Fanboys and the tech media are once again ga-ga over Apple’s latest set of announcements. To me, it represents catch up moves with Microsoft and Samsung. There’s not a whole lot of new-new in all the hype, other than Apple’s tired spin that it has once again discovered something new and revolutionary that the rest of the world has already seen.
Where to begin? The iPad Pro is the much anticipated/expected “Big tablet” that maps into the big tablet space that Microsoft and Samsung have owned over the past few years. If you want to play in the enterprise space—as IBM no doubt told Apple already—you have to have a bigger form factor and the ability to conduct PC-like operations. Bigger form factor, check. PC-like operations? Not really. The iPad Pro can run two apps side-by-side, but (again) Microsoft and Samsung have had that capability for a while.
Where Pro falls short is in support for a mouse/trackpad for productivity apps. If you’re in the middle of a spreadsheet, presentation, or document, you really really don’t want to pick up your hands off the keyboard, move them upward to touch the screen, then move them back down to the keyboard. Using a mouse or a touch keypad keeps hands and fingers closer to the keyboard, thereby saving time in motion.
Apple’s “Smart Keyboard” cover looks strangely familiar. Like maybe something you’d see on a Surface Pro, hmm? But the real kicker is the Apple Pencil. Unlike Microsoft’s stock stylus, it’s a smart device that will require charging, plus $99 bucks over and above the $799 price of the entry level iPad Pro. Thrown in the $169 keyboard and you’re at about $1070 for a combination that doesn’t have a mouse and is limited to the iPad world of apps. Surface Type keyboards are running at $129 and you get an unpowered stylus for free with the purchase of a Surface family tablet, if memory serves.
I suspect next year or the year after, Apple will “discover” how to put a trackpad onto its keyboard cover and call it another revolution, plus adding a special pocket to keep the Pencil next to the iPad without scratching it.
More importantly, Microsoft gets to reshuffle the deck in November when it is expected to release the Surface Pro 4. Apple’s iPad Pro may end up further behind the curve if the Surface Pro 4 adds WiGig and/or wireless charging to the mix.
The refresh to Apple TV turned into trying to morph it into a games console, plus shining it up with Siri for voice commands and a new game controller with a trackpad. Let’s think about this – Apple added a trackpad to its TV box, but didn’t add it to the new keyboard cover released on the same day. No much-rumored over-the-top (OTT) video service to compete with cable. Microsoft and others have been in the games business for years. Apple is spinning this as “apps for TV” are the next big thing, but now it has to niche its way into a space that is dominated by Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft Xbox.
New iPhone 6S and 6S Plus: Boring. The big news was 3D Touch, a variation or re-branding of previously announced “Force Touch.” It remains to be seen if pressure-sensitive touch will be a blessing or burden; we’ve all had our adventures with touchpads and this looks like a headache for some users. Otherwise, faster processors, better cameras and an “improved” non-bendy case are simply checkpoints.
Every company has its boring days. But when I add in the hype about the Apple-IBM and Apple-Cisco announcements, it’s time for the media and the non-fanboy crowd to start thinking. Apple turned to IBM to market to the enterprise because Apple is lucky to correctly spell enterprise on any given day of the week. We’re talking decades of neglect. It’s sweet that IBM is buying a lot of Apple hardware, but something you might expect from a partnership announcement.
And I’m not really sure what kind of magic Cisco can do for Apple. How do you “optimize” Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps, exactly? Making productivity and collaboration apps for iOS devices is something the rest of the world has been doing for a long time, so welcome to the club, Cisco. Can’t wait to see how the price tag on an optimized Cisco app compares to today’s off-the-shelf OTT UC iOS apps. And, by the way, Microsoft is already ahead of the game here.
You’ve been warned. Apple will continue to make high-quality products, but its days of technology thought leadership are starting to backslide. We’ll know more by the first quarter of 2016 when we should get more data on the Apple Watch and if the company has caught up to the rest of the world in implementing WebRTC by then.
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