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The Things Apple May Be Taking Away

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.