Today’s Apple event felt rushed to me. They covered a bunch of stuff, some of which (frankly) could have waited until November. What we didn’t get (again) was an update on “the numbers”, something that was skipped back in June. It could be that Apple is trying to avoid issues with public disclosure. Or maybe they want the focus to be on the products. There was some interesting stuff, a little bit of it groundbreaking, and most of it advances that were to be expected.
A Big iPad
The iPad Pro looks intriguing, although it definitely is aimed more at content creators than anyone else from what I saw. It will be nice for consumers, particularly for games and video, so it isn’t just a content creation device. But the focus during the announcement was on creation more than anything else.
Frankly, the iPad Pro announcement could have waited until November when the thing is going to be made available. Pre-announcing something far in advance is pointless in today’s world. No single vendor can freeze a market segment much anymore, particularly when they aren’t the first ones in it. For several years, Apple announcements meant that, at a minimum, pre-orders would start on Friday and product would ship a month after that. In many cases, it was “you can order them today”. Apple has pre-announced a few times now, and I’m not sure it is a great idea.
Watches and Phones
The watch and phone announcements weren’t surprising. The phone, obviously, was expected. It is a nice upgrade: faster everything, much better camera, etc. etc. The biggest piece is the “3D Touch” (unsurprisingly, Craig called it “Force Touch” at one point in his demo before correcting himself). While I think this can open up some very interesting UI possibilities, others have mentioned the big question: how will a user know or tell? And will developers be careful enough so that a non-obvious action isn’t destructive?
The Apple UI has already drifted into areas where the form has trumped function. It is more about appearance than usability. This is a mistake. Adding another layer can add to the utility, but used badly, and it could make things more confusing. Hopefully developers can control themselves in this regard (and the same caution needs to be directed at Apple).
The watch bit was, for the most part, more cosmetic than substantial. Some of it covered ground already traversed in June at WWDC. They could have left it out and just announced it online, and not harmed their message.
The AppleTV is a nice step forward. The remote is certainly a big improvement over the current one (although I use a Harmony to control my AppleTV and ancillary devices at home). The ability to build and run apps on the device is a logical next step. Perhaps this was the thing that Steve meant when he said he had finally cracked television. It certainly makes more sense than building a full-on television.
We’ll see how voice control holds up in the real world. It’s one thing to use carefully selected sentences, enunciated clearly, during demos. It’s another when real people do it in the wild. I’m not sure how much I’ll use it (I don’t use Siri on my iPhone or iPad now), but things can certainly change.
The addition of apps might be a bigger game changer than the voice control. We already had “apps” of a kind on the current AppleTV, at least for content providers Apple allowed on the device. Opening it up to others might actually help software developers get some traction in the home theatre/living room (without needing to target the Playstation or XBox). So far, that domain has been controlled by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, and has focused largely on entertainment. Other possibilities beyond games might exist now, although I don’t expect general-purpose computing to be one of those avenues. For game developers, this may be a way to gain a non-mobile audience without needing to work through the companies that have dominated this space so far.
The only thing I would love to have seen added (but likely will never appear) is for the AppleTV to also act as a wireless basestation like the Airport Express. Sure, around the house it probably isn’t all that useful, but on the road, it would be very handy. A single device that can make the hotel TV useful for my video, plus acting as a router and firewall between my devices and the hotel network. Wishful thinking, I know, but one can dream, can’t they?
As with the iPad Pro, this part probably could have waited until November, closer to when it will ship. I think they have a much stronger story when Tim (or Craig or Eddie or Phil) can end the presentation with “… and you can order it today”.
The event today was interesting. It wasn’t mind-blowing, although that is getting harder and harder to do for any vendor. All of the upgrades and enhancements were welcome. The new AppleTV and iPad Pro look promising. Whether the Pro will do anything to halt the slide of tablet sales (for everyone, not just Apple) is an open question. The new AppleTV might allow Apple to gain the lead in set-top boxes, having slipped to 4th in the most recent reports.
The only other intriguing piece that was almost a throw-away was the Apple app for Android to help make transition to the iPhone easier. People switching devices appear to be moving from Android to Apple more often than the other way around. Doing something to make that easier is a smart thing to do. This, coupled with a “sorta lease the hardware” pricing model for iPhone might put iPhones in the hands of those reluctant to jump on board.
It wasn’t a bad event. But, again, it felt rushed. I get that they need to balance how much they announce each time with frequency. With Apple’s line-up, they could announce something new virtually every other month (and a lot of updates are done without much fanfare now). I would rather, though, an event with a shorter agenda and a less frantic pace to it.