Hardly a day passes where I don’t see yet another ill-informed commentary about the future of Apple Inc. When you read these articles, you sometimes feel it’s all a part of concerted, organized effort to make the company look bad. It’s almost as if they are all following the same script that’s slightly adapted to fill their own writing styles.
First and foremost is the complaint about Apple’s alleged lack of innovation since the passing of Steve Jobs. Where are the trendsetting products? All Apple seems to be doing these days is to make minor changes to existing gear. Well, that’s what they said before the prototype Mac Pro was unleashed at the recent WWDC. You can hardly call that a “minor change” or refresh.
Sure, the Mac Pro doesn’t get a huge share of the marketplace nowadays, but having a halo or showcase product is in keeping with current practice in some industries, such as the auto business. But there aren’t many showcases among tech gear. Where’s Dell’s showcase PC? What about Samsung, which, until they reported possible lower profits and sales, was a media and Wall Street darling?
Indeed, tell me the innovative, revolutionary product to ever come from Dell or Samsung, or any similar company. It seems the media expects Apple to provide the direction for the entire tech industry, and when it’s perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be falling down on the job, that’s a bad thing. Who will the rest of the industry imitate if not Apple?
All right, so they dismiss the Mac Pro, but what about OS X Mavericks? No, they say, the name choice is pathetic. Isn’t there another feline moniker they could use instead? And it really doesn’t look so different from Mountain Lion. Under-the-hood changes to improve performance and battery life? Who pays attention to changes you can’t see?
As most of you know, the reaction to iOS 7 is somewhat polarized. Apple was being exhorted to change iOS, because it was getting long in the tooth. That’s what they did, but maybe there’s too much change. Or it’s not the sort of change some can believe in. Well, the beta process is still ongoing. Things could change, and when real people, rather than critics who can’t see below the surface, actually start to use the final release, maybe we’ll see if Apple went too far. Just one example: It’s reported that the thin lettering is a little less thin in iOS 7 beta 3. Assuming such reports are correct, Apple is clearly working to improve readability without seriously changing the look and the feel.
On the hardware front, maybe the MacBook Air refresh doesn’t seem so amazing. They look the same, performance is up a tad, but the real improvement is offering all-day battery life. How many PC note-books manage that feat? Besides, if the published reports about the potential of Mavericks to boost battery life are correct, there will be more precious minutes before the things shut down. How often do OS releases promise such things, and actually deliver them?
This week, there is renewed speculation about the prospects for an iWatch. That Apple is working to trademark the name in many countries — and they may have to pay good cash to buy those rights in a few places — seems to indicate such a wearable device is forthcoming. One ill-informed commentator suggests it’ll be another hobby, in the spirit of the Apple TV. Of course, Apple has said nothing about an iWatch, and there hasn’t been much in the way of rumors about prototypes, so any commentator who claims to know something is talking through their hat. Or should I just say they’re making things up.
Indeed, aside from the Mac Pro, and the refreshed MacBook Air, what Apple plans to do with hardware upgrades is a huge unknown. By fall, or maybe a bit earlier, you can expect iPhone refreshes, with possibly a lower cost plastic version. Certainly iPad refreshes are on the horizon, and you can expect upgrades to the MacBook Pro with Retina display, the Mac mini and the iMac.
If everything stopped there, Apple would still be ahead of the competition for the most part. Indeed, among thin and light note-books (what Intel calls Ultrabook), the MacBook Air had 56% of the U.S. market in May, according to the NPD Group. The refreshed model came out in June, and may have boosted Apple’s sales even further. Can you even name the PC alternative that has any chance to best the Air? So far PC Ultrabooks haven’t taken off, but the original on which they’re based continues to just get better and better.
But that wouldn’t seem to meet the promise or expectation for lots of new stuff from Apple. Does there have to be a game changer? Is it going to be the iWatch, or something in the Apple TV space? Or maybe something nobody has predicted. Consider, though, that Apple TV continues to get more and more content, though it’s not in the Roku class yet. Consider, too, that, unless prototypes leak, the critics won’t have anything valid to say about future Apple gear.
Since we are still suffering from the long, hot summer, prepare to be inundated with even more baseless speculation about Apple’s failures from people who haven’t a clue what’s really going on. It’s not as if Apple is going to set them straight, except with future product introductions, but even that won’t matter to some. Don’t forget how the iPad was savaged as a huge failure weeks and months before it came out and became a runaway success.