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  • Taking Aim at Apple and Other Silly Stuff

    September 3rd, 2015

    So when someone has a new gadget that, superficially at least, competes with something Apple produces, it suddenly breeds a major competitive war, or at least that’s what some supposed journalists believe. The product becomes an “iPhone killer,” or an “iPad killer,” or some other killer product. Yet another approach taken by the media is to suggest that the someone is “taking aim” at Apple. It has to be about Apple.

    Does that mean no other tech company has anything worth “killing” or “taking aim” at? What about Samsung, which has seen its sales hammered at both the high-end and low-end by different companies? That’s about suffering in the face of competition, but that story isn’t told near as often.

    But of a company is going after Apple, you’d assume it’s something in a similar category, and not just any old smartphone. So if someone is selling a handset for a third the price of the iPhone, one that superficially may sport similar features, it’s may not be shopped against the iPhone. It’s being shopped against something Samsung, or a lesser handset maker, is producing.

    To take it to the automotive world, someone looking at a Honda Accord may compare it to a Nissan Altima, a Kia Optima, a Chrysler 200 or a similarly-priced midsized car. It’s possible some of the cheaper luxury models might also be compared, such as an Audi A3 or a Mercedes A-Class, since some of the latter models are price competitive with the loaded configurations of the former. Well, a heavily-subsidized lease deal might put a relatively expensive car in your driveway for the same price as a mainstream vehicle.

    Now it is true that some companies have taken aim at Apple and succeeded. Microsoft is the key example, particularly when Windows 95 was found to be good enough to actually persuade people to ditch their Macs. Sure, Apple made moves that didn’t help it stay competitive. Indeed, the knife wound here was almost fatal.

    Samsung certainly sells more mobile handsets than Apple, but the Galaxy series has continued to suffer against the iPhone. So that knife wound suffered by Samsung will still be moderately serious when it comes to profitable gear.

    Moving on: The rumors about Apple’s September 9th media event have become more fine-tuned in recent days.

    So it appears that the next iPhone may indeed be .2mm larger or at least thicker, perhaps to contain Force Touch electronics, but also as the result of a switch to sturdier 7000 series aluminum, the same composition used on the Apple Watch. This will supposedly make it more resistant to bending, but that alloy is also said to weigh less. Don’t ask me to explain. It has been repeated in a number of published reports.

    Yet another rumor sugggests that the entry-level iPhone 6s will still have 16GB of storage. That continues to be too low, and it’s true that Samsung has gone to 32GB, minimum, for recent flagship gear. But don’t forget that Samsung fills their gear with junkware, whereas Apple tends to provide fewer bundled apps. iOS 9 is also designed to be a slimmer OS. That, and the greater reliance on storing stuff in the iCloud server farms may indeed mean you won’t need to worry so much if you don’t go overboard with photos and apps.

    But flash memory is cheaper than ever, and the customer ought to benefit from the savings. A retail USB thumb drive’s price will increase by around $4.00 when you go from 16GB to 32GB, and I’m sure Apple fares far better. A dollar or two extra for twice as much internal flash memory? Without doubt!

    I’m most surprised by the ongoing reports that the fourth generation Apple TV will be substantially more expensive then the current model. Yes, I realize the price was reduced to $69, no doubt to keep the line moving as there new version was being developed. But the standard bearers in this market are the Roku 3 and the Amazon Fire TV, both of which sell for just a tad below $100.

    So why would Apple expect you to pay $149?

    Now maybe there will be more than one new model, one for $99 and another for $149, the latter differing mostly by having more onboard storage, or perhaps some additional hardware features. Maybe you’ll be able to use the flagship model as a serviceable gaming controller. But the “universal search” feature being touted by some doesn’t justify a $49 price increase, nor would a spiffier interface and other nifty software features.

    And I’m still reading stories that there will be no 4K support which, if true, would appear to be a wrongheaded decision.

    But that’s just me. I’m just surprised tech sites aren’t devoting more space to consider the contradictions and ask the right questions. It’s not that I don’t believe Apple TV owners would be willing to pay more for the new version. However, Apple would have to do a real hard sell to present Apple TV as a far better product than the Roku or Amazon streamers. Sure, Apple manages to do just that with Macs. The Apple Watch is far more expensive than some of the other smartwatches, and yet it appears to be doing quite well.

    There are also published reports that an iPad Pro, with a 12-inch or thereabouts display, is also on the agenda. I find that hard to believe, but my skepticism doesn’t matter that much anyway. In another week, we’ll all know the answers, and Apple doesn’t listen to me anyway.



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