Same song and dance? First all the negative predictions and then….
In the 80s and 90s there was an almost unanimous consensus that Apple was inferior to Microsoft and that Bill Gates was a genius for choosing to forgo building hardware and creating an empire on selling operating system software and a suite of office applications.
The choice and steadfast refusal by Steve Jobs to change the basic idea that Apple would build and back all aspects of the product and experience has, practically to this day, been seen as, at best, short sighted.
Ironically, the current wave of products for 2019: iPhone 11 Pro and Max, the Mac Pro with Pro Display XDR, the new MacBook Pros and Air and new iPads, AirPods Pro (still more to come) are all getting “better than expected” reviews and sales (at least the products that are available to date).
Although this is not an usual pattern. Like a blockbuster movie (Lion King?), as often as the negative reviews come flooding in, so the performance of the actual product shines in virtually inverse proportion to the dire predictions of the pundits and “experts”.
But this year, for Apple, it goes beyond that knee-jerk pattern. This year the chickens have truly come home to roost.
At this very moment millions are upgrading to iOS 13+ (don’t worry, the bugs will be ironed out soon enough) and next we will see iPad OS and Mac OS Catalina.
Just because these are all “free” upgrades, don’t be fooled by the price. The beauty of a complete ecosystem is that the benefits of one entity within the system (such as system software) accrue in great measure to all others.
And this year the interdependent innovations are nothing short of spectacular. Just take any individual device, service or function and the accelerated improvement virtually explodes in your face.
Buy another iPhone? Is that really necessary? Only for a better camera?
The iPhone 11 Pro? “Just” has a great camera? Really? Well yes, it’s 3 cameras, 3 lenses and looks like a TV news camera from the 60s. But it is the combination of the evolution of the processing software, the “deep fusion”, machine learning within the photos app, also interwoven through iCloud and proprietary internal components, that make features like that unbelievable night mode possible, and make it possible to shoot 60fps 4K videos with all three cameras simultaneously (wait, say that again?) and all of this is just the tip of an iceberg that can only be rendered if you happen to be the company that also designs and builds its own chips (A13 Bionic with neural engine).
But wait, that is just the headline, under the hood, all of these improvements and upgrades are echoed and mirrored in every apple produced stand-alone software application, every third party developer product quick enough to ride the waves that the new system and processor makes possible, every app, every add-on all the interconnected functionality, on and on and on.
The buyers sense value – not just window dressing and hyped up bells and whistles but a complete ecosystem that was always better but now threatens to evolve at a pace that will be as mind-blowing as the original iPhone was just 12 years ago.
Because it’s the sum of the entire system – a “feature” that can not be marketed or even listed on a stat sheet – that is the most powerful force that will draw in users and surprise the nay-sayers again and again.
All across the device galaxy the upgrades are more than incremental, they are transcendental
Take the iPad – particularly the iPad Pro, Not only will it take a quantum leap forward with added iPad OS features that push it into laptop-like functionality, but all the lame comparisons with the Surface are completely meaningless once you factor in the “Sidecar” function within Mac OS Catalina, not to mention the constantly evolving interconnected software (example: Photoshop and Affinity Photo both now on iPad). Sidecar allows the iPad to be used as an external, extra screen, or, if you have a recent Mac, for example a MacBook Pro or an iMac or a Mac Mini, and you are within 10 meters of it, you can use a mouse or Apple Pencil and you, literally, have a tiny mac in the form of an iPad Laptop.
So, in essence, you have a mostly iPad touch system device with all the special uses that implies, and yet, with iPad OS you also have the option to use it as a touch screen Laptop or, using Sidecar, you can switch to an actual Mac with all the associated functions and capabilities. And, yes, did I mention that if you already have an iPad and a Mac this has a cost of $0 for the double upgrade?
During the coming months features of this type (benefits of the eco-system) will expand and improve and, yes, next year there will be yet another quantum leap. I am writing this on an iPad Pro from 2015 and it has improved in functionality constantly for the last 4 years, and that’s before this huge step forward coming in the next 30 days. Added cost, zero. A product that improves for years after you buy it for free? Only Tesla is even attempting to match such a business ethos.
Hardware, Chips and Components, Software, Services, Os’s All Evolving in Concert
It will take a series of articles to go into any kind of depth at all regarding how the machine learning and AI within the Apple ecosystem is evolving with amazing speed, how the various hardware design improvements are being optimized for just those uses. How a system which not only has constantly upgraded operating systems, but a growing and deepening array or application software (also “free”) all benefitting from each other.
What this all adds up to is “just” better performance, functionality and expanded feature sets (as well as entirely new capabilities) across the entire constellation of devices, applications and services. Buy any part, piece or product and you are pulled into a vortex of virtuous and redundant improvements, which obliterate cost comparisons. Could this be the reason the most expensive iPhone is, once again, leading in sales volume? Why are people buying an iPhone 11 Pro Max with 256 GB? Why, indeed.
So, the genius idea to charge people every year or two for another bug filled monstrosity of an operating system is truly genius if you only care about money for nothing (hello windows and android universe).
If, on the other hand, you care about improved user experience, satisfaction and productivity, and have the increased creative and technological capabilities of the new cyborg army (that is the new human race) as job 1, well, to paraphrase a certain former President, it’s the eco-system, stupid.
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