Testing Apple Products Before Availability — Again

September 15th, 2015

I understand all the curiosity about Apple’s latest and greatest. People want to know how good they are, whether they are credible updates to existing gear, and how do they fit in the wider world of tech gadgets. They want to know whether to buy them. Certainly these are particularly valid questions when it comes to the Apple TV, which is entering a new phase that removes it from hobby status.

So you see the inevitable spec comparisons, more or less, with existing gear. The iPad Pro won’t ship until November, but I’ve read several articles comparing it to a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and even the Microsoft Surface 3. But it’s a whole lot more complicated than that. The spec comparisons are only superficial since you’re dealing with different processor families, and different operating systems and different app selections. Yet one article claimed the MacBook, the slowest Mac note-book, was faster, even though benchmarks have yet to be performed except, perhaps, in someone’s imagination.

With the iPad Pro, or any iPad, you need to make the full commitment to using a tablet running iOS. You have a huge choice of apps, even Microsoft Office and some selections from Adobe. But the apps you need for your work may not be available for iOS. My personal example is Audio Hijack, from Rogue Amoeba. It’s a key tool in capturing audio for my radio shows, and Apple’s sandboxing won’t allow plucking audio from another app on iOS. Apple won’t accept it in the Mac App Store either, but the publisher can still distribute it separately for OS X users.

This week, I read a piece suggesting that the iPad Pro was basically an executive toy for such tasks as consuming content on an airplane. If you didn’t have cloud access, it was nothing more than a doorstop. Yes, the blogger mentioned the demonstration of Microsoft Office for the iPad, but didn’t grasp that is a productivity app suite, not something for executives to consume, which takes being uninformed to a new low. That Adobe demonstrated how the Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro work together to create content was another nail in the coffin.

But saying a product that won’t be released for another two months is essentially useless must have attracted some traffic, if only from people who marveled at how stupid some people can be.

Obviously, the iPad Pro isn’t for everyone. Adding a keyboard cover and a stylus clearly indicates it’s meant to create content of one sort or another. People who just want to watch movies, play some casual games and mange email, can do just as well with the smaller iPads. Just hold them closer, and they are certainly easier to carry about. But imagining a use case and condemning the product because of a straw man argument is just a foolish move.

One thing is certain: Since the iPad Pro won’t ship till November, and volume shipments probably won’t be ready for a few weeks thereafter, it’s not apt to make a significant dent in holiday sales. But it does put the iPad back on the radar, and maybe people who bought older models, or who need a more powerful unit to take advantage of iOS 9’s multitasking features, will take the plunge. The real impact of the iPad Pro most likely won’t be apparent until the March 2016 quarter.

With Apple TV, which doesn’t ship until October, there are the inevitable comparisons with other streamers, particularly those from Amazon and Roku. So existing products already offer some sort of universal search, some gaming support and extra apps. But having a feature doesn’t tell you how good it is. Remember that smartphones had app stores before Apple’s, but the selections were spotty, inconsistent, and expensive. Read the previous sentence again.

One blog dismissed the Apple TV’s gaming capabilities by citing the limitations of the remote, and complaining that Apple isn’t offering a full-bore game controller. But they will be offered by third parties, and most customers can save money by not having to pay for a capability they may not need. Will it be suited for more than casual gaming? If performance is good enough, and developers bring more intense titles to the platform, perhaps.

Even if Apple doesn’t deliver a full-blown subscription TV service right away, it won’t stop networks and individual stations from distributing their own apps and charging for a la carte packages. I suppose it would even be possible for a traditional cable/satellite provider to submit apps that provide all the features of existing set-top boxes, but employ a cloud-based system to replace the traditional DVR. There’s room for lots of options.

With the new iPhones, Apple claims, based on preorder trends, that total sales will top last year’s ten million for the first weekend of availability. Those who complain that it’s not sufficiently different to succeed ignore the new features, and the fact that the vast majority of buyers probably do not own last year’s models. While it’s getting easier, and less expensive, to do annual upgrades nowadays, it will take a while to determine how many people sign up for such deals.

And I won’t even begin to consider performance comparisons between the new iPhones and other gear until something is actually shipping and undergoing tests. Even then, pure benchmarks do not necessarily measure real world performance with your apps. The numbers are otherwise academic.

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2 Responses to “Testing Apple Products Before Availability — Again”

  1. Viswakarma says:

    “The Blind Men and the Elephant”!!!

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