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.
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.
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.