Tuesday, at Apple's September special event, CEO, Tim Cook and crew revealed iPhone 7. Among it's biggest new technologies was the omission of a legacy feature – Apple has done away with the industry standard 3.5mm audio jack, and for a slew of good reasons. But none more impactful than the fact that Android makers are now torn in what to do with a standard Apple just ditched.
Apple VP of World Wide Marketing, Phil Schiller, pointed out new digital advantages for moving past the the analog standard. Yes, the move brings wireless headphone technologies towards becoming the new standard. Yes, it saves space within iPhone. Yes, the removal of the jack eliminates another area for water and dust ingression. The shift to using iPhone's Lightning connector for headphones certainly ushers in the digital age for Apple's headphones, but the initial pain it brings to the competition is greater than the benefits within iPhone 7 in and of itself.
According to FutureSource Consulting, Google's Chromebooks achieved 51% share in the K-12 educational market. Historically, Apple has long been the market leader in educational sales — which may have been a key factor in surviving Apple’s 1990’s collapse as school districts were reluctant to leave the Mac platform. But today is a brave new world, full of tablets and mobile devices. Laptops and desktops are not what they were in the educational space. Say what you will about Unions and school districts spending every dime they get, budgets for technology are simply squeezed, and Apple is feeling the blow.
Google's Chromebooks offer a near 100% cloud-based experience, for dirt-cheap hardware prices. Chromebooks are not for music or video editing classes, but it would be silly to suggest Google does not have their eyes on a larger desktop prize. In the educational market, Apple has left space under their pricing umbrella, and it will eventually hurt Apple in the education market, if it hasn't already.
DuckDuckGo is the search engine that does not track your searches or send your search words/phrases to the websites you click on from their search engine. In other words DuckDuckGo values your privacy. Since its launch a few years ago, DuckDuckGo has grown in popularity and now is available a option in Safari on OS X, iOS, as well as Windows. In 2014 it became a default search engine option for Firefox browsers as well.
Amazon paired Fire TV with Nick Nolte. Google tried Kevin Bacon in their Google TV ads, while Roku’s used families and customer testimonial commercials in an attempt to make waves. Until the arrival of Apple’s 4th generation Apple TV, the company was content to do virtually nothing to advertise their cord cutting device. Not since the original Apple TV launched in 2007 had Apple delivered a single television commercial. While Apple sat back, satisfied with its “hobby” gaining modest sales via word of mouth, the challengers took sales leadership. Signs that things would change for Apple TV’s fortunes began in January, 2015, when Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced Apple TV had sold over 25 million units. The "hobby" phrase, often associated with Apple TV from Apple’s management was dropped, and signs were in the air that the company was about to get serious with Apple TV.
According to Bloomberg, Amazon will no longer be selling Apple TV or Google Chromecast starting October 29, siting vague references that these products are not easily “compatible” with Amazon’s Prime video service. A big shift in Amazon is taking place within the online retail giant by refusing to sell what look to be popular forthcoming retail products.
Control within Amazon seems to have shifted from its online retail division, to that of the Prime team. This shift is similar to the power Microsoft’s Windows team yielded for decades, and continues to do so, stifling anything in their path for the sake of maintaining power. What is good for Windows is good for Microsoft is the Redmond mantra. In Amazon’s case, subscriptions are now king, running over any physical hardware sales gains. Amazon has taken on a somewhat Orwellian-Marxist viewpoint that all products are equal, but some are more equal than others. In this case, Fire TV is sold along side any other competing product, that is, unless other products threaten the power of Fire TV.
Android smartphones continue to fall behind Apple's iPhone technology at an alarming rate. Here is a quick look at how Apple has coerced Google and their hardware vendors to spend countless billions playing catchup, forced into following Apple’s lead. The Android + 3rd party hardware attempts at deliver powerful, yet simple Apple-like solutions continue to stumble, leaving the duopoly further behind Apple’s superior iPhone hardware + software integration and execution.
Multi-Touch: It was the original 3.5" multi-touch iPhone that sent the entire smartphone market back to the drawing board. Android quickly copied Apple’s home screen, icons, along with look and feel, while Samsung and others dropped physical keyboards, integrating lower quality touch technologies. HTC quickly dropped the idea of pushing the stylus as the best method for smartphone interaction in favor of touch. Fast forward to today and any number of Android smartphones still lack the visceral feel of Apple’s touch technology. A copy is never as good as the original.
A lot has been said of the latest Apple TV, since Eddie Cue performed its unveiling last week. Sporting many new features, a chief complaint has been the devise's lack of support for 4K (UHD) video. In light of the fact that Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus support 4K video recording out of the box, it would seem a logical, if not easy move for Apple to support 4K for its latest Apple TV. What exactly is holding back Apple TV from including 4K? Technically, nothing.
Apple TV’s A8 processor is capable of supporting 4K video playback, but the potential for confusion and lack of overall great experience would create disappointment — or worse frustration. 4K gaming would not be supported, nor would 4K apps. In short, the only advantage of a 4K capable Apple TV would be streaming a few titles from the likes of Netflix. Summer 4K TV shipments — not — just reached 14% of the overall TV market early summer, and is not expected to reach the 50% range of TV sales until well into 2017. Numbers alone indicate 4K is not necessary, but it would act more as a sexy check box for those thinking they need it (even if they don’t have a 4K TV).
People in 80 countries will get their hands on the all-new Apple TV in late October. But those customers will also be able to purchase the existing Apple TV for only $69. Apple’s 3-tier strategy eschewed in a new era of how Apple views and provides solutions for the living room, something that was previously a simplistic one-size-fits-all solution.
Apple is actually late to the game, as Amazon, Google and Roku have been providing multi-tiered solutions for quite some time. Google offers their Chromecast with simple remote, for only $35, while Amazon offers their Fire Stick and remote for $39. Amazon and Roku also offer up higher-end solutions, with voice controlled systems. Roku offers the most solutions, currently selling four different systems, starting at $49.99, with their top-end solution just reduced to $89.99.
Is Apple too geeky to understand sports? It is an audacious claim, I know. How in the world could the coolest, hippest tech company in the world, with Beats and Dr. Dre in-house, possibly be geeky? Take a look at Apple’s Executive Team and Board of Directors. Suddenly it becomes very clear. It just may be that Apple’s corporate culture simply does not understand or value sports the way it should. These guys may be the hipsters of tech, but this is Silicon Valley, not blue collar Boston. To help the cause, Mark Cuban should be enlisted to Apple’s Board of Directors. No one at Apple has the combined tech and sports skill set Cuban does. Cuban would prove an invaluable asset for Apple constructing their own content and streaming services.
When groups like Green Peace started attacking Apple on the environmental front, Apple quickly recruited former Vice President, Al Gore. Almost immediately the hammering on Apple’s manufacturing and business practices became a dull whisper. Within a few years Apple became the clear leader of best practices for the environment. Whether Gore’s position on Apple’s Board was merely symbolic, political or he actually became the hands-on guy pursuing environmental solutions for Apple, it was immaterial. The fact Gore was amongst the leaders in championing environmental concerns, and had a powerful presence within Apple, delivered the end result Apple was seeking. Cuban could effect Apple in a similar fashion, adding significant value and expertise in entertainment, sports and streaming services — all areas where Apple seems to flat.
Apple’s late summer special events have historically focused on the release of new iPhones. This season’s forthcoming September 9th event appears to be no different, but there is one product that appears ready to grace the stage which rarely makes an appearance anywhere, and it is likely to steal the show. Apple TV. Sorry iPhone, it appears you are about to be trumped.
When the all-new Apple TV arrives, likely introduced by Apple’s Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, it will not be as a feigned hobby. It won't have the same look. It won't have the same remote. It will not have the same interface, and it will host a slew of new features. According to a recent report by Parks Associates, Apple TV sales have slipped into 4th place behind Roku, Google and Amazon streaming solutions. Don't expect this to continue being the case after September 9. When Apple enters a market, they play to win, and not to be one of many participants on the stage. If rumors surrounding the Apple TV are accurate, the diminutive streaming set-top-box should acquire the living room’s top sales spot in a matter of days after its release.