Apple announced on Tuesday what the its leaking supply chain has been saying for weeks. There were no surprises, and this is a bad thing.
On the whole, leaks-made-good aside, Apple made some good business moves today. The 5C will be legitimate second-tier phone, the MacBook Air to the iPhone 5S’s MacBook Pro. Nobody really cares about that, though, except Apple brass, as they drive to expand the iPhone portfolio. The dividends from that investment will come down the road. Then there’s the announcement that the iPhone will now be sold in China, but again — ho-hum for a highly-anticipated keynote.
Hardware-wise, the upgrades were there in the new iPhone 5S – I like the motion sensor (hello contextual computing!), camera improvements, and new 64-bit CPU/GPU architecture – but these are unabashedly evolutionary. Sure, the fingerprint sensor on the 5S is nice, and it will open doors to killing passwords once and for all and enabling iBeacon stuff, but it’s not there yet, and it’s not across all iPhone models. Here, in its nascent stage, it’s a nice way to lock your phone without a passcode and reduce the crazy nuisance of entering your Apple ID all the time. That’s a real user experience improvement, as subtle as it may be.
But if I’m on Apple’s board, I’m asking where the new disruption is. I know they’d come back and say they’re creating innovative experiences for its customers, and that’s what differentiates the iPhone from other smartphones. And they’re right. But eventually, this well is going to dry up, and incremental iPhone upgrades every year aren’t going to cut it. And yes, admittedly, it’s getting nigh impossible for Cupertino to shock and awe us with a phone anymore. The market is too mature.
Nonetheless, Apple’s shareholders and hardcore fans are looking for it to transform another industry. They’re looking for it to introduce another iPhone or iPad, but for a brand new market. Say, for instance, a smart-camera that can serve as a legitimate second body to a pro camera. Or a smack-in-the-face disruption to cable and satellite TV companies.
Before every iPhone event, I wish to myself that all the leaked news and images are intentional leaks, and that Tim and company are going to show us something completely different, shoving the leaks right back down the throat of the all-too-permeable overseas supply chain. But it never happens. (Again: mature market, not a young, green-field disruptable market. But those are out there, right?)
The ‘doubling down on secrecy’ Apple is trying to accomplish is being undercut by its very own supply chain. Heck, the Apple blogging community knew about 95% of what Apple announced today four weeks ago. The only thing it didn’t seem to know is camera details, the 64-bitness of the new A7 CPU, and the M7 motion sensor.
Lest you think I’m piling on to what other blogs are saying, let me clarify: Apple’s announcements may be perceived as boring, but they’re boring like a fox, to completely slaughter metaphors. They’ll do well to kindle worldwide iPhone growth, give Apple a legitimate, premium iPhone (people get tired of buying yesterday’s news), and the quality of UX on the iPhone will remain second to none.
The question isn’t whether that’s good. The question is whether it’s enough. Shareholders haven’t been impressed, but then again, the street (a) always sells the news, and (b) rarely understands the long-term impact of Apple’s strategy.
Incidentally, the most exciting thing Apple talked about today? iOS 7, the new operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Available for free on September 18.
Have a good weekend, everyone.