During Apple’s September 9th media event, the stock price went down. That’s nothing new (it was up 2.2% on Thursday), because meeting expectations doesn’t seem to count anymore. Indeed, a very large part of what was revealed by Apple had already been predicted by tech pundits and rumor sites. From the iPhone to Apple TV and the iPad Pro, we knew all about it already, so we weren’t amazed.
One commentary suggested that Apple used to be able to keep secrets better, as if this was a failing of Tim Cook and his executive team. But it’s also about the fact that Apple builds far more gear nowadays, and shutting down leaks from a sprawling supply chain is just impossible. There are too many people watching and speaking out of turn, and cutting off suppliers for loose lips can seriously harm a very tightly-controlled production chain. It’s not so easy.
It’s also very possible that Apple engages in selective background leaks to the media to stoke interest in the new products and services.
As to the announcements themselves, some commentators want to remind you that none of the products, or at least most of them, were terribly innovative. It has been done before by others. Those who make that claim have no idea of Apple’s history, which is very much about doing something better as opposed to being first to market.
Obviously, there were smartphones before the iPhone arrived, there were tablets before the iPad debuted, and don’t forget digital music players and smartwatches.
So it’s inevitable to compare the iPad Pro to the Microsoft Surface 3, and I suppose on a superficial level they seem alike. The latter comes with a stylus and a keyboard cover is available. It has sold more than previous versions of the Surface, but it’s a paltry number compared to the iPad.
As to the Apple Pencil, well I heard several cable news hosts speak about the fact that Steve Jobs famously derided the stylus when the first iPad was introduced. Use the fingers you were born with.
Now that wasn’t the first time Jobs criticized someone else’s product before Apple entered a market. He did that with cell phones before the iPhone came out. It was a marketing schtick, and it worked. And do you remember when Apple said they wouldn’t build a cheap Mac just months before the Mac mini arrived?
So Apple Pencil arrived with a flourish, but it’s not just another stylus. It uses sophisticated electronics, some based on Apple patents that have been reported in the tech media, to create a user experience that mimics a physical pen and pencil. That takes a lot of sophisticated technology to get right.
There’s also the matter of realism. Finger painting doesn’t deliver the precision of an actual drawing implement. Try it and see! The iPad Pro is catering to content creators who require precision. It also explains the market for a Wacom tablet. It’s about common sense here, and, barring actual reviews of a shipping product, it does appear Apple has pulled this off in a way that will please its target market.
Apple TV? Well, sure other streamers have search capability, but are they as sophisticated and nuanced as Siri? What about the touchpad remote, and the App Store? How do apps on other streamers compare to what Apple is poised to deliver? According to published reports, the TvOS is 95% identical to iOS, which means it won’t take much for developers to port their apps. Expect HomeKit support.
There’s also skepticism about the Apple TV’s gaming capabilities, but Metal graphics are powerful, and if the remote isn’t good enough as a game controller, there will be third-party alternatives that very much mimic the functions you see on dedicated gaming consoles. Can the Apple TV manage high-quality action games as well? That remains to be seen, but even if Apple can deliver most of that experience, manufacturers of gaming machines should be shaking in their boots. Maybe you won’t see the likes of Halo right away on an Apple TV, but don’t bet against it someday.
Indeed, Apple’s solution to the living room appears to be a matter of replacing everything else with a single box, sporting a unified interface. You replace the Blu-ray player by buying or renting movies and TV shows from iTunes. Except for really hard-core gamers, a gaming console may be obsolete. Apple’s subscription TV service might have the potential to replace your cable/satellite set-top box. So, in theory, you install a TV and a sound system, connect an Apple TV, and now you have everything you need without the need of any other appliance.
With an all-in-one solution, one tightly integrated with your other Apple devices, they take over the living room. Who else can manage that?
Assuming it all works, and I’m not making any guesses. There’s a long road from here to there.
I won’t bother with the criticisms about the iPhone. Other than a similar case and the same display sizes, the new iPhones contain lots of improvements over the previous version. Far more in total and impact than the 2014 models offered compared to the previous year’s. Other than the switch to a larger display size of course. The ready dismissal of Force 3D, because it takes time to learn, doesn’t wash. Can any other company match it?
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