April 24, 2015. It was to be a big day in Apple’s history, and a big day for Tim Cook to show the world he could match the brilliance of his predecessor Steve Jobs. Apple Watch was finally available for sale. It was Cook’s first new product category and it was fully under his direction and guidance. The result? Yawn.
Apple Watch is cool and works well within the Apple eco system, but it wasn’t a must-have item, and yet Apple spent abundant resources on bringing this gem (pun intended) to market. Products that suffered in Apple Watch’s development wake have been iPhone, iPad, iOS, Mac and OS X. It seems under Cook Apple can really only fully focus on one item at a time, which is exactly where Apple is today.
It seemed like an eternity for Apple to move to an iPhone display form factor larger than 4-inches, but then it happened. In the threat of Samsung and Android gaining massive market share against Apple's stodgy belief that a 4-inch iPhone was the perfect size, Apple released the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and changed the course of the smartphone market.
Like going back to the future, today there is now the iPhone SE, which is chalk full of iPhone 6S power and abilities, all housed within a 4-inch display form factor, and costing only $399 off-contract. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has explained to CNBC's Jim Cramer, the iPhone SE is seeing better than anticipated sales. Despite iPhone SE's lower price point, Apple is likely to quietly push sales of the phone in Asia, and for good reason.
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.
It is clear Apple is focusing on the iPad Pro line, trying to re-ignite a market segment it started with the original iPad. Lately, Microsoft has made a lot of noise in this market with its 2-in-1 Surface 1, 2, 3, and now, 4 models. The sell is you can have a real Windows computer but also a tablet when you want one. Instead of carrying two devices around you can just use one.
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?
Sometimes you can learn just as much about a company by what is not said as opposed to what is said. Case in point is Tim Cook & Co.’s most recent special event held this past week. At the special event we were dazzled by an updated iPhone line and a new iPad Pro size. Like a magician, Apple said, “Look over here!” However, what one product line — product category — did Apple not talk about at all, as if it didn’t even exist. Macs.
Every model in the Mac product category is now over a year old — even their newest items. Some Macs, like the Mac Pro are now over two years old. It seems like the Mac line-up has been relegated to cash-cow status and therefore Apple is putting as little effort (aka little money) into Macs as possible and reaping as much margin and cash as possible. Or is something else afoot?
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.
We are nearing the one year anniversary of Tim Cook’s spring time special event. In 2015, Cook gathered the media to promote a product developed under his watch, Apple Watch (pun intended). While he announced it and showed the new device off to the world in October 2014, during the spring special event fully reviewed the watch as well as gave us a launch date. At the same event he showed us a new entry to the laptop lineup, MacBook. This sleek, 12" retina display Mac came with stunningly fast SSD, great battery life, a brand new keyboard and an all-new trackpad technology Apple calls force touch.
While neither of these products launched as everyone had hoped, both being in short supply, they were two brand new products. What most did not notice is that during the fall of 2015, Apple had only one special event, when in years past two were common. One event for iPhone and another for Macs. If Cook holds to a new pattern it means that we should expect a special event in March, then the WWDC in June, mostly focused on software, and then a final special event in September.
It is an old debate, but one worth revisiting at Apple. Does hiring the best employees result in becoming politically incorrect? And if so, will Apple sacrifice political expediency for the best employees? It does not necessarily have to be a false argument, as Apple could, theoretically achieve both, which is what Apple appears to be striving for.
Market dynamics dictate that companies should hire the best employees it can, in order to maintain and achieve a competitive edge over its competition. If a company hired a majority of Japanese, Russians, Hindus, or Latinos, it makes no difference to the corporation, so long as those people are most qualified to do the job. However, in today’s society, if a company practices such policies — hiring the best of the best — and the results of those hired does not match the race or gender (and perhaps soon religious) demographics of the country, these companies are increasingly coming under political fire that the company may be racist or bigoted. Apple is in such a position of prominence, it is rapidly becoming a target for such scrutiny.