Narrative: Apple is Doomed
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Narrative: Apple is Doomed (Dec 27, 2016)
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I’ll start with my usual caveat on so-called “gigabit” wireless services: though theoretical throughputs on devices with the new modems being discussed here can reach gigabit per second speeds, the real-world experience is going to be a fraction of that. In other words, even if the reporting in this article is correct, Apple isn’t going to be missing out on true gigabit speeds any more than the other device vendors will have them. The second caveat is that even the more realistic speeds will only be available where carriers have upgraded their networks to support them, which will be far from everywhere for the near future. With those caveats out of the way, though, Apple will be one of the few device vendors out there without these faster modems in its devices over the next year. However, as the article rightly points out, Apple has rarely been willing to put cutting edge new modem technology in its devices at the same time as others, generally preferring to wait for the technology to mature before deploying it, as it notably did with both 3G and LTE. There is, of course, this time also the added complication of Qualcomm being the only supplier with a gigabit modem ready to go, and the fact of Apple’s very adversarial relationship with Qualcomm and its decision last year to introduce Intel modems. I’m inclined to believe the reporting here is accurate, but I’m not sure it’s really all that significant – in real-world experience, there will be very little difference for many customers over the next couple of years, and Apple will almost certainly jump on the gigabit modem bandwagon next year, likely through Intel.
Apple has been in battles with various states over so-called “right to repair” legislation in recent months, and one of its key arguments against proposed new laws is that its devices have to be repaired in special ways in order to ensure the continued integrity of the Touch ID sensor and the secure enclave attached to it. Replacing an iPhone screen with a damaged Touch ID sensor, it argues, is something that can only be done by official Apple technicians with the ability to certify the integrity of those components. That, in turn, means that not all screen repairs can be conducted by any run of the mill repair center. Predictably, critics have argued that Apple merely wants to preserve what they see as a lucrative repair business given that Apple often charges more for such repairs than mall kiosks. All that is by way of context for this news that Apple is planning to put a couple hundred of its proprietary screen repair machines into third party repair centers in the next little while, with another two hundred coming by the end of the year. This puts some weight behind Apple’s argument that it’s intent on preserving security of devices and not merely its revenue streams, given that it’s now opening up access to those machines, albeit mostly through big partners like Best Buy. Given that there are still states with no Apple Stores at all and other parts of the US where people would have to travel long distances to one, it makes sense to spread availability of the repair technology more broadly, and Best Buy already hosts mini Apple stores within its stores to help meet these needs. But I don’t think any of this is going to neutralize the calls for Apple to open its repair processes more broadly, which is a great illustration of how narratives form around what are at root fairly complex subjects. It’s far easier to claim that Apple is somehow acting against its customers’ interests in this area than to explain the complexities involved in repairing a Touch ID sensor with all the security implications that has.
Apple today upgraded its iPad Pro lineup and announced a new version of iOS with big changes for the iPad as well as support for AR. The major theme in both the hardware and software aspects of the iPad announcements was productivity, where Apple continues to push the iPad Pro as a potential laptop replacement. The hardware changes improve performance across the board while specifically tweaking the ratio between screen and device size for the smaller iPad Pro in a change that likely foreshadows what Apple will do in a more dramatic way in the Fall with the iPhone. Just as the Mac lineup became more powerful with today’s announcements, so the iPad is becoming more powerful as a potential computer replacement, and the iOS changes specific to the iPad further that message, with support for a much wider range of multitasking scenarios and other more sophisticated features. For the first time, the iPad version of iOS feels like it’s gaining a truly distinct identity that’s really optimized for heavy-duty productivity tasks, and it will be interesting to see how the OS feels on the iPads not designed for pro use, because a number of user interface elements and conventions will change as a result. However, the other big change in today’s iOS announcements is support for AR through ARKit for developers, which is Apple’s first foray into AR. Notably, whereas the VR support in the Mac is primarily aimed for today at creation of VR content, Apple’s AR push is much more end-user centric, and will enable developers to quickly and easily create a range of AR apps and games for the iPhone and iPad. Whereas smartphone-centric AR today is very photo- and video-centric and dominated by companies like Snapchat and more recently Facebook, Apple’s platform approach could dramatically expand the use of AR in smartphone apps and move smartphone-based AR forward significantly in terms of mainstream adoption.