There’s an argument that Apple is losing its touch and might be on a slow decline. From a financial perspective, that’s a hard argument to make, but from a product standpoint, it’s another discussion for another day.
Regardless of one’s sentiment toward Apple, there’s no question, they are a very clever bunch in Cupertino. Using this week’s WWDC address as an example, Apple made several interesting announcements including the introduction of new and original hardware, the HomePod.
HomePod was very cleverly positioned. Apple was expected to take the path of least resistance and position this as their answer to Amazon’s Alexa. With their market clout and distribution channels (read: Apple stores) it would have been a sensible approach. But the company, whose moniker has been “Think Different,” decided to take a different route altogether. Rather than market it as Alexa-like, i.e. a kind of digital nervous system for the home, they decided to focus on its main point of differentiation – sound quality – and positioned it first and foremost as a music device. A simple, but brilliant, nuance. They are clearly playing their own game, not Amazon’s.
And in the process, they take on not one but two competitors, the other being Sonos (as a side note, I would not at all be surprised to see Amazon acquire Sonos in the not so distant future).
Price-point wise I also think they nailed it – come in slightly, but not egregiously more than Alexa and substantially less than Sonos. Trust me, they are going to sell a LOT of these devices come the holidays. This presumes of course, that the sound quality really is as good as it’s being billed. My guess is that they recognize this and that HomePod sound quality will actually exceed expectations.
The other interesting element of the keynote was the introduction of a new 10.8” iPad, which is being positioned as a laptop-replacement, business device. In fact, if you carefully analyze the new features of iOS11, it becomes clear that this updated version of iOS is more focused on the iPad than the iPhone, which is also a first from Apple.
I have been trying an experiment of sorts myself this past year: I have been traveling solely with my iPad Pro 9.8” instead of my MacBook. One year into this experiment, I would rate it as “passable” but with some not so small frustrations that make me long for my MacBook after two or three days.
The introduction of a new file app (which works with third-party storage systems like Box and Dropbox), the ability to truly multi-task apps as well as deeper integration of Apple Pencil really solve these problems and convince me that the iPad is finally ready for prime time as a business device. In fact, I suspect that we’re not too far away from the part when you see business travelers and commuters using iPads with the same frequency as laptops for work-related tasks.
All in all, I think this was a very interesting WWDC and I personally can’t wait until all of these new products and software upgrades are rolled out in the fall.