Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm.

Apple just set itself up for a huge product year in 2012

iPhone 4SApple’s product launches this year have been mostly evolutionary. That sets the stage for a potentially huge 2012.

Consider what Apple released in 2010: The first iPad, the amazing iPhone 4 with “retina” display, the tiny new Apple TV, the touchscreen iPod nano, and the ridiculous new MacBook Air. All were huge upgrades over what previously existed.

Now, this year, it’s been mostly “refreshes” — the slightly thinner iPad 2, the modestly updated MacBook Air, and now the iPhone 4S. (While I disagree that the new iPhone should be seen as a disappointment, I obviously realize it’s not as exciting as a flashy new hardware design.) The iPod nano got a modest software update, and the Apple TV got AirPlay mirroring and baseball games.

Yes, these are the best products Apple has ever made, and they are in high demand. But the changes were relatively minor this year compared to the year before.

Next year, though, could be another big one. The third iPad, this time with a retina display. An iPhone 5 with 4G LTE, NFC support, and a slick new design. Maybe, finally, an Apple television. We’ll see.

The good news, in the meantime, is that even the evolutionary upgrades have been selling better than ever.

Related: Apple: The next chapter