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  • The Things Apple May Be Taking Away

    November 22nd, 2016

    As much as Apple has added products to its lineup over the years, other products have gone away. Some of that was due to the bloodletting after Steve Jobs took over as “interim” CEO in 1997. So Apple tightened its focus on its core products, and gave up digital cameras, after being a pioneer in that market, the Newton and even printers. Lest you forget, the original Apple LaserWriter, with Adobe PostScript, pioneered an entire industry. And put one I worked in for a number of years out of business.

    One of the biggest changes, however, was just making the Mac product lineup understandable, reducing it to the consumer and professional desktop and notebook models. Apple still follows that approach, more or less, although the Mac lineup spread out somewhat before the current MacBook Pro refresh.

    But other changes are afoot, and Apple customers will no doubt be confused over what’s going on.

    With the discontinuation of the Thunderbolt display, Apple exited that business. If you want a 4K or 5K display, Apple suggests you choose the new models from LG, which were designed with Apple’s help.

    Just last week, it was announced that long-time Apple automation executive Sal Soghoian had been let go, supposedly for business reasons. Indeed, you had to wonder about the future of AppleScript, which has been widely adopted by Mac users and is embedded in professional Mac apps. Many people use AppleScript or Automator workflows to get work done. So I use such an applet to stitch together segment files for the commercial free versions of The Tech Night Owl LIVE and the Paracast.

    I’ve known Sal for years, and I got a short email from him the other day. He’s doing just fine. Meanwhile, Apple’s Senior Vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, is quoted in an email to a Mac user that the company is still committed to automation. All well and good, though that doesn’t explain why the department’s head was let go, unless the division is being merged or reduced for those unmentioned business reasons.

    But Apple is not going to tell us about their internal organizational charts.

    Now comes a published report from Bloomberg that Apple shuttered its Wi-Fi router division, meaning no more AirPorts or Time Capsules. The router team has supposedly moved on to the Apple TV division.

    All this comes 17 years after Apple became one of the first manufacturers of such gear. Today there are dozens of companies making routers, and ISPs routinely provide a pretty decent one with your Internet service. What this means is that there’s very little room for Apple to make a significant contribution to a commodity market. Of course Apple continues to supply Wi-Fi capability with all its gear, again using industry-standard chips for the most part.

    Indeed, it’s been three years since the last Apple router, an AirPort Extreme, arrived. Since then faster routers have been released by other companies. Manufacturers have also simplified the setup process, meaning you are usually taken through a fairly simple walkthrough that lets you keep a preselected secure password or set your own. You might choose the occasion to modify the network name to something you can understand, but otherwise these things usually just work. This is far different from the way it used to be, when you had to cope with an arcane web-based interface and figure it all out for yourself.

    But just the fact that you may not have to buy one most assuredly reduces the need to worry about it, unless you live in a large home, or have thick walls and need an extender or a more powerful router to get a solid signal in your home from end to end.

    Fortunately, I do not have such a problem. My present home isn’t that large.

    Now I can see why there won’t be anymore AirPorts. Apple probably isn’t selling enough units to make a difference, and the market they pioneered is no longer viable for so many players.

    So what is Apple going to ax next?

    Certainly speculation is rife with possibilities. What about the Mac Pro? Is it possible Apple no longer cares about the professional user? Certainly there has been a load of debate over the design decisions made with the Late 2016 MacBook Pro. But since I’ve covered that a number of times already, I won’t bore with the details, except to note that Apple VP Philip Schiller continues to find it necessary to explain why it doesn’t come with a 32GB option. But no previous MacBook Pro did either.

    In any case, it would help if Apple was a little more forthcoming about some its decisions about the future of certain products. It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference with the AirPort, although automation does have a lot of appeal for professional users. Despite its low sales — and I’m assuming they are low for obvious reasons — there is a loyal market for the Mac Pro. It’s just a matter of what Apple needs to do to continue to serve that market, whether it involves a new design, or keeping the present one with newer parts.

    In an email to a reader, I predicted there would be another Mac refresh in the spring of 2017, after more versions of Intel’s Kaby Lake processors are available. Certainly the iMac will get some love, but it’s less certain about the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. It would just take a couple of sentences from Tim Cook to address Mac user contains, and such a statement is long overdue.



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    12 Responses to “The Things Apple May Be Taking Away”

    1. DaveD says:

      While I do think the current chatter on the new MacBook Pro is good because Apple is responding. To me Apple is all about moving forward and when it is at a pinnacle with a product, it moves on to other things. I had noticed the AirPort base stations haven’t been updated for some time. Many have wrote about the Mac Pro and Mac mini that do appear to be in that place of neglected products. So, is Apple moving on? With Apple being silent, silence can speak volume.

    2. KiraK says:

      Apple has moved on to the consumer space. That’s what drives its business decisions these days. Apple does not see value in the professional space now that it no longer needs that market.

    3. MickG says:

      Gene, what I think you’re missing here is that Apple routers and the (still) unique TimeCapsule provided an all-Apple network, an Apple ecosystem for people in their homes and small businesses. Apple is thoughtlessly dumping the seamlessness, the ease and general efficiency of working on an Apple network. One of the huge sales points of the TimeCapsule (Router/Backup device all-in-one) was never having to physically plug in an external HD to backup your computer using TimeMachine. Add to that the Airport Utility, one of the easier interfaces for users to design and extend their own networks, and there was just nothing even close. Of course there were other routers that were stronger and had more up to date standards, but nothing came anywhere near the ease of use of the Apple hardware.

      If Apple is looking for each and every division in a vacuum to support itself without remembering that they are key parts of an Apple ecosystem, then they’re just being greedy and dumb. The Airport Extreme Basestation and TimeCapsule were far more than just hardware products to sell and make money off of. They were a crucial part of the Apple ecosystem, proving that Apple does all of this pretty well and makes it easy for consumers to worry less.

      The bigger issue is: “What happened to the vision when the visionary died?” Tim Cook and Co just seem to have nothing up their sleeve at all and everyone’s like a drone on autopilot doing exactly the same as they did when Steve Jobs died. Without a visionary to lead, Apple will eventually just become Sony and churn out nice hardware with a decent interface.

      Is Elon Musk available? Richard Branson?

      When vision is absent, the search for greater profit can easily rush to fill the void. The latter is no substitute for the former, which used to define Apple and make the premium price we pay to support their insane margins bearable.

      For Mac users, the future does not look bright…

      • I don’t disagree with you about ease of use. But I’ve evaluated several third-party routers since then, and they all have simple setup assistants, and usually choose a strong password for you. Most people who set up routers don’t immerse themselves in the weeds of special setups. They just want to turn it on and forget about it, and that’s usually possible if you don’t have special reception problems or other issues to deal with.

        Time Capsule? I wonder how many even buy them anymore, although I agree about their value in certain installations.

        Remember, too, that ISPs often provide combo routers and cable/DSL modems, which lessens the need for third party gear. So does the loss of AirPort. or the presumed loss of AirPort mean that Apple’s vision has been sacrificed? The vision of integration across products, cloud and otherwise, clearly has expanded.

        Peace,
        Gene

        • MickG says:

          Hi Gene,

          Again, as an Apple professional for 20+ years, I think you’re not really “getting” how amazing TimeMachine is for the vast majority of Apple/Mac users. There may be other routers out there, but nothing that weaves in with the set-it-and-forget-it software that Apple provides. Assumedly you have used TimeMachine and a TimeCapsule or understand what they are? [I’m not trying to sound rhetorical here, but I don’t know your background in Apple tech]

          My point is that it’s NOT about the hardware. It’s the hardware fully integrated with software and ecosystem.

          If it was only about the hardware, this would mostly be a moot point.

          • Speaking as a professional Mac user since the 1980s, and a tech journalist since the early 1990s, I understand how Time Machine works. I used to own one, but it is not necessary in my current installation. I have two external drives connected to my iMac, and a cloud backup. The value of a network backup is for setups that have more than a single computer. But Time Capsule is not really fast enough for a multiple user business.

            Peace,
            Gene

            • MickG says:

              Hi again, Gene. 🙂

              You can’t actually “own” TimeMachine. It’s the software that’s on every Mac that powers the backup to a hard drive or TimeCapsule. You may just have the terms confused.

              I looked at your “About” tab and see that you do have some background in Apple, so that’s good. A lot of times tech guys with loads of experience on multiple platforms have a surface understanding of the Apple ecosystem.

              As I wrote here, TimeMachine is fabulous for home and small business set ups and plenty fast enough. This is true even if you’re using a TimeCapsule and backing up wirelessly or over ethernet. The other brilliance of a TimeCapsule set up is that it centralizes ALL of your backups on one device. If you have a fire or flood and have to leave quickly, it’s very easy to grab that and know that you have saved your data.

              In our business as Apple specialists, we’ve worked enthusiastically for the past 9 years since TimeMachine was released to get all of our 4000 clients backed up using it. We reckon it was responsible for the majority of Mac users finally backing up because it was so easy to do so. No more horrific battles with Retrospect and other powerful, but insanely confusing to the average user, backup systems.

              TimeMachine was revolutionary and (to some degree) still is for Mac users. There is still no other consumer friendly, wireless system out there so it’s very strange and hugely disappointing that Apple doesn’t care enough about that to continue supporting it with hardware.

              We may have to agree to disagree, but we see this as a much bigger loss than the just the hardware. The concept itself may be in danger.

              • It’s about the Time Capsule, which combines an AirPort router with a built-in network drive.

                As to Time Machine, it hasn’t been updated much in years. and it needs changes to better manage users beyond the beginner category. That’s a perfectly reasonable discussion to have. What about the ability to boot from a Time Machine drive?

                Peace,
                Gene

                • MickG says:

                  Yep, 2 different things that people confuse all the time. Apple probably could have named them better.

                  We worked with end users all the time and if it ain’t broke, they don’t care how “updated” something is, especially backup. We’re in the trenches every day, even more than Apple, so making an external drive (network or otherwise) bootable is something only a very small percentage of users would care to use or even know about.

                  http://www.MicksMacs.com

                  In the days before TimeMachine, we used to setup daily clones. I’ll never forget when I returned to one client who was using them and realized that he had been exclusively booting off of the external drive and the internal drive was completely dead. Kinda defeats the purpose.

                  TimeMachine is not bootable and I don’t think it needs to be. It works so well because you can just set it and forget it.

                  Apple and Jobs understood the consumer, the regular person who doesn’t really want to dabble in technology at all. They just want it to work for them and not have to worry about it. The rest of the 3-4% can be found in MacUser groups. 😉

                  cheers,

                  Mick

                  P.S. If the link to our website is not allowed, please delete it. It’s just for you.

                  • I have no problem with your site, since you’re just a local provider. But let’s not make it a habit, OK?

                    I never had a shop, but I used to do local consulting/troubleshooting, until the Apple Genius arrived. Apple Stores are all over this area now.

                    Peace,
                    Gene

                    • MickG says:

                      Understood. Yes, it’s only local and was mostly for your edification. 🙂

                      Apple doesn’t leave the store though, so there are a still a lot of independent businesses like ours that work in the field with clients in their homes and offices on Apple stuff.

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