Good analysis by Ben Bajarin, who sums up various discussions I've read in my Twitter timeline lately about the quality of Apple's services and the company's approach to not collecting lots of data:
However, getting useful and good behavioral data is essential for Apple to make better products and services and, more importantly, compete with those services down the road. I’d almost prefer that, instead of Apple’s stance being not only to collect as little data as necessary and also to universally anonymize that data, they would simply say, “Trust us with your data. We will keep it safe and secure and we will deliver you superior products and services because of it.” I could also be satisfied with a hybrid approach where, for the most security conscious customers, Apple gives them the option to keep the existing privacy protocol as well as their differential privacy techniques, but also allow others to opt-in to giving them more data so that things like Siri, News, Apple Music, etc., benefit from that data and thus, deliver those customers a much more personalized and useful service. With some of the recent changes in iOS 10.3, I feel they are getting closer to exactly this scenario.
Ben refers to iOS 10.3's upcoming iCloud data sharing option – a new (opt-in) setting to share iCloud-related data with Apple.
This is a complex problem: it's still too early to understand the impact of Differential Privacy, and I don't think Apple's services are inherently terrible; but I also agree with the premise that by not collecting data, other companies may capitalize on Apple's users in the future thanks to smarter services. I'd love to get more details on what Apple is working on for iCloud analytics.
Dan M., writing on Medium about the state of Apple as a pre-mortem:
It is not easy to evaluate a company I love as if they have failed. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on Apple products, and devoted countless hours studying, admiring and defending the company. However, I started noticing too many uncharacteristic cracks, and I realised turning a blind eye would not help Apple.
I don't agree with all of the assumptions and conclusions taken for granted in this piece. For all its problems (above all, a slow rollout of third-party domains), I wouldn't call Siri "souped-up Voice Control". I don't feel comfortable with any third-party narrative around Apple's leadership and internal conflicts inferred from the outside. And, I'm not sure rethinking watchOS and iOS around "contextual triggers" would be the best idea for the majority of customers who, unlike techies, just want to open their 5 most-used apps quickly. In general, it feels like there's a disconnect between some of the realities painted in this story and how I see people in real life use Apple devices and software.
But, there is also a lot I agree with: the Apple TV analysis is pretty much spot-on, and Dan raises solid questions about Apple's approach to services and how their privacy stance may prove problematic in the future. Besides personal opinions and experiences, this article outlines potential problems with today's Apple fairly, and it's worth reading and discussing.
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, a holiday dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of the civil rights leader. Last night, Apple CEO Tim Cook posted a tweet honoring King:
This morning, Apple has dedicated its homepage to a full-page image of Dr. King that includes the quote:
“Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
As we close the door on 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the year gone by and ask a panel of my peers who pay attention to Apple and related markets to take a moment and reflect on Apple’s performance in the past year.
This is the second year that I’ve presented a survey to a group of writers, editors, podcasters and developers. The survey was the same as last year’s. They were prompted with 11 different Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1 to 5, as well as optionally provide text commentary on their vote. I received 37 replies, with the average results as shown below.
I participated in this year's edition of the Six Colors Apple report card, which features average scores and answers on a variety of Apple topics. It's a good overview of where Apple stands today and where it could be going next.
Good collection of various criticisms surrounding Apple's performance in 2016 by Chuq Von Rospach. I don't agree with all of his points (such as 3D Touch), and most of the problems he mentions don't affect iOS users directly, but I understand where he's coming from, and I think Apple should improve in those areas – especially estimating ship dates and catering to pro users.
This year, Apple has exited the external display business and is rumored to be discontinuing its AirPort wireless routers.
These developments have left a bad taste in many users' mouths, but 2016 isn't the first time Apple has shuttered an entire product line.
By my count, there are five major categories of products or devices that Apple has abandoned over the years.
Many of Apple’s hardware products are built overseas, but that’s only part of the story. The New York Times takes a look at Apple’s impact on jobs in the United States, focusing special attention on Austin, Texas where Apple fills a seven-building complex of tech support specialists, microchip engineers, supply chain managers, and people who work in Apple Music, the App Store, and Maps:
Apple’s overall contribution to the American economy is significant. Beyond the 80,000 people it directly employs in the United States, it says 69 supplier facilities in 33 states manufacture parts that go into its products. Hundreds of thousands of software developers also write apps for iPhones and iPads.
Technical support call center employees earn around $30,000 per year, but the average in Austin is around $77,000. Asked by The New York Times whether it planned to expand operations in Austin, Apple said:
“Apple has created over two million jobs in the United States since the introduction of the iPhone nine years ago, including explosive growth in iOS developers, thousands of new supplier and manufacturing partners, and a 400 percent increase in our employee teams,” the company said in a statement. “We made the unique decision to keep and expand our contact centers for customers in the Americas in the United States, and Austin is home to many of those employees. We plan to continue to invest and grow across the U.S.”
Apple’s Austin offices have grown a lot over time, but don’t get much attention despite their size. The New York Times’ article is an interesting overview of the breadth of Apple’s impact on the US economy and peek inside Apple’s Texas offices.
Apple and Google, in the eyes of the general public and many tech bloggers, have been at war for many years, and in vague terms, both companies sell fancy mobile phones. But the implications of those businesses are so far beyond the face value of what we see. And what I’ve realized is that they aren’t zero-sum or mutually exclusive. What I’ve come to understand is that the more the two companies seem to have been battling, the more the individual directions of each company become unassailably concrete.
Different directions toward the same destination. But I would also add fundamentally different cultures and focus. This is what makes observing both companies so fun these days.
Great post by Horace Dediu on how to look at Apple's evolution over the next four decades:
My simple proposal is to think of Apple (and actually any company) as a customer creator. It creates and maintains customers. The more it creates, the more it prospers. The more customers it preserves the more it’s likely to persevere. This measure of performance for a company is not easy to obtain. It’s not a line item in any financial report.
The closest figure we have is that today Apple has one billion active devices in use. We’re not told of the total users or total customers because Apple cannot count people or wallets as accurately as it can count active devices. But as imperfect as it is, this number gives us a way to get close to counting customers.