How Apple is going to piss off the trolls and change everything…again
I don’t know what it is about me that finds the comments at the bottom of web stories hard to resist. Maybe it’s the same instinct that makes pro wrestling or shows like ‘Hoarders’ so popular. It’s demoralizing and soul-crushing, but… fascinating!
Take for instance the brigade of anti-Apple trolls that accompany every article about seemingly anything related to mobile devices or laptop computers. Anyone (such as myself) who makes use of an iPhone or MacBookPro in daily life is branded a technologically illiterate lemming fanboy who is CLEARLY blind to the obvious truth! (Or words to that effect. I’m trying to keep it clean for the sake of the children.)
The biggest irony of it all, of course, is being called out for blind ideological devotion to a ecosystem by people who clearly harbor a blind ideological loathing for said ecosystem. The trolls can’t STAND that I might find something positive about my Apple user experience. I mean, it pisses them off SO HARD!
People are… fascinating. Many are also short sighted.
Apple has made some very curious moves over the years. Decisions that even I, a ‘mindless fanboy’, might characterize as mistakes and miscalculations born of hubris. Most recently, they decided that a slimmer iPhone was more important than a headphone jack, and then released a new line of laptop computers that you can’t plug the new iPhones into without an adapter. (Sold separately.)
As a working media professional and business owner, Apple really angered me a few years back when they abruptly and without explanation halted development of FinalCutPro at version 7, and replaced it with a non-compatible, mostly incomprehensible and woefully limited piece of software called FinalCutPro X . I mean, they were on their way to OWNING the video editorial universe, and then just turned their back on it overnight. (And left thousands of editorial facilities basically stranded with End Of Life software, and with eagerly opportunistic competitors struggling to make sense of their completely unexpected good fortune.)
But then I thought about it: In a year, Apple’s Pro Apps generate a tiny fraction of a percent of the revenue that iPhone sales generate in a weekend. Of course! Apple doesn’t CARE about the professional video editorial universe! They want to build bleeding edge software – conventional wisdom and backward compatibility be damned – to push sales of high-margin hardware. They basically made Final Cut Pro X into an enhanced version of iMovie. Then they spent years making it better, quietly releasing a major update just last month. They were writing off an entire generation of video editors with the thought that kids in grade school would be learning video editing on a free app (iMovie), using a code base that would become a fully-featured FinalCutPro X by the time they entered the work force. (And by ‘work force’, I mean ‘gig economy’.)
Oh, I get it! Apple was playing the LONG game!
As long as I’m talking about the past… waaay back at the turn of the century, I wanted to be all over the nascent MP3 paradigm shift. (Or was it a ‘sea change’? I don’t recall.) So I convinced my patient wife that a Diamond Rio MP3 Player would be a really good investment. “I can download music from Napster, move it to my Rio and then
fiddle around with a bunch of indecipherable buttons to listen to my favorite tunes while I jog!” This is where I lost my patient wife’s support, as she was fully aware that I’ve never jogged in my life. Anyway, it was cool. It was stupid. It was never used. (Make note of this Diamond Rio reference. I’ll be coming back to it in a minute.)
Not long after that, in 2001, Apple came up with the iPod, and portable digital music suddenly became drop-dead-simple. And in 2007, Apple threw an all-glass, touch-screen interface on the iPod, shoved a phone inside of it and changed the course of human history.
That was nearly 10 years ago, and we’ve been jonesin for that collective, global hit of endorphins ever since. Every subsequent product introduction that didn’t endow us with X-ray vision or the ability to levitate was greeted with howls of, “Apple has lost their way! Apple doesn’t know how to INNOVATE anymore!” This sentiment has been constantly reinforced by the fact that other companies have been able to copy and then in many cases improve upon technologies that Apple brought to market. This is because A) competition and B) there are a lot of really smart and creative people everywhere. Not just at Apple. Whenever Apple didn’t come up with some new trick or enhancement first, or didn’t respond fast enough (or didn’t respond at all), the trolls were out in droves.
But it all just rolls right off of Tim Cook’s back. Apple continues to play the LONG game.
Apple has 231 billion reasons to not give a rats ass about next quarter’s results or what trolls or pundits have to say about their supposed lack of vision and innovation. That’s a lot of cash. And with income of $45 billion on revenue of $215 billion and a P/E ratio of around 13, they hardly even need to give a rats ass about investors. They’re fine. The stock is undervalued even if they were to outlaw innovation altogether.
However, there are many reasons to believe that there is, in fact, MAJOR stuff cookin’ in Cupertino, and that we’ll find out about it when it’s frickin READY, and NOT in a hurried response to all the good things people are saying about the Google Pixel. But before I get to those reasons, I just have to ask a rhetorical question: Does anyone really think that, with their vast resources, market share and talent, engineers and designers are just sitting around the Apple Innovation Lab twiddling their thumbs, going all, ‘doh duh doh… Hey, I know!!! Let’s make wireless earbuds and call it a day!!!’
Yeah. I kind of doubt it. Let’s look at a couple of charts and stuff.
R&D spending – Apple’s spending on pure research has skyrocketed of late.
Hires & Acquisitions – Key skills and technologies show Apple is all-in on Augmented Reality (Mixed Reality)
Public comments – Tim has been pretty clear about Apple’s take on AR
Tim Cook during its quarterly earnings call in July: “We are high on AR for the long run, we think there’s great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity…. it will be huge.”
Tim Cook during a Q and A at the Utah Tech Tour at the end of October: “AR is going to take a while, because there are some really hard technology challenges there, but it will happen, it will happen in a big way, and we will wonder when it does, how we ever lived without it. Like we wonder how we lived without our phone today.”
So, what’s gonna happen?
Well, THERE’S the $120 Billion question right there, isn’t it? Here’s my guess, though:
Microsoft Hololens will be a huge success. It will make serious inroads in the business world. It is already deployed to sell kitchen interiors at Lowe’s, and will find a home in many, many vertical markets: Real estate, medical, education, vocational training, etc. They will price it accordingly, choosing high margins over broad consumer deployment. This will be a successful strategy, in keeping with Microsoft’s heritage. J.P. Gownder, an analyst at Forrester Research said that, “success would mean selling hundreds of thousands of units by the end of 2017 to businesses.”
The Google Pixel is touted as the first phone built from the ground up with VR/AR in mind. It has an excellent camera and integration with Google Assistant. By all accounts it’s a great phone. It is forecast to sell 4 million units in 2016. Let’s say they ship 5X as many in 2017. That’s 20 million. Facebook is projecting that they’ll sell about 2 million Oculus Rifts in 2017, and the HTC Vive headset is expected to have 100,000 sales racked up by the end of 2016.
The iPhone 7 launch was by most accounts a yawner. Incremental improvements at best. A gimmicky 2 lens camera that can fake narrow depth of field photos, no headphone jack, etc. “Apple has lost its way. They don’t innovate anymore!”
It sold 60 Million units in its first weekend.
Apple has a history of sitting on certain technologies until they can get it right. Given everything talked about here, it certainly seems plausible that the weird 2 lens camera on the iPhone 7 might be exactly the hardware required by the PrimeSense sensor to map a 3D space very accurately and in real time. Just maybe having wires involved in getting audio into the headphones required for binaural audio would wreck the user experience. Perhaps in this context, the move of MacBookPro’s to all USB-c connectivity is somehow a part of the equation. It just might be that the next gen iPhone will provide the drop dead simple and compelling user experience to finally take AR mainstream in a big way.
The next-gen iPhone is to Vive/Oculus as the iPod was to my Diamond Rio.
And with, lets say, 100 million of them deployed in the first year (with some sort of goggle that holds the phone perhaps?), developers will invent ways to make use of it that we can’t even imagine. And it would certainly make sense to make that kind of splash for a tenth anniversary release of the iPhone in 2017, wouldn’t it? Let’s just say I’m holding on to my Apple shares for now.
Microsoft will rule AR for business, and Apple will dominate AR (along with worthy competition from Google) among consumers.
It isn’t X-ray vision. It’s WAY cooler than that.