Apple’s recent announcements of Apple News+, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and Apple Card all compete with multiple, existing, well-run, well-accepted ‘open-source’ businesses. Apple is banking that some, if not all its billion sheep, sorry users enter deeper into its walled garden to be shorn.
Apple is entitled to set up competitive, even non-competitive services to prop-up, sorry supplement, its death spiraling hardware business (sorry iPhone, Mac, MacBook, iPad…). Apple iPhone sales were down 15% in October to December 2018 in what should have been a bumper holiday sales season, but only the privileged few could afford the iPhone XS/Max. In fact, its sales performance here is the worst holiday quarter in a decade.
So rather than get the Apple boffins to channel Steve Jobs and produce some revolutionary new, must have hardware – more on that later – it took the easy path. It is shearing – exploiting – its loyal sheep – user base – by setting up me-too services Apple News+, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and Apple Card that they could already get elsewhere. It’s even allowing other brands like Samsung and LG to offer their services – shock, horror.
There is only one winner here – Apple.
Let’s look at the positives first. Apple has been touting
its privacy matters mantra. If it upholds this, and Apple users don’t get bombarded
with Apple, or its partner’s offers then that is great. Frankly, its
competitors are in part financed by ad sales and information exploitation, but that is the model we choose to pay
reasonable monthly subscriptions. What will Apple charge without that revenue
stream or will it too succumb?
Next, it does not take
a lot of effort for Apple’s infrastructure
to adapt to the subscription service model. iTunes has been doing that for
years. Add video content, games, magazines – easy
and scalable up, and down! There is nothing new here so instead of announcing
iTunes+ it takes three bites at the publicity
Apple’s audience has traditionally been a higher socio-economic
group that can afford the eye-watering prices or make tax-deductible business
lease costs to defray the same. One would
imagine that the content it offers will favour that group – less reality TV, more
thinking person’s content and exclusive Apple walled garden content that
pirates will find hard to copy and distribute. Why the latter – all Apple
content is on approved Apple devices, and
they are locked-down, copy-protected tighter
than a fish’s sphincter.
Let’s look at the losers
Anyone that cannot afford Apple devices will not see Apple
content – the digital divide starts here. At least with Netflix et al. you can see it on almost any device and
later on free-to-air or Freeview.
Content producers may salivate at the 1 billion users and
see them as a huge new market. But, in reality
they are already well serviced. Apple is not creating a new market – just stealing someone
else’s slice of the content pie.
Some users may sign up to access exclusive Apple content. Apple hopes so as its fee is rumoured to be 30% of revenue. As iOS (in total) has around 13% versus Android at 87% global market share I suspect content producers will regret the exclusive content lock in – the digital divide widens.
I do not believe Netflix, and
other streaming companies are even mildly panicking. While Apple may have some
exclusive content, Netflix et al. have huge
catalogues and a lot longer pedigree in providing the service. Ask an Apple user
which company comes to the top of mind
for streaming – Netflix. I suspect that even if they use the Apple services, these may not be sticky enough to
hold them over other open source offerings that run on any computing device. Apple
cannot stop these services on its devices for fear of the penalty of
Wherefore art thou, Apple hardware innovations?
It did not surprise me that Huawei knocked Apple off its perch as number two in smartphone sales.
The devices that did that are last year’s P20/Pro and Mate20/Pro as well as
Samsung’s Galaxy S/+/Note9.
This year’s Huawei and Samsung offerings are even more spectacular. Cameras that can see your nose hair, in the dark at 10, 50 and 500 paces; 15W wireless and 9W reverse charging; 15W ultra-fast or more wall charging; DeX and Android desktops over a USB-C cable; expandable memory; amazing screens. Need I go on?
Oh, and foldables and 5G this year too (Apple will not enter this market until everyone else has made the mistakes). All the excitement and innovation is right there, right now. Apple, you technological marvel and inventor of the iPhone a decade ago – wherefore art thou?
At the same time, Huawei’s
Nova and Samsung’s Galaxy A and J series are capturing the hearts with flow-down
tech from last year’s flagships. You can get a damned good smartphone for under
$500 – and let’s add Motorola, Nokia and OPPO in that mix too. No wonder
Android has 87% of the market share. Apple where is your VW – a phone for the masses?
Windows devices are verging on amazing too. MacBooks – meh!
The scantily leather-clad HP Spectre, Lenovo’s wonder 4K Yoga, ASUS’s sexy ZenBooks, Samsung/ASUS/Lenovo Windows on ARM, and Dells amazing product and distribution system. Windows is now nearly 90% of the ‘desktop’ market and macOS at around 9%.
So, what do we get from Apple? Refreshed MacBooks and iMacs with 8th generation Intel Core processors that everyone else has been using for the past year and are moving onwards and upwards to the 9th generation.
And then the AirPod 2 – it has an optional Qi charging case
now. Be still, my beating heart.
Oh, and I nearly forgot – the crappy Apple MacBook KeyBoardGate and the StageLightGate screen denials. If you are a MacBook owner take cold comfort in the official Apple response, “The company is aware of a ‘small number of users’ whose butterfly keyboards/screen were having issues, and that it was sorry for the problems.”
Well, iFixit says its when,
not if your MacBook keyboard breaks down –
ditto for StageLight. Apple MacBook users
rightly feel betrayed – it’s like trying to sell a used car
with a faulty Takata airbag.
I could go on, but I would then be accused of Apple bashing.
Let’s just put this into perspective from a seasoned journalist’s perspective. On Tuesday I received four press releases from four different local Apple PR employees covering AirPod 2, Apple TV+, Apple News+ and Apple Arcade. Total word count was 3,451. After I pulled out the hyperbole, unsubstantiated claims and self-serving statements we covered everything readers needed to know in 383 words! Do the math.