up hardware, and it could also perform a new function for users: mobile payments. Wired reported Thursday morning that it had confirmed the addition of near-field communications, or NFC, technology for a payments solution that will belong to Apple.
The addition of such technology would challenge other Silicon Valley companies that focus on the sector, such as Square, eBay's PayPal and Google, which offers the Google Wallet payments platform. Pacific Crest analysts suggested this summer that Apple could pair with one of Silicon Valley's largest non-tech companies, Visa, on a payments platform that could eventually dwarf the competition.
Other than an iPhone, many observers expect a revolutionary new product from Apple, after CEO Tim Cook promised to enter new product categories in 2014 amid renewed spending on research and development. Expectations are for some sort of wearable product: Recode reported Wednesday that Apple would introduce a wearable gadget, and Bloomberg News followed with a similar report Thursday.
Neither of those news organizations could answer what form a wearable gadget may take. Expectations have long centered around a wristwatch-like device, an idea that was boosted by Apple's application for an 'iWatch" patent in multiple countries and the company hiring an executive from the watch industry.
However, smartwatches have not been popular thus far despite several manufacturers pushing the gadgets, including new options from Samsung and LG introduced Wednesday evening.
"I'm not putting a whole lot of stock in the smartwatch rumors," Gartner analyst Van Baker told Mercury News reporter Julia Love on Thursday. "There's no evidence of a smartwatch in the supply chain, and the supply chain is always where the leaks come from."
Another option would be a wearable device that pairs with the company's smartphone, making use of the HealthKit biometric analysis software kit Apple introduced at its Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this year, and possibly the HomeKit software that helps control home appliances. Jackdaw Research founder and principal analyst Jan Dawson sketched out the possibilities for that type of system earlier this year, including greater security features for mobile payments.
"It's easy to imagine some that would be wrist-worn, others that could be clipped to clothing or worn around the neck," Dawson wrote. "And unlike many of the fitness trackers out there today, which are hidden under clothing, at least some of these could be proudly worn outside clothing, which explains the significant investment Apple is making in hiring people with fashion-related expertise."
Expectations for Apple's event have helped push the company's stock to increasingly higher record prices, and Thursday was no different. Apple reached an intraday record price of $102.78 and ended with a 0.1 percent climb to an all-time closing high of $102.25.
SV150 market report: Wall Street drops ahead of Spunk, Omnivision earnings
Apple's small daily gains couldn't help push Wall Street to an improvement Thursday, as indexes declined despite a higher reading on gross domestic product.
After the market closed, two Silicon Valley companies released their quarterly earnings, and both received an after-hours bump. Big-data software firm Splunk produced losses of $60.8 million, or 51 cents a share, on sales of $101.5 million, producing year-over-year revenue growth of 52 percent. The San Francisco company's shares jumped more than 9 percent in late trading to top $49, after closing with a 1.3 percent decline at $45.29. Omnivision, a component supplier for Apple's iPhone, revealed profits of $45.3 million, or 78 cents a share, on sales of $406.5 million. The Santa Clara company, which has received an acquisition bid from a Chinese company, gained about 2 percent in late trading.
Google also made news after trading had ended, announcing a drone project that aims to use the gadgets to deliver packages and supplies, similar to an Amazon effort; the Mountain View company's shares declined 0.5 percent to $580.32 Thursday, and bounced back a bit in after-hours action. eBay dropped 0.9 percent to $55.43 while PayPal seeks to relay payments for online gambling in New Jersey, and analysts continue to look at a breakup between eBay and PayPal. Tesla Motors is looking for a sign in Fremont and rolling out chargers at destination points, and the Palo Alto electric-car company increased 0.2 percent to $263.86 Thursday.
Up: GoPro, Twitter, NetApp, Intuit, Nvidia, Applied Materials
Down: Workday, Salesforce, SolarCity, Pandora, Facebook, Oracle, eBay
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Down 3.47, or 0.21 percent, to 1,619.41
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 11.93, or 0.26 percent, to 4,557.69
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 42.44, or 0.25 percent, to 17,079.57
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 3.38, or 0.17 percent, to 1,996.74