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.
Emily Steel, reporting for The New York Times:
Apple announced on Thursday that it was working with the entertainer Will.i.am and two veteran TV executives, Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens, on a new show that will spotlight the app economy.
"One of the things with the app store that was always great about it was the great ideas that people had to build things and create things,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, said in an interview.
A docu-series about apps sounds like something I'd binge watch.
Jason Snell and Stephen Hackett have taken a look back at the products that Apple has introduced at their Town Hall venue since the iPod in 2001. Timely, because today's Apple Keynote will also be held at Apple's Town Hall.
Located at 4 Infinite Loop on Apple’s main campus, the Town Hall conference center was probably designed more for in-company meetings than for major events covered by worldwide media. And yet on numerous occasions over the years, it’s been exactly that.
Monday’s event in Town Hall could very well be the last hurrah for the old 300-seat venue, given that Apple is constructing a 1,000-seat auditorium in its new campus, due to open next year. Before it goes, here’s a look back at key public events in Town Hall, starting in late 2001.
Be sure to watch the accompanying video from Stephen Hackett which features clips from the various Town Hall media events.
People who aren't journalists may not realize the neat trick Jobs pulled. Product announcements are basically press releases: They're publicity. They're arguably news, but they're boring news — and a cynical writer could view them as free PR for the company putting out the press release. Rewriting a press release is one of the lower forms of journalism.
Covering an Apple event didn't feel like that, and it still doesn't. It feels like an event, and when you're reporting on it, you're not rewriting a press release — you're covering something as it happens live, just as if you were in the White House briefing room during a presidential press conference. In the end, these Apple events are just product announcements — the brilliance is that the stagecraft makes them much more interesting to journalists and fans alike.
I've only ever been to one Apple event (coincidentally, where I also met Jason), and I couldn't agree more. It was a product announcement, but it felt like a surreal movie premiere full of nerds. I loved it.