In the wake of Apple’s WWDC keynote event this past Monday, it appears we are in for a storm of hardware releases coming this fall. A Tsunami of products are now overdue, but launching so many highly needed updates together brings tremendous risk.
No big game changers have come about with Apple’s updates over the past few years. Apple TV’s big moment was Apps, yet it does not support 4K nor does Apple have it's own streaming package. This Fall, Apple Watch will be 18 months old. iMac’s are becoming ancient, and the current MacBook Air was just entered into the Smithsonian. Walking into an Apple store today feels like being time-warped back to 2014. The only thing you may notice is a slimmer MacBook in three different colors and a larger iPad. Modern hardware updates have been sloth slow.
Given Apple’s overall history, the company has methodically moved from aggressive innovator under Steve Jobs, to caretaker under Tim Cook.
Apple’s Mac lineup is stale, and that is putting it mildly. The Mac Pro is now a staggering 2 1/2 years into its lifecycle without a single upgrade. The MacBook Air has seen almost no changes, save for incremental processor updates since 2010. The iMac form factor has not changed since the fall of 2012. The newly minted MacBook and MacBook Pro's have seen only slight incremental upgrades this past year, and the Mac mini is a mere afterthought. What's going on?
The only significant new release to Apple’s Mac lineup has been the MacBook (of which I use and love), in April of 2015. It recently received a slight Intel processor update. Wow... In fact, all Apple has been keen to do the past few years is release Intel processor updates to products, with the MacBook Air still living in an ancient design, with what can now only be described as a horribly low-resolution display. Apple’s Mac lineup has become a cash cow with little invention, but that may be about to change.
With the arrival of the 9.7" iPad Pro and its starting price point of $599, I began to wonder for whom is this product targeted? For starters, the new iPad Pro has many of the same features as its larger 12.9" sibling coupled with a few extra goodies, such as Apple's latest 12-megapixel iSight camera technologies, 4K video, and a higher resolution front-facing FaceTime camera. Technology aside, the answer that will – or will not – drive 9.7" iPad Pro sales is going to all about the screen size. Is it worth saving $200 to settle for a 9.7" display, or is it best to wait, save and purchase the original 12.9" iPad Pro?
I have a son who is battling this very question. He could certainly get into the iPad Pro 9.7" much sooner than saving and waiting to get the 12.9" version, but he is also an artist, and the extra screen real estate is likely to make a big difference over time. The questions for him are, how big a difference, and will he regret the smaller screen once he purchases it? If he purchases it?
Say it ain't so but DigiTimes may have just pulled a rabbit out of their hat, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. The publication's latest rumor claims Apple will be launching all-new MacBooks during the second calendar quarter. Of course, DigiTimes may only have this partially correct.
During Apple's special event on Monday no new MacBook graced the stage, leaving many wondering when the now aging year old product would receive an update. I've speculated that a 14" version, complimenting the 12.1" model would make a great fit to the lineup, but nothing has yet to materialize.
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.
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 a report from Bloomberg, Apple has halted its negotiations with television networks due to the fact that a sub-$30 package arrangement cannot be settled upon. Apple has been hoping to finally provide its own unique streaming service package for Apple TV. Again negotiations have failed. Fine. The big boys don't want to play. Move on Apple. The horse is now officially dead.
Apple's leadership is showing signs of understanding that this endless feet dragging game by the major network holders is fruitless, and is now taking a different direction. Eddy Cue, Apple Sr. VP of software and services, suggested to buzzfeed that Presidential candidates should launch their own Apple TV apps. It appears Cue, like other content providers such as Netflix, is taking another route to flush out new Apple TV content. Unlike Netflix, that gambles big on high production cost original programming, Cue seems to be searching for those capable of producing, quick, low-cost streaming solutions, unique to the industry.
Make no mistake, the end of good looking car design is over — at least if designers of electric vehicles have anything to say about it. It seems the era of “ugly is cool” has arrived. Automotive history has had its share of clunkers, but the tidal wave of ugly-by-electric shows no signs of slowing down, leaving it up to luxury and many mainstream brands to save the planet from absolutely hideous sheet metal design.
I have bemoaned Apple’s laptop lineup before, but every time I look at it, I still cringe. I can not imagine someone going into an Apple Store today and clearly understanding the reason (and the difference) between a 13" MacBook Air and a 12" MacBook. Or between an 11" MacBook Air and the new iPad Pro.
Tim Cook is running all about this week talking about the iPad Pro as his new notebook. He claims all he needs is his iPad Pro and his iPhone. Fine, fantastic. But while he is euphorically trying to restart growth in the iPad line up, he is, at the same time, furthering muddling the notebook line up, making the consumer choice confusing. Sometimes I long for the days where the authoritarian Steve Jobs would say you can have a notebook and it comes in these three models — that’s it. Jobs loved simplicity and Apple’s product lines almost always reflect that. Everything was easy to understand. The differences between each model was clear, including the pricing, and therefore made the choice simple for the purchaser.