Apple's annual developer conference is underway in San Francisco. Yesterday's opening keynote was the best since before cofounder Steve Jobs' death nearly 5 years ago. While pundits poo-poo what's missing (shiny gadgets), new and improved software and services matter more—and they showcase priorities properly placed.
CEO Tim Cook kicked off the event, by asking attendees to stand and offer a moment of silence for the mass murder victims the previous day in Orlando, Fla. Forty-nine people are confirmed dead and as many hospitalized from the nightclub shooting. He then went on to lay out a clear agenda for the keynote and the conference—four platforms: iOS 10, macOS "Sierra" (formerly OS X), tvOS 10, and watchOS 3.
Timing is everything, particularly in business marketing tactics. Surely it's no coincidence that hours before Apple's big developer conference, where questions about iPhone's future and product innovation loom large, that Microsoft announces plans to buy social network LinkedIn. Hehe, how do you like them apples?
The merger will split tech news and analysis coverage this fine Monday and spill over to tomorrow, robbing Apple of the attention it needs now to subdue rising negative perceptions about the future. Global smartphone sales are slowing and iPhone accounts for 65 percent of total revenues. Meanwhile, the fruit-logo company hasn't perceptually lifted the innovation meter since before cofounder Steve Jobs died nearly five years ago. Apple needs to deliver wow and have bloggers and reporters giggle with glee all over the InterWebs.
My oldest Internet ID, three letters, is vintage 1996. Yahoo's impending demise, which could be to Verizon, almost certainly will mark the end of our long relationship. We mutually will abandon one another. I'm sorry that it comes to this.
Yahoo sealed its fate when cutting the deal to outsource search to Microsoft during summer 2009. The disaster I predicted then will soon end the iconic brand, what little remains of it. Many people will blame CEO Marissa Mayer, but she was but steward of the sinking ship. Doom was a certainty after Yahoo surrendered crown jewel search. That the company limped along for another 7 years is testimony to the brand and to the services infrastructure built around it.
Washington Post reporter Hayley Tsukayama asks, following up on a commentary by software developer Marco Arment: "Is Apple really at the risk of becoming BlackBerry?". The answer absolutely is No. But the concept is right. The fruit-logo company's dire straight is much more profoundly catastrophic. The risk is becoming Nokia, and the path to that destination is already well-trodden.
Arment calls BlackBerry "king of smartphones", referring to its market position before Apple released iPhone nine years ago in June. The description is apt enough. "BlackBerry’s success came to an end not because RIM started releasing worse smartphones, but because the new job of the smartphone shifted almost entirely outside of their capabilities, and it was too late to catch up", he asserts. But smartphones were a niche category in 2007, so insignificant that analyst firms lumped the devices together with PDAs. iPhone's disruption was far, far greater—Nokia lost its perennial global handset lead; for many of the reasons Arment identifies. Nokia, and not BlackBerry, is the metaphor, and it is frighteningly foreshadowing.
Answer: Your kids. Chromebook leads laptop and desktop sales through U.S. commercial channels to schools, according to NPD. Education is overwhelmingly the primary market for the computers. The institutions can't buy enough of the thangs, for their utility and low-cost compared to notebooks running either OS X or Windows. That cost is as much about extended webapps and services from Google (or its developer partners), available for free or comparatively next-to-nothing, set against software for the other platforms.
Wrinkle in the Google firmament: iPhone and Chromebook are like water and dirt. The sediment settles unless shaken up. Sure youngsters can do all their Googly things—Docs, Gmail, Maps, Photos, YouTube, etc. -- on iOS but the experience is smoother and more homogenous when mixed Android and Chrome OS. What the kiddies lack, and their educators, is a swath of useful apps like the Apple kids get.
Fifteen years ago today, the first Apple Store opened at Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. I was there, covering the event for CNET News. Four days earlier, then CEO Steve Jobs briefed journalists—bloggers, bwahaha, no—across the way at upper-scale Tysons Galleria. Most of us thought his scheme was kind of nuts, as did analysts, and news stories reflected the sentiment. Recession gripped the country and rival Gateway was in process of shuttering more than 400 retail shops. Timing was madness.
But companies that take big risks during economic downturns are most likely to reap rewards later. Retail would be Apple's third walk across the tightrope during 2001. The others: iTunes (January); OS X (March); iPod (October). I've said before that these four are foundation for all the company's successes that followed, including iPhone. But 15 years ago, battling the Wintel duopoly with less than 2 percent global PC market share, Jobs figuratively walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon carrying original Macintoshes in each arm.
Depending on the day, Apple or Alphabet is the world's most valuable company as measured by market cap, and both manage the two dominant computing platforms used anywhere: iOS/OS X and Android/Chrome OS, respectively. As I write, Alphabet-subsidiary Google holds its annual developer conference. Apple's event starts June 13.
During the opening keynote, Google CEO Sundar Pichai frames the conference and the company's direction by rightly focusing on two fundamentally future-forward concepts: Voice and context. Google gets what Apple likely won't present to its developers, and we'll know next month. But based on product priority to date, the fruit-logo company is unlikely to match its rival's commitment to the next user interface.
Can we dispense with the 'Apple is dead' meme -- other CEOs would lose a limb to have a bad quarter like this
Listening to Apple's fiscal second quarter 2016 earnings conference call yesterday was like attending a funeral—where the eulogy is for someone whom you know has gone to Hell. There's no way to sugarcoat that the good days are over and an eternity of burning flesh awaits. I kid you not. Haul over to iTunes and download the replay. You'll feel the grim reaper looking over your shoulder while CEO Tim Cook talks as joyfully about Apple's performance as a man granted last words before the gallows.
And I wonder why? So what that Apple reported its first revenue decline in 13 years, or that iPhone sales fell for the first time ever, or that Q3 guidance is a few billion short of Wall Street consensus? This friggin' company still mints money, and that ain't changing anytime soon. Revenue reached $50.6 billion—more than Alphabet and Microsoft combined, with $9.8 billion to spare. Apple's $10.5 billion net income exceeds that of both companies. Oh, and iPhone generated more revenue ($32.86 billion) than either competitor's total sales. Apple ended the quarter with a $232 billion cash horde. And we get a wake, not a celebration?
The spotlight shines on the world's most-valuable company this fine Tuesday, as Apple revealed results for fiscal second quarter 2016. Wall Street expected the first revenue growth decline in more than a decade and iPhone's first-ever sales retraction . Is the sky finally falling? Eh, not yet. But the sun slowly sets over the vast smartphone empire.
Ahead of today's earnings announcement, Wall Street consensus put revenue down 10.4 percent year over year to $51.97 billion, with earnings per share down 14.2 percent to $2. Apple actual: $50.557 billion sales, $10.5 billion net income, and $1.90 EPS. Three months ago, the company told the Street to expect between $50 billion and $53 billion in sales. You read the numbers correctly: Apple uncharacteristically missed the Street's targets and came in on the low end of its own guidance.
Earlier this week, Apple finally updated its svelte laptop that launched 13-months ago. I am awe-struck by the company's design-audacity—not for brash innovation but bumbling compromises that make me wonder who needs this thing. The 12-inch MacBook offers much, wth respect to thinness, lightness, and typing experience (the keyboard is clever tech). But baffling is the decision to keep the crappy 480p webcam. These days, not late-1990s state-of-art, 720p is the least a pricey computer should come with, and is it too much to ask for 1080p or 4K when modern smartphones can shoot just that?
This shortcoming, and two others, glares because the little laptop otherwise offers so much, for its size. Thickness is 13.1mm, while weight is 2.03 pounds (.92 kilograms). The 12-inch IPS display delvers 2304 x 1440 resolution at 226 pixels per inch. This thing is tiny: 28.05 by 19.65 centimeters (11.04 by 7.74 inches). Apple's redesigned keyboard provides surprising travel, given the keys' shallowness. By these measures, MacBook is a great carry-along.
Once again, as it has done in the past, Google makes the classic monopolist defense for its competitive—or anticompetitive, depending on perspective—behavior with respect to Android. Today, the European Union's Competition Commission formerly charged Alphabet and its major subsidiary, which has 12 weeks to provide satisfactory legal response before the Commission issues corrective sanctions.
Simply stated, the EC finds that the company abused its dominant position, in part by contracts compelling Android licensees to preload Google apps and related services, including search. Microsoft ran into similar bundling headaches starting in the late 1990s with respect to Windows. Responding today, Kent Walker, Google general counsel, claims that licensees and consumers can choose to install third-party apps. Microsoft made like-claims during its antitrust defense here and in Europe; they fell flat.
Dog years is too slow a measurement when it comes to the Internet, which pace maturing makes Moore's Law look like a skeleton sitting at a feast (it's too feeble a metric). Case in point: Google Chrome 50 officially releases this fine Wednesday, which is a long way from its late-2007 alpha. Whew, where did the years go?
Now before you quibble about who's how old when, let's clarify. By my math, and an official blog post, Chrome turned 50 one week ago. Maybe none of us noticed. I write this the afternoon before Big G rolls out the birthday cake, and Chrome was v49 when I checked but updated to 50. Perhaps this is a push comes to shove thing: Pushing the official day a week later when automatic update shoves the new version out to most users.
The more I use Apple's smaller Pro tablet, the less likely I am to reach for the larger one. I have tested the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch tabs side-by-side since March 31st—and the bigger one is my primary PC (most days). Unquestionably, the behemoth is capable of replacing a laptop, as Apple CEO Tim Cook asserts. The smaller-size model is a fine notebook companion, and certainly can substitute sometimes. But more than two weeks using this surprisingly satisfying kit, I can't yet (and may never) recommend it as your next PC.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which screen measures like all its forebears, falls into a category I griped about in September 2015: Apple products without purpose—or none that's easily obvious to majority of shoppers. Don't misunderstand. The technology under the hood is quite innovative, and I really, really, really enjoy using this tablet. But I'm not most people, and looking at the broader consumer marketplace, I see the device as being more for the few than appealing to the many; that is until the next release cycle, when current prices decrease. Now, putting aside these caveats, 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the device I most often grab first. Many of the benefits have purpose that is subtle. The question: Are they good enough for you?
If you're headed to London, or live there, the Rolling Stones have a new exhibit (opened last week) at the Saatchi Gallery. Exhibitionism will be there until early September. After which, the gala moves on to 11 other cities, including New York and Paris. Adults can expect to pay £22 (more than US $30, depending on exchange rate that day). VIP tix are £60.
The memorabilia-filled exhibit is meant to be a nostalgic look at the iconic, aging rock band, which youngest member is (cough, cough) 66. But Exhibitionism is as much about selling collectibles, one of which I can't resist calling attention to: "special edition" MH40 headphones. I reviewed the standard set, which sound exactly the same, on March 29th.
April 3, 2016 marks the first day that I truly could use Apple's over-sized tablet to replace my laptop. But I had to spend another $84, before California tax, to do it. Gadget reviewers who say that iPad Pro cannot be your computer are wrong. The apps, performance, and utility are there. Anyone creating content should consider this device as compliment to, or replacement for, an existing PC. The problem with 12.9-inch iPad Pro isn't what it can do but how much it costs to assemble what you need. This kit is far from budget-friendly, which also can be said of Microsoft's competing Surface Pro 4.
I started my iPad Pro sojourn on Groundhog Day, planning to use the device as my primary PC for 30 days. The objective: Apple CEO Tim Cook says the big-ass tablet can replace a personal computer, I want to see if he is right. The experiment isn't my first journey like this. I tried something similar during summer 2011 with one of the first Chromebooks. The path was a dead end. But Spring 2012, when new commercial models released, I started down the path again and never looked back. Google's Chromebook Pixel LS was my main computer before adopting the iPad lifestyle.