Every September, like clockwork, Apple holds its annual “iPhone” event. This year’s event, held on September 9 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, did indeed reveal new iPhones, but also uncovered so much more.
Once again, Apple demonstrated that it can build hellacious hardware and pair it with sophisticated software to create empowering and elegant devices. Deliver new APIs to involve a huge third-party programmer base, and the juggernaut rolls on.
Apple, as ever, marches relentlessly to its own drummer, despite an abundance of critical analysis, even doomsaying.
It’s fashionable, it seems, to say that Apple isn’t innovating, but the truth is that Apple’s innovations are incremental. Practical. Subtle. Strategic. And, yes, innovative.
The iPad Pro. The new Apple TV. Apple Watch updates. And, yes, new iPhones.
Jaded tech writers may disagree, but customers, both returning and new, prove the point.
Expand and extend—the Apple ecosystem
Imagine this scenario. Each year, you shore up the foundation of your home. You perform necessary repairs. Add a coat of paint. You add enhancements—central air, for example—that make your home more comfortable. You build an addition offering more space, a guest room, another bathroom, an office, a screened porch, a garage. You install a new roof and solar panels. Over time, you continue to make your home both more livable and more valuable. With each passing year, you love your home more, your guests enjoy visiting more, your real estate agent salivates more.
A strained analogy, perhaps, but it does paint a picture of what I think Apple is doing. While competitors offer flashy new technology—Samsung and wireless charging, for example—Apple keeps improving its ecosystem and its value proposition for an ever-growing customer base.
Take iPhones, for example. Apple doesn’t sell the most mobile phones, not even close. But the company makes 92% of smartphone profits! When this is your reality, and you manage such a business, you spend a great deal of your energy on supporting that business.
But you also recognize that putting all your eggs in one basket is likely not a sustainable model. You’ve seen other companies make that mistake, and you’re not about to repeat it. So you strategize on how to extend your business. Grow your product line. Leverage your vast ecosystem.
To me, that is what Tim Cook, his management team, and Apple’s 100,000 employees are doing, and it becomes more evident with each event, each product announcement.
So let’s take a look at those announcements.
There has been a great wailing and gnashing of teeth about Watch, which Apple announced earlier this year. Was it tanking? An outright failure? A toy? Not worth the money? All of the above, if you believed some of the tech press.
Apple hasn’t announced numbers or financials regarding the Apple Watch. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has said that the Watch has exceeded expectations, but that’s as specific as Apple has gotten on the new device.
If you go by last week’s Apple Watch announcements—new finishes, bands, a Hermes partnership, and most importantly the release of watchOS 2—the company continues to very much invest in and promote its first wearable.
The App Store already features 30,000 Watch apps, and with watchOS 2, the promise of apps that work without the need for iPhone will shortly become reality.
Signs of a healthy and growing business. And, guess what? The Watch has already proven to be a vibrant member of Apple’s expanding ecosystem.
The iPad Pro
Last summer, Apple announced a partnership with IBM to increase its already growing presence in the enterprise and professional vertical markets. In August of this year, Apple and Cisco announced a partnership that should further strengthen Apple’s footprint in business.
In those contexts, Apple’s launch last week of the large-screen iPad Pro with keyboard and stylus accessories makes enormous sense.
The iPad Pro has been written off by some pundits as Apple’s copy of Microsoft’s Surface Pro. Certainly, I see the, ahem, surface similarity, but here’s the deal. The iPad Pro is a great tablet arguably masquerading as a PC. The Surface Pro is a PC masquerading as a tablet, and by most accounts, it’s a good, but not great, tablet, with many fewer tablet-optimized apps.
The iPad already has over 300,000 tablet-optimized apps available, and, in my view, the iPad Pro’s larger, higher-resolution (2732-by-2048 pixel) screen, A9X desktop-class processor, and accessories, is going to offer the potential for additional use cases, particularly in professional markets.
And, like the Watch, the iPad Pro takes its rightful place in Apple’s ecosystem. Noticing a theme here?
It was, perhaps, the worst-kept secret that Apple was offering enhanced iPhones—the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. These new iPhones offer similar form-factors to last year’s iPhone 6 models, but the similarities end there.
Stronger aluminum shells and what Apple says is the most durable smartphone screens available; the more powerful A9 processor; more memory; faster LTE radios; better cameras, front and rear.
And 3D touch, along with iOS 9, offering new shortcuts and ostensibly more productivity.
Substantial, tangible improvements will make these iPhones very tempting for the 75% of iPhone owners that are still using iPhone 4, 5, or 5S models.
And, the new phones? Model Apple ecosystem citizens.
And the hits kept coming. Apple’s new Apple TV, available in November, was announced. The new set-top box offers Siri voice-control, global search across multiple channels, gaming capabilities, Apple Music support, an App Store, and tvOS.
This is the future of TV, claims Apple. True or not, I want it. And, when Apple’s over-the-top streaming service is announced, things could get really interesting.