Thursday, April 23, 2015

State of Apple April 2015

The pundits and counter-pundits are working on Apple big time.  I believe in Apple's bright financial future at this moment.  Why?  Below I summarize, prognosticate, I express my opinion.


  1. Computers:
    • The Apple Macbook Air 13" and Apple Macbook Pro 13" are both high performance powerhouses that have had important internals updated.
      • The newer faster storage is, for some, an easing of a pain point.
      • The force-touch trackpad is a welcome technology update.  Those who like Apple's work with additional gestures welcome another gesture - force touch.
    • The Apple Macbook 12" is new, interesting, something folks are talking about and trying out, and reminds many of the first Macbook Air.  It is very much different than other products on the market.  While I do not want one now, I foresee that there could be one in my future at some point:
      • A new standard in portability
      • Thinner and lighter
      • Somehow fitting in a retina display
      • Minuscule power use
      • Also with the force-touch trackpad
      • Colors to go with other devices such as iPhone and iPad
      • With a new thinner keyboard that some love, some do not like
      • With no more magsafe power, but with only one physical port (aside from a jack for headphones) - the USB-C port.  No one seems to know how to usefully use this port, yet, for anything other than power.
      • Battery life is not the best.  Some call it a netbook.  The port situation is not what many want - they want magsafe, and ports they can readily use, or more ports than just the one.  There will, however, be a group of users who buy and love the features.  If you don't want it, don't buy it.  I will not be among buyers this round, but this kind of feature diversity is great.  I do not at all equate this system with a netbook, or even the underpowered original macbook air.
  2. Apple Watch:
    • I am not getting one, at least not at this time.  However, I think Apple is operating in a very smart way to push farther into fashion than they already were with their well designed sleek devices.  I want sleep tracking, and I can get that with other devices if I so choose.  
    • There are already watch bands in the wild from Apple that are not for sale.  There will be more watch bands from Apple, and more from competitors.  This accessory market will be large and could more than double Apple's sales value from the product.
    • I still strongly believe Apple will "frequently" update Apple watch with new designs.  There will be Apple Watch 2015, and Apple Watch 2016 (or 2017).  Some will buy for design updates, and some will collect.  All of this will make people happy and make Apple money.  There will also be new bands at all price ranges.
  3. Other product updates coming:
    • Apple TV - I am waiting to see an app store and a newer better experience with all the crazy channels avaialble.
    • iPod - a touch based on updated internals would be welcome, including force touch
    • iMac - 8K
    • Mac Pro - for real pro users, this is getting long in the tooth.  The CPU line at least is aging.  Update the CPUs, put in newer faster memory, and put in the newer faster flash storage too.
    • iPhone/iPad - Force touch should be coming...
  4. iCloud, iTunes, and Apple Pay
    • People have barely started to use the Photos app for mac, and thus have barely started to use iCloud storage.  This could be an area of reasonable growth for Apple.
    • iTunes - if we could store more media that we own in the cloud, it could be another revolution - I'm talking about audiobooks and movies not purchased from Apple.  If iTunes content could all just be in the cloud, the world would be a different place.
    • Apple Pay - it does keep on rolling out and getting expanded use.   Plans are starting to come together for some international use as well.
  5. Other stuff - "kits" and OS X
    • HealthKit and ResearchKit - we have barely started to scratch the surface with what these can do for us.
    • HomeKit - I still cannot control the temperature of my house with my Apple TV - this has barely started to be used as well.
    • CarPlay - pretty much all car manufacturers have announced that support will be coming.
    • OS X advantages
      • It remains, contrary to some comments, more secure than most OSs.
      • Vastly easier for backup and recovery, as well as for migration to a new machine.
      • Integration with hardware, enabling software like Safari to be extremely power efficient.
      • Continuity - I like texting from my computer.
  6. The doing good thing:
    • Apple keeps up doing more for preventing environmental damage.  Apple just bought a forest.  This is to offset paper usage, and the plan is for sustainable management.
    • Apple continues to eliminate chemicals someone deems harmful from its products - in the last year, this included beryllium.  This would likely be to make workplaces that previously used beryllium safer.
    • Apple bought solar energy for domestic energy offsets and use for the next 25 years for nearly $1B.  Apple says they are using 100% renewable energy for all domestic uses, including their data centers.
    • Apple works hard to be non-discriminatory.  Apple admits to needing to do more for women and minorities and pledged $50 million to the effort.
Apple has expanded its product lines.  It has given people new ways and reasons to use its products and use multiple products together (for example, Apple Pay and Continuity).  It now has a fashion-forward accessory line (Apple Watch) for those who want it.  And Apple is doing a better job than any other large company to be a good corporate citizen - one that is an example for the rest.  Apple has its problems, but making money is not going to be one of them.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Summary and Thoughts on the Apple Spring Forward Announcement 3/9/15


Other announcements:
  • Moving to 40 stores in China
  • Apple Pay
    • Triple the participants since the last announcement
    • Vending machines are starting to take Apple Pay
  • CarPlay - more...
  • HomeKit - more...
  • ResearchKit: NEW
    • For Medical Research
    • Lets researchers work with many people in many places, who have information and apps to work with (iPhones and perhaps Apple Watch)
    • Open Source - to encourage involvement and adoption (and possible future cross platform involvement?)
    • Enabling two-way communication, integration with Health Kit
    • Apps:
      • mPower - Parkinson's research with the University of Rochester
      • GlucoSuccess - Massachusetts General
      • MyHeart Counts - Stanford Medicine and the University of Oxford
      • Asthma Health - Mount Sinai Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College
      • Share The Journey - Breast Cancer research with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, UCLA School of Public Health, Penn Medicine, and Sage Bionetworks


Product announcements:
  • Apple TV - price down to $69 (from $99) but otherwise unchanged
  • HBO Now - HBO streaming, without cable - $14.99/mo available starting in April, exclusive to Apple.
  • Macbook 12"
    • 2 lbs!
    • 13.1mm thick at the thickest point (down from 17.1mm for macbook air)
    • New keyboard
      • Edge to edge of the laptop
      • with all new stable butterfly mechanism with shorter travel
      • led per key
      • thinner
    • 12" retina display - 2304x1440 - thinnest ever
    • trackpad - force touch trackpad
      • force sensors
      • taptic engine (instead of clicks, feedback)
      • new force click gesture
    • TIny new logic board - no fan!
      • 5 watts!  max 1.3Ghz new-generation Intel
    • USB-C (USB 3 speed)
    • Starts at $1299
    • Silver, Space Grey, Gold
  • Updated Macbook Air
    • Updated CPUs
    • Thunderbolt 2
    • 13" has double-speed flash storage
  • Updated 13" Macbook Pro
    • force-touch trackpad
    • double-speed flash storage
    • updated CPUs
    • more battery life
  • Apple Watch - what is new news?
    • We now know prices - smaller is cheaper, larger is more expensive
      • Apple Watch Sport - $349 for 38mm and $50 more for 42mm
      • Apple Watch - $549- $1049 for 38mm, and $50 more for 42mm
      • Apple Watch Edition - $10,000-$17,000 (prices different not necessarily by size)
      • So the total range is $349-$17,000
    • Pre-order on 4/10/15
    • Arriving 4/24/15
    • Apple communicated anew and in a more focused way about the 3 areas of value and focus for use:
      • Time keeping
        • Select different faces
        • Not sure I saw something new
      • Communication
        • Can do the Dick Tracy thing and answer calls on your wrist
        • Listen to music with bluetooth headphones, without your iPhone
        • Any notification on your iPhone can make it to your watch
        • Nice Uber integration app
      • Fitness
        • Great but I'm not sure I saw something new
    • Rumors and/or facts after the fact:
      • 9to5Mac says that, "
        Apple Watch includes 8 GB of storage, allows 2 GB of music and 75 MB of photo"
      • Apple Insider says that the Apple Watch is rated to the IPX7 standard, which means, "the Apple Watch will be able to withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes" - good for a shower, but not a swim, they say.
      • TechCrunch says the Apple Watch battery is replaceable, and may have a roughly 3 year lifespan.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Apple's attempt to do good

Apple has made pledges and commitments in many areas.
I knew Tim Cook had pledged support for working conditions.  I did not know Jeff Williams had expressed support so strongly.  2014 Techcrunch Apple BBC response - Mr. Williams made the statement that if Apple stops using problematic tin sources, other companies will just snap up the sources and nothing will change.  It takes conviction to take a harder road, take the heat, and change things and stay involved.

For me this rings very true to how Apple operates.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Some thoughts on Apple Watch and expected profitability

I'm thinking about what I'm hearing about Apple, Apple Watch, and fashion.  Apple has the people and product to get into and stay profitably in fashion, and the strategy to protect and enhance the brand.

HBR had an article in October: Apple: Luxury Brand or Mass Marketer?  Cult of Mac had one just a couple of days ago: Why Apple Watch will wrap up luxury market in China.  What I am hearing and reading is that people are saving up to buy Apple products.  Apple sales are not fitting historical stereotypes for consumer electronics, and thus the idea that Apple must make a cheaper product at this time has been proven wrong.

We also know that Apple has hired many fashion executives - from my blog post last September, What is going on with Apple hires and acquihires in 2014? I see that Apple hired:

  • Angela Ahrendts - former CEO of Burberry
  • Paul Devenve - former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent
  • Catherine Monier - former European President, head of retail, Yves Saint Laurent
  • Patrick Pruniaux - former VP Sales, Tag Heuer
  • Marc Newson - famed designer
Apple is clearly pushing into fashion.

On thoughts of price and revenues...  At $350 to start, it takes nearly 3 million to bring in 1 billion.  It has been rumored (at Apple Insider) that the high end gold model could be priced at $5,000.  Only 200,000 units would bring in 1 billion at that price.  Apple has proven time and again that they can manufacture, deliver, and sell mass quantities of product.  To my way of thinking, $1B+ of sales the first year is well within the realm of possibility.  I also suspect that the profit margin on the Apple Watch may be higher than Apple's general product.  If it were to be, say, 50%, then that would mean another $0.5B+ of profits.  It might not be a massive profit-changer for a profitability juggernaut like Apple, but it is certainly substantial in an absolute sense.

Some people who have disposable income will buy an expensive model as a gift for someone.  Apple makes attractive watch bands and some people will buy two or three, and they can also be expensive.  With a fashion product, Apple will adjust the look over time both of the watch and of the bands.  People may collect Apple Watch, and various watch bands.  Complete-ist collectors will attempt to have one of each band and watch; there are some of them out there.  I can imagine that one or more may make the news some time after Apple Watch is rolled out.

Assuming Apple Watch makes it into fashion stores, Apple brand exposure and value should increase nicely.  You can also bet that any such stores will support Apple Pay.

I have an original black Starbucks card.  People have greatly surprised me by oooh-ing over it many times.  "I had never seen one of those before." is something I hear.  That is something that will be happening years from now with Apple Watch.

There are some folks, as in an article last September in John Gruber's Daring Fireball, thinking about the upgradeability of the electronic components inside Apple Watch.  If indeed this were to be made possible, I think it is quite clear that Apple's product would be in a category all its own pretty much across the history of electronics.

Now about what Apple Watch is for besides fashion:

  • Notifications and communications - don't even pull out your phone.  Intimately communicate with taptic feedback
  • Apple Pay - even simpler to use than an iPhone 6 or 6+!  Not even a finger scan is needed.
  • Health monitoring - It will be with you even when you leave your iPhone somewhere, so step tracking will be better.  Heart rate monitoring is already available with other products, but not with other fashionable products, and some that are out (fitbit) are intentionally not compatible with Apple HealthKit.
  • Other apps - Siri and Maps, again to keep your iPhone in your pocket.
Is this enough?  What will 3rd party applications bring?  We will have to wait until it is released to see.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Daniel Eran Dilger on fire at the start of 2015

Daniel Eran Dilger wrote 18 articles for Apple Insider in January, 2015, presented Apple Insider's first podcast, and was featured on The Tech Night Owl LIVE.  He is on fire!  He're hoping he keeps it up.


January, 2015:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why I still like and use OS X with a passion

I am reading some posts from folks who feel quality problems with OS X are forcing them to leave OS X or have great concerns about it:
  • http://wozniak.ca/why-i-quit-os-x
  • http://www.marco.org/2015/01/04/apple-lost-functional-high-ground
While I agree that there are some important bugs, I want to point out how I feel Apple is looking out for its users. 

It reminds me of a discussion of being poor vs rich vs being alive long ago (as a king).  Forgive what is likely to be a not-so-short digression on living long ago vs now:
  • Food: Maybe kings could get spices, food, nutrition, variety, and have a fairly continuous food supply, but not most other people.  Famines were not uncommon.  Spices were for the wealthy.  Sailors got scurvy.  This is not so much like the lives of most of us today.
  • Facilities:  Kings did not have what are common facilities today: refrigerators, microwave ovens, hot/cold indoor plumbing with safe drinking water, indoor bathrooms, heater/air conditioning
  • Health: Medicine 200 years ago was something like leeches and prayers compared to now.  We have vaccines, antibiotics, and a whole system.  Live expectancy was vastly less than it is now, even for kings.
We quickly forget what we did not have not so long ago.  We often stop appreciating what we do have.

For me, OS X is an amazing environment to work in.  This experience is not completely separable from the hardware.
  • I can do my work from a Macbook Air - a tiny portable computer.  Never before the Macbook Air could I use a tiny portable for all of my work; previous machines had not enough compute power or RAM.
  • Apple's work in OS X to save battery life and save RAM is something we should celebrate more.  Compressed memory, the ability to see applications taking battery life, the creation of modes that allow applications to be efficient, and rewriting Apple's apps to use that efficiency are amazing!
  • The security focus and capabilities in OS X are also amazing.  Apple's focus on sandboxing goes beyond other vendors in most cases.  Safari not even running some plugins without permission saves power and keeps things more secure.  Apple is also making judicious security patches that do not take 1+ hours to deploy (ahem - Microsoft).  I have never had malware running on my machine to my knowledge, and I have never had another mac user that I know relay to me that they have had such a problem.  I did have malware of many kinds affect my use of Microsoft over the years.
  • Continuity and handoff - Apple has made the experience of using my other devices with OS X so much more usable.
    • Text Messages:  I had already used messages on my computer in place of typing on my iPhone much of the time.  Does anyone think about text messaging before iPhone?  So many people just used feature phones and the old phone keypad before iPhone, but even those with smartphones before iPhone had a vastly inferior experience.  This just takes it to a much more usable place!
    • Phone calls - I just use my computer instead of pulling out my iPhone.  It is handy.  Or, I can refuse a call and send a text reply.  This is amazing during meetings.
    • Airdrop between OS X and iOS has been really helpful in many instances for me.  iCloud will take that to an even better place as I do not have to even copy files; they are just there.
    • Even before these new features, having my bookmarks reliably sync'ed to my desktop and iPhone was great and helpful!
There are many other things, written about many time by many people, about how great OS X is.  I just think it is worth remembering to be happy about what amazing progress and innovative technology we do get to use every single day.