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Apple is lost

by Todd Haselton | December 21, 2016December 21, 2016 8:00 am PDT

I was sitting on my couch last night flipping through Apple’s new “Apple TV” app, which I’ve already called a “smoking hot pile of garbage,” when I realized that I think Apple is really lost right now. I’ve been following Apple pretty closely since I started blogging in 2007, and, now more than ever, I’m confused with Apple’s each and every step.

Yesterday, Bloomberg said that Apple’s Mac division is shambles as it shifts its focus on iOS and the iPhone. Apple CEO Tim Cook seemed to get ahead of the news, penning a letter to employees promising that the company has great new Mac desktop computers coming down the pipeline. As I was again recognizing how crappy the Apple TV app is, I thought back to that news and it hit me – I think Apple is lost. There are a few other signs that point to its confusion.

Mac family loaded with cobwebs

First, let’s address the Mac family. Apple hasn’t upgraded its Mac Pro in more than 1,098 days, according to MacRumors, which lists it as a “don’t buy” in its buyer’s guide. Similarly, the site says the iMac hasn’t been updated in more than 400 days, again a “don’t buy.”

Either Apple thinks it’s going to turn the desktop computer market on its head, it’s really finished altogether, or it’s just approaching it in a much more lackadaisical manner. Maybe Apple knows Macs aren’t in as high a demand as they once were, given that consumers put a premium on portability, but there’s still a large audience of pros who prefer desktop-class processors and graphics capabilities. Microsoft is moving full steam ahead with its new Surface Studio, and Windows 10 PCs are becoming more appealing by the day. Will Apple sit by and let Microsoft eat its lunch?

iPhone 7 was a yawn

Speaking of advancements, Apple didn’t do much in the way of those with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus this year. Yes, the phones are water-resistant, offer better cameras and faster processors, but it’s the first time Apple has kept the same design for three years in a row. What’s going on?

The iPhone 8 is apparently going to be a big leap forward with AMOLED Quad HD displays and more, but those have been available for several years now. Why didn’t Apple move quicker? Was it unsure of where to take the iPhone 7 design, and so stuck with a more conservative approach?

What’s its VR/AR play?

Speaking of Quad HD displays, what’s Apple’s VR/AR approach? Quad HD on a smartphone is, largely, only important if you’re planning to use a VR headset where the pixel density improves the VR experience. Apple hasn’t said much at all about VR, while Google, Samsung, LG and others are pushing forward. It may be working on perfecting that, though CEO Tim Cook has said he thinks AR will be bigger than VR. That’s fine, I don’t think anyone really knows which will be bigger yet, but what’s Apple’s plan in that space, then? Again, Microsoft is moving forward here while Apple sits watching.

Nothing to watch on TV

And speaking of sitting and watching, that’s exactly what Apple is doing with the streaming TV market, too. It’s allegedly hitting roadblocks in trying to pull in TV networks to support its service while others, like AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Sling TV and even Sony’s PS Vue have all launched. Instead of making an attempt, Apple launched a really terrible “Apple TV” application that tries to sort of stitch some services together to make it easier for users to find content. Except it doesn’t support enough cable networks, lacks Amazon and Netflix content, and isn’t very intuitive. Is this really the best Apple could come up with?

Home Alone

Apple’s play in the smart home space is still just beginning and, I admit, Apple Home is a pretty good app for managing HomeKit devices. If you have an Apple TV or a dedicated iPad that sits at home, you can also access your home controls remotely. Apple still hasn’t entered into the smart home AI market yet, a market that Amazon has proven is worth entering. Indeed, the Amazon Echo is a fantastic device and Apple could compete in the same fashion with a Siri-powered gadget. Google knows there’s demand in the space, and Google Home is already off to a great start.

Apple has Siri on the iPhone, Siri on the Apple Watch and Siri on the TV. This might be ideal if the same commands worked across all of those versions of Siri, but they don’t. Instead, we’re left with a sort of bizarre Siri experience. I’ll give Apple time in this space to improve, but I’m curious why it hasn’t put a higher priority on tackling the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Switch gears

Let’ talk about Apple’s car project. Originally dubbed “Project Titan,” this, too, is apparently in shambles. Apple has reportedly ditched the idea of building a car altogether and may instead focus on technology that can be used in autonomous cars, leaving manufacturing up to automaker partners. One has to wonder how advanced Apple really is here, though. As I’ve said, I praise Google for at least discussing its project in public, which is important if we’re to trust the cars we’ll eventually trust to shuffle us around. Other firms like Volvo and Uber, are also testing in public.

I’m not saying that Apple’s privacy suggests it’s lost, but I am suggesting that there’s no proof it actually knows what it’s doing and, indeed, with reports of layoffs and other changes, it seems things aren’t going very smoothly.

Is Apple first, or really the last?

There’s this weird conflict that presents itself when discussing Apple.

The company likes to suggest that it’s the first to do a lot of things – ditch the floppy drive, remove the CD-ROM, bail on SD cards and USB, but, more recently, it’s lagging on the important stuff. In the past, I’ve argued Apple does this because it wants to perfect the technology. After all, it worked when Apple launched the iPhone, completely sending the smartphone market into chaos. It replicated that with the iPad, too. It was also incredibly successful with the app store and mobile payments.

Just to make sure I address wearables: the Apple Watch Series 2 is good, but the wearable market is still largely focused on fitness tracking and the Apple Watch is nowhere near as disruptive as the iPhone and iPad were. If the Apple Watch finds more success in 2017, my guess is it’s because competition from Android Wear and the Pebble has completely diminished.

What is Apple’s next big move?

This can't be it...

This can’t be it…

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that, while unique, isn’t exactly going to change the way we use our computers. In fact, Windows 10 with the adoption of touch screen technology is much more likely to do that. The iPad Pro supports a pencil and a keyboard and is a fantastic product, but again, it’s not the sort of thing to drastically change anything the way the iPad and iPhone did.

I wonder if it might be the car, but that doesn’t seem like a good fit given Apple’s roadblocks. A new iPhone 8 might be a good step, but what sorts of features will it offer that others can’t or already don’t? If anything, I see the iPhone 8 potentially playing a game of catch-up in the display department. Is it TV? If so, those rumors are almost as old as the Mac Pro, so when is Apple going to make its move? I have no answers, but I hope Apple does.

Otherwise, it’s clear as day that Apple is lost.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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