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  • Apple Should Give Up These? (Updated!)

    April 26th, 2018

    For a large company, Apple produces fewer products than some of you might expect. While it’s far more than in the years right after Steve Jobs returned to the company as CEO in the mid-90s, there are endless lists of what Apple ought to build next.

    For several years, in fact, industry analyst Gene Munster, currently working at Loup Ventures, insisted that Apple was going to produce a smart TV set. Or at least should produce such a device. But a lot of that emerged from a comment Jobs made, as quoted in “Jobs,” the “official” biography from Walter Isaacson. It was about inventing the best TV interface ever.

    But the one you see on the Apple TV does not appear to be all that revolutionary. Was Jobs just ragging on Apple’s competitors to see what they’d do?

    In any case, Macworld has continued its policy of writing hit pieces, this time listing the products Apple must give up. Why? Well, I guess if a product hasn’t been updated in a while, it must be “stale” and thus deserve to be disappeared.

    Understand that Apple is hugely profitable, and need not apologize for anything it builds whether it’s kept up to date or not. Regardless, I’ll comb through the list and see if these suggestions make any sense.

    The obvious candidate is the AirPort, which consists of three products that have been on the market for several years without change other than firmware updates. All this two years after a published report, never confirmed, had it that Apple’s AirPort team had been disbanded.

    So are all these models more or less obsolete? While the existing 802.11ac standard has improved over time — and mesh networks promise to provide better coverage in larger homes — the top-of-the-line AirPort Extreme is actually a pretty decent product. It wouldn’t take a lot of development to bring it up to date if Apple cared.

    Macworld’s blogger claims that, “Frankly, routers were never really a good fit for Apple’s core competency: designing beautiful products that are easy to use.”

    In the real world, AirPort arrived at the beginning of the Wi-Fi revolution, and Apple’s AirPort Utility app made the devices easier to configure than most of the competition, some of which set up default security with a password of “password.” The Arris Panoramic router I used to have came standard from the the ISP, Cox, set up that way.

    Now it should be pointed out that a new Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax, is poised for release in preliminary form in the months ahead, with full deployment expected in 2019. It will mean faster throughput, and the ability to handle far more devices, since so many gadgets offer some form of Wi-Fi these days. If Apple were to reenter the business, that would be a good place to start.

    At the very least, one would think Apple would just give it up if there was no plan for the future afoot. But even if the AirPort remains in production as it is, why should it matter? I’m sure if sales were too low, Apple would do what it had to do.

    And what about the iPod touch, which is essentially a dated iPhone without the phone, or perhaps the equivalent of a smaller iPad. The latest model dates back to 2015, and doesn’t even have Touch ID, and thus no possible scheme to support for Apple Pay. Perhaps its largest audience consists of children, but is that any reason to kill it off?

    (Update!) We have our answer. Apple has now officially discontinued AirPort, and will sell off existing inventory while supplies last.

    Although the Mac mini is the product cited next, clearly the blogger is ignoring the very pointed expressions of support, indeed “love” for the product from Tim Cook and other Apple executives. So even though it hasn’t been updated since 2014, there are strong hints in Apple’s pronouncements that something new is afoot. And if not, why should it matter to anyone not obsessed about such matters?

    True, if Apple has ongoing plans to enhance the Mac mini, it would have been a good idea to release occasional refreshes to demonstrate a commitment to the product. It would not take a lot of development dollars.

    In a similar spirit, the iPad mini 4, the last model released, is three years old. But the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple’s original forays into the phablet game, took sales away, making it seem as if the mini was an interim product. Even though iPad sales have recovered some from a steady stream of losses, the smallest iPad remains untouched. But with the cheapest 9.7-inch iPad available for $329, can the mini’s ongoing existence be justified?

    Again, if sales are satisfactory, Apple might be in a holding pattern, or maybe maybe businesses have found a use for them, in which case there’s a strong incentive to keep it around.

    The next entry on the list might actually have quite a few takers: iTunes. True it comes across as stuffed, confusing, and allegedly slow. But it has become more efficient at handling larger media libraries, and, to me at least, seems sprightly enough. In large part, however, it’s not as bloated as it seems, with an application size of 275MB on my iMac. Don’t forget it’s essentially a browser, accessing constantly changing online content.

    Some suggest it should be broken up into separate apps to handle music, podcasts, video playback and other functions, but how would that change the interface for each function? Wouldn’t five apps take up a lot more space than one? Does the current state of affairs make iTunes the “poster child for app bloat” when the app’s size isn’t all that large? On iOS gear, where resources are tight, perhaps it makes sense to split the functions into separate apps. On a Mac, there are no such constraints, and wouldn’t it be more confusing to have to launch several apps to perform the functions of iTunes? Isn’t it simpler to switch from, say, music to movies by clicking on a single pop-up menu than having to use a separate app? Just sayin’

    The final rant is about the “designed by Apple” label, but that’s too absurd to pursue.



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    2 Responses to “Apple Should Give Up These? (Updated!)”

    1. dfs says:

      On the whole I agree with you. But one thing does bother me: the relation between Apple and Beats. Both outfits offer in-ear and on-ear earphones and wireless speakers. Add these all up and they amount to a considerable number of offerings. The BeatsX and the AirPods are quite different products but still they perform essentially the same function within the same price range. If Apple ever does release its own on-ear earphone or lower-cost HomePod, then it would be entering into direct head-to-head competition with the Beats Studio3 and Beats Pill. Beats has acquired some Apple technology (the T1 chip in the BeatsX and Studio3) but not all of it (the Studio3 still uses a micro USB cable for charging).

      The relation of these two outfits doesn’t seem very well thought out. Maybe it would make more sense to absorb Beats into Apple, prune down the number of Beats offerings, and offer a single streamlined lineup of products.

      • gene says:

        The Beats brand carries its own prestige, so there’s no practical reason to be rid of it. Indeed, Beats licensed its audio technology to the forthcoming 2019 VW Jetta compact sedan. I assume other vehicles may also provide Beats audio going forward.

        Peace,
        Gene

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