Apple Had Better Hurry, Because…

August 23rd, 2013

Over the years, Apple’s naysayers have come up with a similar argument whenever another company comes out with a new tech gadget: Apple needs to deal with this competition and do something better real fast! You hear that meme playing out over and over again.

So we know, for example, that Samsung is coming out with a new line of smartwatches real soon now. Commentators are egging Apple on to deliver their own solution. Of course, it’s also true that there aren’t a whole lot of buyers, at least not yet, for such a gadget. Sony has been selling smartwatches for several years, with sales reported in the hundreds of thousands. By sheer numbers alone, it’s hard to believe Apple is going to care, at least when it comes to the current generation of such gear. It doesn’t matter if there are 100 companies making smartwatches, or a thousand.

This doesn’t mean Apple won’t get on board a product segment that seems to have potential if given the proper treatment. So Apple TV remains a hobby, even though they have sold over 13 million of them. How many companies have sold 13 million smartwatches?

When it comes to wearable devices of some sort,  it’s clear, based on what CEO Tim Cook has already said, that Apple is interested, but that doesn’t explain the direction that they will take. Sure, there was a published report a while back that Apple had hired 100 engineers for an alleged iWatch development project. But with tens of thousands of employees, Apple certainly has the resources to allocate a fair number of people to look into a new product category, but it doesn’t necessarily mean something will come of it.

Of course, if Apple doesn’t deliver an iWatch this year, some will suggest Apple is falling behind the curve yet again. Others might claim that there were production and/or development problems; anything to avoid admitting that they were dead wrong. We’ll just have to see how this plays out, but Apple won’t make an iWatch because tech and financial pundits tell them it must happen.

With the Apple TV, clearly development is continuing. There’s even a story this week that Apple is, once again, trying to strike deals with contact providers for an Apple branded TV set. The report specifically mentions a smart TV, although any new content deals ought to work just fine on the set top box. It doesn’t seem to justify building the whole widget. Another story has it that Apple is, once again, looking build a TV subscription service of some sort, which would put the company in direct competition with cable and satellite systems. But that’s nothing new. Claims of that sort have been published for several years, and it’s still clear that getting the major content providers on board is proving to be difficult.

That may explain yet another story that had it that Apple was trying to make a deal with Time Warner Cable to put that service’s content on Apple TV. So instead of using TWC’s own DVR and interface, you’d manage your service in an Apple TV environment. I suppose that’s entering TiVo territory, but a TiVo set top box has its own storage. Apple’s solution would be cloud-based, and that raises the question of how you’d deal with your ISP’s bandwidth caps, and most have them, if you’re streaming HD signals all day long on one or more sets. So if Apple introduces such a service, they might very well have to make an accommodation with the broadband providers to handle bandwidth issues.

Of course, the media doesn’t always deal with such complexities. They merely want to tell Apple what to do, and why the company’s well-paid executives are clearly not smart enough to see what’s really going on.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate markets that Apple has yet to tap, markets that suit their particular capabilities. The TV arena is one, wearable devices another, and what about the post-tablet or post-smartphone space? More and more people are buying smartphones, and the time will soon come when sales will mostly go to existing customers looking to upgrade; in other words, the same situation you see in the TV business these days. It’s still early in the game for tablets, but you get the picture.

So where does the market turn next? Or are the tablet and smartphone form factors sufficient to carry any company through the next 10 or 20 years? I suppose, by building more and more features formerly the province of a personal computer, and perfecting a voice recognition system that actually works, these two markets can sustain themselves for a long time. Even if the chips themselves are fabricated with new technologies, sporting new ways to crunch numbers, the basic form factors can survive.

It’s a sure thing that Apple and loads of other companies are looking at the future. But how they get there will probably not be determined by today’s tech and financial bloggers. Maybe a sci-fi writer.

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5 Responses to “Apple Had Better Hurry, Because…”

  1. DaveD says:

    These tech/financial writers are really sci-fi writers, really bad ones.

    All the talk about TVs and smartwatches are from these sci-fi writer wannabes. To my knowledge, Apple had said nothing. There are no such products that have been presented as deliverable in the coming weeks or months.

    Every time I see a bad sci-fi writer yacking about future products that Apple will bring to market, my reaction is “Who gives a rip what you think?” and my next reaction is to quickly turn the page.

  2. Articles you should read (Aug. 23) …. says:

    […] “Apple Had Better Hurry, Because…: Over the years, Apple’s naysayers have come up with a similar argument whenever another company comes out with a new tech gadget: Apple needs to deal with this competition and do something better real fast! You hear that meme playing out over and over again.” — “The Tech Night Owl” ( […]

  3. dfs says:

    Fast generally implies half–baked. Apple wasn’t deterred by the fact that there were other MP3 players already on the market. It took the time to get it right, and as soon as Apple’s one was released people forgot all about its rivals. Indeed, the fact that most previous MP3 players were lousy only served as great advertising for the iPOD. So I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the fact that a few smartwatches already exist. If Apple does choose to make one, history will only repeat itself. The same will be true for an Apple TV — if Apple gets it right (since this would be a much more complicated project, there’s more scope for screwing up or falling short of the kind of things consumers would want to see). But there’s a more subtle danger. Some people (including, perhaps, some members of Apple’s board of directors) are beginning to express anxieties that Apple is beginning to lose its creative edge under Tim Cook’s leadership. This same feeling may also have a negative effect on the value of AAPL (if it hasn’t already). So Apple’s senior management does have some pressure to let new products out the door prematurely.

  4. Rip Ragged says:

    It’s the same old thing over and over and over. If you don’t see the future the same way as everybody else, you’re not innovating. The pundit class and Apple’s competitors are all in agreement about what the next products and services should be.

    This means that there is an established orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is the antithesis of originality and innovation. When everybody agrees on what Apple should do next, it’s a fair indication of the current consensus. Popular thought is usually ignored inside 1 Infinite Loop.

    At least in the Steve Jobs years Apple tended to travel a path that seemed best to them. When you look at some of the things Apple has done over the years, you’ll realize Apple simply doesn’t care about what the chattering class is saying.

    Apple introduced, then later killed the 3.5″ diskette, FireWire, AppleTalk, LaserWriter.

    Apple killed the iPod Mini while it was still the best-selling product in the history of the company.

    Apple introduced the iMac with no floppy drive. Orthodoxy said it was doomed.

    The newest iMacs have no removeable media. The MacBook Air has an SSD – no disk drive at all.

    Whatever Apple does next is utterly unpredictable, but attempts at prediction – however inane – sell advertising.

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