Apple's newly unveiled Augmented Reality Kit (ARKit) has developers diving in and thinking about the possibilities. Apple provided a presentation of the technology at their World Wide Developers Conference earlier this month and it did not disappoint. Virtual objects were shown on a table, taking into account the surface size, camera movement and lighting solutions, all in real-time. Needless to say it was an impressive demonstration.
During the unveiling of ARKit, Apple had John Knoll of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) provide a Star Wars VR presentation. John introduced Lauren Ridge of EPIC Games, who was backstage, complete with green screen and her VR goggles ready to go. John and Lauren showed off a Star Wars experience and some quick programming, adding in tie-fighters and Darth Vader for what played out as a pretty close call with the Dark Lord. It was cool stuff, but I started revisiting the presentation again. As Darth Vader came towards Lauren, what if she had a physical lightsaber that integrated into the game? ILM and EPIC Games could deliver the holy grail where VR and reality completely blur. But it could go much further.
Lately, Apple has been adding to their space exploration team. Not only does Apple have their sights set on your mobile life, but evidently they look up at night and think about how to reach for the stars. Apple recently added two of Google's satellite executives to some vaguely understood hardware team. In April an inside-the-satellite-beltway blog site talked of Apple working with Boeing regarding Low Earth Orbit (LEO) multi-thousand satellite deployment. Sounds cool, but when it comes to Apple, the age old question remains; What's in it for me?
Have you ever been on a cruise or taken a flight? How about visiting another country far away or hiking to parts unknown? In each scenario internet access often costs far too much to justify, or simply isn't available. If you've ever attended a college football game good luck getting anything in or out of your iPhone, as the towers are typically jammed solid with traffic. Now envision all these places, or virtually everywhere, providing strong signal with amazing speeds for any task, anywhere, any time. That's what's in it for you.
Project Titan, Apple's not-so-secret car program, has apparently been all over the map. But just when the Titan finally appeared to have legs, former Ford executive, Steve Zadesky, who was heading up Apple's automotive project, left the company in September, 2016. Filling Zadesky's vacuum, veteran Apple executive Bob Mansfield promptly took over the reigns. According to the New York Times, Mansfield immediately slashed the Titan workforce, whittling the program down to autonomous-only driving solutions. Earlier this week Apple CEO, Tim Cook, just revealed publicly that autonomous driving is indeed Apple's direction. But I've never bought into any Apple CEO's public comments (only delivering part of a picture they want us to see), nor do I buy into the "paper of record" rumors, nor should you.
Mansfield has saved many fledging programs at Apple, working with shoestring teams while delivering remarkable results. Project Titan had become a program losing it's Apple culture, while gaining a bloated staff with far too many Detroit executives running the show. Mansfield was tasked to bring the program back to Apple's roots with a lean and focused team. Evidence continues to mount an Apple car has always been – and still is – on it's way.
It's a curious thing, that Apple. To have all but ignored the Mac for years made going into the Apple retail stores seem like a walk through a computing history museum. "...and here is the MacBook Air. Launched in 2008 and still does not have a Retina display, Thunderbolt, or any other port for that matter." At least it is – slowly – getting harder to point out how slow Apple has been to getting Mac's updated. Cook and crew clearly took their eye off the Mac ball for years, but things have changed in Cupertino, and much needed updates are on their way. Does this mean Apple's leadership is listening to customers, or does it merely explain the pivot due to iPad's constant and decreasing sales since 2014?...
Forget about iPhone 8's edge-to-edge OLED display, 3D camera, IP68 waterproof rating, Touch ID built into the glass, or, or, or... The killer feature for iPhone 8 will be AirPods that ship with the phone as a standard feature. Will this happen? Sorry kids, I don't work on Apple's iPhone product marketing team, nor am I close personal friends with Phil Schiller (although "Uncle Phil" has always seemed pretty cool), so I have no idea if this will actually happen – but it most certainly should.
Analysts have been beating the drum that iPhone 8 will cost over a $1,000 in certain configurations, with starting prices nearing $900. If that's the case, I highly question where the massively increased costs for iPhone 8 are hidden? OLED display vs LCD? No. There is no longer a massive cost delta between the two technologies with Apple's volume. New sensors and Touch ID built into the glass will cost more than Apple's current Touch ID implementation. But when Touch ID was launched in iPhone 5s it was also a costly new feature and Apple didn't jack up the prices for iPhone 5s with Touch ID, rather, Apple held prices and focused on selling more iPhones.
FitBit was all the darling in 2015, with a strong IPO showing and staggering sales topping 21 million devices. Fast forward to today, and in just over 20 months FitBit's stock is down nearly 60% from it's all-time high. More or less, FitBit provides decent, singular focused devices. While this has been good for FitBit in terms of volume sales, the Mark Cuban question has raised it's ugly head – Are you a viable business or just a clever one-off product?
Simple, low-priced fitness trackers have been an easy, low-risk purchase decision for many, but over time devices like this tend to fall out of favor with consumers, as they gravitate towards multi-functional solutions, even if that requires a higher spend. Enter Apple Watch.
Another day, another iPhone 8 rumor or research note from Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. Whether the iPhone 8 gains a larger battery, moves to an OLED display, or stops earth destroying asteroids in their tracks, one rumor has seemed consistent, if not consistently scary: iPhone 8 is going to be a premium priced phone above and beyond all premium priced phones.
If iPhone 8 launches with prices above Apple's well established $649 and $749 entry-level starting points, the results could be devastating. iPhone 8 will arrive as Apple's 10th anniversary iPhone and will arguably be the company's largest-ever iPhone launch since its introduction in 2007. But there are ways Apple can move buyers into premium iPhone prices without making it appear they are doing so. Will Apple get it right?
If you haven't noticed, Apple silently racked up large scale iPad and MacBook Air sales over the Black Friday weekend, according to Adobe's analytics. But wait! Like a good Ginsu knife, there's more! Apple's Beats headphones were also show stoppers, and the new MacBook Pro has seen stronger than anticipated demand since its release. If you think there couldn't possibly be more, you'd be wrong! Apple's iPhone is also the most wanted item on Christmas wish lists this year, up by 2% over last year's desire for iPhones. There can't possible more than this, right?! Wrong! This weekend I moved to Verizon from AT&T, and upgraded muy plan with six new iPhone 7's!
Across the board Apple's sales are looking solid, but Verizon's virtual blind-side to AT&T this holiday weekend may have given Apple an extra boost. The largest US carrier offered $200 Visa cards and generous trade-in values on older iPhones for new customers. After the cash card arrives, my purchase of a 128GB iPhone 7 is a net zero dollars cost to me. The Verizon plan also provides my 6 lines with a 24GB per month data pool, with half of it able to be rolled over into future months. Verizon even offered $300 for a base iPhone 5, plus the $200 Visa card! It was an impressive offer, and coming from Verizon, a company known to rarely provide steep discounts, AT&T was caught flat footed.
At least half of all Galaxy Note 7 users have switched, or soon will, to iPhones, according to IDC's latest research. This is big news for Apple and iPhone sales. Only 17% will be choosing another Samsung phone, and an astounding 13% were not even aware of the recall.
IDC did not seek to poll future smartphone buyers, but during last Tuesday's Apple quarterly conference call, Apple CFO, Luca Maestri, cited a survey indicating 79% of those planning on buying a smartphone in the U.S. during the December quarter would be purchasing an iPhone. Consumers in the know, or had a Galaxy Note 7, are turning to iPhones in droves.
On Tuesday I wrote an article with the premise that Microsoft, from their marketing arm to product offerings are mirroring Apple amazingly well, surpassing Cupertino's technologies in many ways. Immediately, Apple apologists were decrying the Surface Studio as a wannabe, gimmicky iMac, and that the price was unjustifiably high.
Yesterday Apple launched the all-new MacBook Pro, with innovative touch bar, complete with built-in Touch ID. The new technology looks well refined and thoroughly thought out. Touch bar makes sense in hundreds of different use cases and the rest of the MacBook was given highly effective refinements throughout. Apple may have stemmed any creative pro tide away from it's notebook shores with the new MacBooks, but there is still trouble within Apple's desktop offerings. The competition knows it and is attacking in full force.