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Apple’s March event: Nothing New Here

After Microsoft first showed off HoloLens in January last year buried amongst a three hour Windows 10 event, I remember reading the criticism of a rather biased Apple fan who suggested that the gang from Cupertino showed off more substance in a similar length event. I found his argument flawed than when he was speaking about a new MacBook and iPhone compared to something like HoloLens. I can’t help but remember it now as Apple again tries to pass off branding as innovation with their two latest product announcements in the iPad Pro 9.7″and the iPhone SE. Now before the devotees jump on my back and defend the quality of these products I am not arguing that both don’t represent improvements on existing lines and offer something to consumers rather offering a criticism of the portal of either as ‘new’ or ‘revolutionary’.

iPad Pro 9.7 inch

Apple’s latest iPad follows on closely from the release of its larger brother and that is exactly how the team at Cupertino has tried to sell the latest attempt to stop its sliding market share. The new 9.7-inch tablet has been represented as the iPad Pro in a smaller package due to the inclusion of similar specs led by the new processor and access to ‘Pro’ access. In reality the device is just the newest vision of the tablet which Apple released in 2010 and have continued to upgrade over the years with each generation bringing significant improvements in power and additionally features. The ‘Pro’ is no different from the iPad 2 or any other Apple periodic update as consumers expect the company to release the same product with new specs the only difference here is that Apple has taken the opportunity to rebrand the device to improve their ability to compete in the current market. Not only are they using trends set by their competitors but Apple are dipping in to their MacBook line of laptops to try and target more of an enterprise market like they did with the addition of the ‘Air’ moniker to the 5th generation of the tablet. The ‘Pro’ 9.7 inch therefore doesn’t represent anything remotely ‘new’ either in the features which are all in line with its larger sibling, the product line or even Apple’s approach to its consumers. This doesn’t mean that it is not still a significant improvement on the iPad Air 2 in terms of performance and an excellent

iPhone SE

Before the newest iPhone was official announced the rumour mill had it accurately described as the body of an iPhone 5 with the internal of a 6S. The only thing that is ‘new’ about the iPhone SE is the name which dumps the usual numbering scheme as Apple has previously released cheaper iPhones in the 5C and have started making different size handsets with the 6 and 6+. Personally, I’m actually really excited by the release of the iPhone SE as it bucks the current trend of phone makers producing larger handsets. A trend that is especially frustrating for anyone like myself who wants to keep their phone in a jeans pocket, I’m now only hoping some Android or Windows OEM’s follow suit. The only disappointing element of the iPhone SE is that it doesn’t include all of the latest features present in the 6S or offer anything ‘New’. If Apple is successful with the SE in influencing trends this unfortunate fact suggests that those of use that prefer smaller handsets will continue to be treated as second class citizens with the premium features reserved for 5.5 inch or larger devices.

Selective rhetoric and Stats

Besides the annoying and biased views of the devotees what frustrates me the most about an Apple event is their use of the same rhetoric or misrepresentation of stats which no one in the tech world seems willing to put under the microscope. Once again Apple took aim at Microsoft by mentioning the 600 million PC’s still using 5 year-old operating systems which in and of itself is a pointless stat and could be used equally well by Microsoft to suggest customer satisfaction and the longevity of its software. Regardless of this Apple repeating like to take such information out of context for example that most of those 600 PC’s are found in enterprise which resist updating their software because of the cost of retraining which is especially important considering the dramatic sifts in the last few visions of Windows. Additionally, the comparison with Apple’s own tactics regarding software updates is also left unexplored for instance their use of limited backwards compatibility of apps that force consumers to update to the newest versions of iOS and OSX. My own experience at work is evidence of this mentality when a student sent me a pages file after updating to iOS 8 required me to update my own Mac to Yosemite in order to open and correct the work. Apple are able to imply these tactics because people subscribe to the philosophy of the ‘world garden’ present in iOS and the don’t have a sizeable Mac presence in enterprise. Regardless it is a tactic which Microsoft cannot employ without losing customers so all new versions of Windows are purposefully made to be backwards compatibility eliminating this reason to upgrade. This has been recently highlighted in the debate over UWP with epic games’ Tim Sweeney critical of the platform as a threat to make Windows more like the closed sandbox of iOS. Thus the difference between Microsoft and Apple’s strategies and business model render the comparison utterly useless in judging the success of either company.

Alongside these pointless stats Apple has begun to sound a little like a broken record by continually suggesting that the iPad will replace the PC. A statement which is starting to seem increasingly contradictory to the facts as Windows tablet market share has increased by 11% largely at the expense of Apple’s iPad despite the release of the iPad Pro and the inclusion of multitasking in iOS 9. Maybe the iPad Pro 9.7-inch will finally make Apple’s statement true but the fact that it doesn’t offer anything ‘new’ suggests that it won’t stop the market share slide so maybe it will just end up being the same old story.  

I’m sure Apple fans will disregard everything I have said as ‘Apple Bashing’ but if you read and consider everything I hope you can see past my criticism. Both products are well thought out to fulfil needs with in the current consumer market place by offering high end performance in a smaller package which will suit a lot of people’s needs. As a result, both will likely see strong sales if not anything ground breaking with many existing or past customers looking to upgrade their ageing devices. My frustration, outside the Apple philosophy represented by the ‘walled garden’, as anyone who knows me will recognise remains the Apple marketing machine which I have always felt tries to insult our intelligence with branding and inspiring statements rather than substance. Perhaps this point is misplaced and should be directed at the fans who take up this rhetoric rather than engaging in rational argument whenever their favourite tech giant is criticised. Maybe I’m being an idealist but criticism is never anything to fear as it helps us grow so hopefully the more pressure we apply to Apple and other tech companies for that matter will end up leading to something inspiring that truly is ‘new’ and ‘innovating’.

Apple’s going Pro

August was definitely dominated by Microsoft with the increasing downloads of Windows 10 and GamesCom providing plenty of tech news to talk about. September has always been Apple’s time to shine and they did not disappoint their die hard loyal fans. The mid cycle update to the iPhone, a new iPad with some accessories and finally an improved version of Apple TV gives us a lot to cover.

iPhone 6s

It’s Apple’s long established custom to provide a one year update on thier current handset and keep the existing body. This year the iPhone 6 and 6+ get the S treatment with the addition of new features and upgraded spec. Most notably is the new 3D touch technology which reacts to the pressure being applied by the user. Internaly it comes with an A9 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 12 mega-pixal camera which should all give users an overall improved performance. On top of these updates to the existing specs is the introduction of a new rose gold handset. I doubt any of these changes will intice existing iPhone 6 users to upgrade prematually but I’m sure Apple will stiĺl experience good sales as more iPhone 5 user decide to take the plunge.

iPad Pro

A larger screen iPad has been rumoured for a while so Apple’s announcement suprised nobody. It’s clearly built to impress with a 12.9 inch screen, 2732 x 2048 resolution and four built in speakers. It also has a clear performance boost over the existing iPad Air with a A9X processor and 4GB of RAM in order to capatilise on iOS9’s new side by side multi-tasking. Beyond the tablet itself Apple have shown off a couple of key new accessories in the Apple Pencil and attachable keyboard. On paper it looks like a powerful device for those poeple who like using iOS but it is still unknown whether it’s the device that will reinvigurate Apple’s tablet sales.

Unusally it hasn’t been all positive media for Apple’s latest tablet as most tech analysts and arm chair enthusiasts like myself have been quick to recognise the similarities with Microsoft’s Surface Pro.  Many have even been bringing up Steve Jobs comment about inculding a stylus
which really has no relevence any more due to the developments of digitizers and the rest of the tech industry. In addition the promotion of Microsoft Office for iOS has got some attention, an inclusion that really shows both tech companies changing mentality. Firstly, Microsoft recognised that they can’t ignore iOS users and the value of tieing them to their services while Apple seems to have admited that thier own iWorks suite has trouble competing with Office in the professional market place.

So will the iPad Pro make an impact on the tablet landscape? Personally I’m not sure Apple have addressed the right aspects of the iPad to attract thier target audience. Since many of the drawbacks of iOS still remain as while it now allows multi-tasking it cannot run desktop applications. In addition the small 32GB internal storage on the base model will likely frustrate some users and may be a key limitation for those reluctant to invest more money. Finally, I think the iPad Pro could easily impact Apple’s other product lines as customers are unlikely to purchase a Pro and a smaller iPad, while others might decide to give up thier MacBook.  Obviously, this does not take into account new customers so we will just have to wait and see.

Apple TV

The much awaited update to Apple’s side project has delivered a few key developments and makes Apple competitive in the living room space. Most notably is the new TVos which has an easy to use interface and connects to the apps store to allow users to download anything from different streaming services or games. This new operating system also brings Siri into your living room and importantly she comes with the ability to search content across applications. Apple’s personal assistant can be accessed from the new remote which also includes a touch pad for navigation and a Wii like motion tracker that when combined with the improved internal specs makes the new set top box capable of breaking in as a low cost gaming option.

These improvement makes the Apple TV a legitimate option compared to competitors but it isn’t necessarily a game changer with similar features already available. Despite this the added functionality of AirPlay and Apple’s legion of devoted fans combined with a sensible price tag means that I believe sales will show strong growth.

Overall Apple didn’t really announce anything new but rather refreshed and reinvigorated existing products. Of course the iPhone 6S and 6S+ will the usual landslide but the others are a bit harder to predict so we’ll check back in the next couple of months.

Cheers
Jono