Thursday, September 10, 2015

Apple's Core Problem Is That It Can No Longer Innovate

Oh, how we laughed when Microsoft unveiled a tablet device with an expensive snap-on keyboard. And, when Steve Jobs declared that the stylus was complete folly and a thing of the past in 2007, we cheered. The tech industry has a very short memory it seems.

Roll forward to 2015 and Tim Cook showed an expectant audience much of the same that we’ve seen before, and like previous years we have grown to accept that the polish and style of delivery masks a growing problem at Cupertino: Apple has run out of juice.

iPhone 6S and 6S Plus

There was nothing here we didn’t already know or even expect, given the many leaks beforehand. Another mid-life iPhone facelift ahead of next year’s iPhone 7, with camera and processor spec bumps. The new iPhone was the last to be announced at the Apple Event because there was nothing to announce. The only attraction this time was Force Touch, something which will definitely kill off the Home Button on the next iteration when Apple figures out how to do fingerprint recognition from the screen for Apple Pay and Touch ID. Tim Cook struggled to make the ubiquitous device seem anything but more of the same. Live Photos? Sounds like a cross between Vine and what Google Photos has been doing for a while now. The 6S Plus is more of a curious beast though, because it almost heralds the death of the iPad Mini. but Apple won’t admit this yet.

iPad Mini 4

Here’s a device which received some treatment before it disappears from the iPad family-photo album entirely. Apple knows exactly how to capitalize on the runt of the litter, and a little extra gloss will definitely sell a few more numbers but with a 6S Plus in the Apple Store there is no real reason to own an Mini anymore. And it gets worse now Big Brother has arrived.

iPad Pro

This is where things get interesting. Apple unveiled a device clearly aimed at the more business and prosumer market. With a price point at the higher end to make laptop buyers weep, coupled with an expensive $169 snap-on keyboard and a ludicrous $99 Apple Pencil (i.e. a stylus) it was the clearest indication that Cupertino couldn’t innovate but only imitate competitor strategy. This was almost an admission that Microsoft got it right with the Surface, but just couldn’t market it like Apple hardware. The Pro is aimed at the enterprise market, a smart move by Apple (which has cut deals with IBM and Cisco for distribution of hardware and apps) in a time of slowing consumer tablet sales. But what could the Pro do the consumer laptop sales at Apple? Much like the 6S Plus will eat away at the iPad Mini, the iPad Pro will cut into sales of the Macbook Air. The Pro’s speed and screen resolution (it beats a Retina display on a MacBook Pro) will make many think twice about getting an Air, which until now has been Apple’s least expensive way to balance portability and performance.

Apple TV

The bedroom hobby project has been trying to become a serious hobby for years. It has still failed to be anything else, and yesterday’s announcement seemed very odd indeed. Apps are not the future of TV, in fact making consumers sit and watch more TV is not the future of the human race. And certainly owning a separate box to appify television is not the answer. Apple wants us to believe that their black beauty is what we need to make the living room come alive again, but every last-gen and current console has been doing what an Apple TV can do for a few years now, and more. If Apple really wanted to make this a serious concern, it would have baked tvOS into a television unit itself, or licensed it to one major OEM. But it won’t. Given that smart TVs already have apps that cater for the same content as Apple TV, together with consoles, Chromecast, Amazon FireStick, and voice interaction already exists, there is no killer reason to own an Apple TV on top. And as a casual games proposition? Please. Even the wording on the website makes it sound like Apple has singlehandedly reinvented the games industry.


  1. Apple's Core Problem? The company is doing just fine.

    They make stuff. People buy it. Customers seem happy. Apple gets richer. Every year Apple improves its stuff. They occasionally introduce a new kind of product adding to their portfolio. Critics bitch and moan about one thing or another. Doom is predicted. It makes no difference. Rinse and repeat.

  2. I guess they are running out of things to copy.

  3. I guess they are running out of things to copy.

  4. Yeah, I used to like Apple stuff but they haven't really come out with anything interesting in quite a while. Plus they really are more expensive than they need to be. Their security isn't any better than Windows. In fact, I think Apple products are more vulnerable because of the false sense of security Apple users feel. Save your money, get Windows or Linux, use free AV software and browse with some logic. It's really that simple.

    1. You might not find anything interesting in Apple's new products, but that doesn't make it so. I predict that Apple's recent emphasis on pressure sensing haptic user interface will become commonplace now that Apple has validated it and demonstrated how it should be done. This is typical. Eventually once everyone else has copied the idea (and often not as well), haters will switch criticisms from "nothing interesting" to "competitors offer the same thing for less money".

      The newest Apple TV will have a mini trackpad in its remote instead of arrow keys. Watch and see if other set-top boxes don't adopt the idea.

      The newest Macbook has its controversial USB-C port. Again they are ahead of the curve.

      The Apple Watch is different from other smart watches. People say they don't like its rectangular screen. Apple will outsell them all, and not only will others eventually admit that the rectangular screen makes more sense for displaying data, but other watches will also copy the styling, case design, and UI to the extent they can get away with it.

      Nothing interesting. Enjoy your non-Apple products. To each his own.

    2. Sounds like you're pretty upset dude. Apple has always been about making pretty products for a premium price. They rarely are on the leading edge for features or technologies that even their own users ask for. Other manuf. actually listen to the public. It always seems like Apple really doesn't care about anyone but themselves.

    3. I'm not sure where you get that I'm upset, unless you think one must be upset in order to respond to a comment. I'm certainly not cussing, taunting, or going all caps and exclamation points.

      Whether Apple can be considered on the leading edge or not, they are often the company first to "get it right". I could list numerous products and features that others attempted with little or modest success before Apple ultimately swooped in and perfected them. Haters point at these to "prove" that Apple doesn't actually invent anything. Maybe being the first to try an idea isn't ultimately as important as doing it well.

      Apple is patient and deliberate about when and which particular technologies and features are ripe for inclusion in their products. They do not attempt to address everyone's wish lists (an impossible task as none of their competitors can satisfy everyone either.) But despite their various omissions and limitations, Apple seems to have a product line with a fairly wide appeal. Admittedly they are positioned at the premium end of the market. But if they were truly the disappointment you paint them as, Apple would not be as successful as they have been.

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  6. You missed a few key factors in this article. First, speed tests have confirmed that the 6s is one of the fastest phones on the market, ahead of Samsung and the rest. Second, 3d touch is pretty amazing. I don't see anyone else doing it. The iPad Mini 4, well, nobody cares about that much. The iPad Pro is a big deal. The Apple Pencil is the most reactive stylus on the market currently. It has a wickedly high refresh rate. It's amazing. The iPad Pro is missing key features that would put it a step ahead of the Microsoft Surface, but it's still a big deal. Also, doesn't the Surface's keyboard cost around $100-$200? Man, that's overpriced. The Apple TV part, well, that's just wrong. The future of TV is apps. Cancel your Netflix subscription and tell me that the nonpersonalized junk full of ads on cable is the future of TV. Apple has made a pretty good way to stream content, play games, and surf the web on its Apple TV, and it will only get better from here.

    Stop being a butthurt Apple hater and acknowledge that at least some of what Apple is doing is good.