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 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?
2015 has not been a great year for Apple, but the year had started with great promise. Apple Watch was to be Cook’s new product category, helping balance Apple’s sales ledger from heavy iPhone success. It was to be Cook’s version of the introducing the first iMac, iPod, iPhone or iPad to the market. However the Apple Watch launch was blundered like no other in recent Apple history. Within hours, Apple Watch inventory was depleted from online sales, leaving nothing for in-store purchases — on the first day! You could come in, try on a Apple Watch, decide which one was right for you, select additional bands, and then go over to a Mac and order online with a delivery not to happen for the next 2 or 3 months. Awful. What should have been a great success, and caused huge lines in the malls across the country turned out to be a big, big dud. Since then Apple has built up the inventory to match a marginal demand, but Cook and company missed their big opportunity that the iPhone had upon its first day of sales.
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.
The auto industry: dull, unimaginative, predictable. The car market has remained relatively unchanged for decades, and a gluttony of focus group developed cars has helped keep it that way. The industry slowly innovates, making glacial ice-ages look fast.
The result is, at best, is incremental improvement, with Detroit scrambling to find the next niche segment to gain market share. But cracks in plodding automotive market are starting take place. From startups, to radical new fuel alternatives, the auto industry is on the precipice of the largest transformation in its history, and Apple appears ready to usher in its own sea change of ideas.
This weekend was more frustrating than most. I was going to show my wife some pictures I had taken on my iPhone. But within reach was my iPad. I picked up my iPad, opened the Photos app and my pictures were not there. What? Hmmm. So began the weekend hunt to figure out why.
First you must understand I try to avoid using iCloud (or anything that involves a third-party “learning about me”) as much as I can. For Books, for Podcasts, for Messages, for Notes, Music and Video I am unable to avoid using Apple’s syncing services. However, for Photos, Contacts, Calendar and Mail, I have some other options. For the later three I have my own hardware running OS X Server. But for photo syncing I want to continue syncing locally — between my Mac and iOS devices — when on the same Wi-Fi connection.
In 2007 when we were first introduced to the original iPhone and iOS, many questions arose. Did it mean the end to OS X? Was iOS the “future” for Apple? Why did Apple create iOS instead of a mobile version of OS X?
New iPhones, a new iPad Pro and a new Apple TV, were all unveiled last month during Apple’s Bill Graham Auditorium special event. Beyond iPhone it is difficult to gage exactly which product is garnering the most attention. Now that the iPhone has launched the magic behind the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil has yet to be fully discovered. However what is least known is Apple TV and what it will truly be capably of once it begins shipping late October.
The mysteries of Apple TV are numerous, and one unknown begins to pile atop the next. Why does Apple TV’s A8 processor have such a massive heat sync? Why is the unit thick enough to support Optical Audio Out, but it is no longer included? Why is 4K (UHD) and HDMI 2.0 not supported? Why did Apple not release their own optional game controller to kick things off? And of course, why no silver, space gray, gold versions? Did the crew that built the MacBook with one port also lend their hand with Apple TV? It is almost as if Apple is launching their very own Area 51 product. Here’s to trying my hand at unraveling some curious areas of Apple TV.
iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad — all the non-OS X products in Apple’s stable have been revved and the product line is clean and clear. For example, there is no product overlap between an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus — or even between those and the previous iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Also there is no overlap between iPad models or between Apple Watch models. Within each of these product lines if you have a specific need or want, the choice of which product is right for you is fairly straightforward. That is unless you are in the market for an OS X powered notebook.
This is where things get messy and rather quickly. Usually bigger size means more money. But not with Apple’s notebooks. There is the entry model MacBook Air that leads the pac for price conscious consumers starting under $1,000 USD. But both standard 13" MacBook Air models are at least $100 less expensive than the smaller, entry level 12" MacBook. The MacBook offers more state-of-the-art technology than the Air’s (new keyboard, Force Touch trackpad, retina display, USB-C and multiple colors), but in consumer’s minds 12" is less than 13" so shouldn’t it cost less? Making matters worse, if a customer asks which one is more powerful, confusion can quickly ensue. The MacBook and MacBook Air use different chips, thus the MacBook Air is more powerful, and has powerful upgrade options, than the lightweight MacBook.