By any measure, Wednesday’s keynote was a blockbuster, in the range of the announcements and the degree of product advancement. Here are my initial thoughts:
- The Hermés custom watch face increases the odds we’ll see third party faces in the next one or, at most, two years.
- New gold finish, available at the $349/99 Apple Watch Sport price point. Previously, the only gold-colored option was the (real gold) 18K Apple Watch Edition version, starting at $10,000. At $349/99, the new gold finish one will likely sell millions.
- On the question of “are there too many SKUs?” When SKUs demand a duplication of R&D, or add complexity to marketing or the point of sale, they’re usually not worth it. In this case, the underlying product (R&D) is the same. And, to-date, the marketing and point of sale presentation appear to be effective. So, any complexity risk (including on the supply chain side) appears worth it. These SKUs add the color/finish/material variety that a personal product requires in order to become mainstream quickly. I’m not saying that will happen, but variety, in this case, may help.
- I have little doubt that the product, the colors and bands, the distribution channels, and the marketing will drive high initial Apple Watch unit sales. The key issue, one where we might not have insight for several more months, remains sustained use: consumers continuing to use the Apple Watch, at the rate Apple would like.
- My recent slides explaining why the iPad needed to get bigger.
- Apple continues its recently-intensified pursuit of professional users. And remember, “professional” doesn’t just mean “corporate office/desk” – it includes creative pros, field workers, etc.
- Note how Apple won the hearts of consumers with the iPad, and is now ready to win the minds of businesses. Microsoft Surface essentially tried the reverse (in part to avoid challenging Apple head-on in the consumer market), but that approach hasn’t worked well.
- It was promising, seeing new, more powerful iPad apps (e.g., for more intense video editing or design). I love Apple’s line “[for] tasks you’d never consider doing on a PC”. Huge multi-touchable space + Apple Pencil = more post-PC possibilities than ever before.
- If you need the larger display, power, and stylus capability, the iPad Pro is worth the price delta over the iPad.
- Microsoft was definitely on the right track with Surface/keyboard/stylus. But iPad Pro execution may be better (display size & responsiveness, pencil precision and utility, focused OS, many form-factor-optimized apps, TouchID, and raw CPU and GPU power). Let’s see.
- About the stylus/pencil: it’s about precision cursor control; when a fingertip can’t be effective. And it’s optional.
- Absent: mouse support and a file explorer – both useful if you’re a pro. iOS 9 has cursor control but, likely due to time constraints, that wasn’t demonstrated. The iOS 9 cursor control appears to work best when iPad is flat, or at least at a shallow angle. When it’s at the angle intended for keyboard use, it’s not clear how useful it would be.
- By the way: this is the first instance of an iOS device charging another device (the Apple Pencil). More to come? (Imagine iPad charging the iPhone, if you’re in a pinch.)
- Apple’s iPad line-up is now fairly broad: iPad mini 2, iPad mini 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro. No doubt, the aim is to address as many consumers as possible, in terms of capability and price points. Will it make for a complex line-up, especially when consumers consider storage levels and price points? It’s possible.
- Apple continues to use the Apple SIM (soft SIM) in the iPads. The question is, will they come to the iPhone?
- Apple essentially embraced installment plan pricing. Phil Schiller: “The simple truth is, on an installment plan, any iPhone you want is pretty affordable”.
- When expressed in monthly installment terms, the price delta between an iPhone and other phones is fairly small. That’s why the (US) shift to installment pricing hasn’t hurt iPhone unit sales (and may actually have helped).
- Upgrade program: Appears to be US-only. For about $1 – $1.50 per day (depending on the model), consumers can upgrade their iPhone every 12 months.
- The upgrade program “isn’t tied to a single carrier” (link). Apple is taking control of more of the buying experience and consumer relationship. It’s not eliminating the need for carriers, but it’s reducing their influence.
- If a meaningful number of consumers sign up, this effectively shortens the iPhone upgrade cycle and also provides Apple with (trade-in) product that can reach lower price points (e.g. in emerging markets).
- Android OEMs would likely love to offer a similar upgrade program (think of it as HW-as-a-service). For upgrade plans to work, however, a company needs loyal customers – not just the *mechanics* of a program. Apple has loyalty. Many OEMs don’t. The root cause: undifferentiated products and poor marketing.
- 3D Touch: Reduces deep dives into apps. Allows for shallow “peek” inside app or fast “pop” into specific action inside the app. Between 3D Touch and related gestures, I’m interested to see how users adopt the UI updates. I’m hoping they’re not too complex. Reserving judgment.
- Exciting to see progress with Mx co-processor. M9 is low power efficient enough to enable “Hey, Siri” to work even when iPhone is unplugged.
- Co-processors (“sensor hubs”) are relatively new to mobile devices. They enable the sensors to operate in a low power way, while many of the remaining components idle to conserve power. In this case, the M9 is always listening for the trigger phrase “Hey Siri”, and when it hears it, it can power up additional parts of the iPhone to help it capture, relay, and respond to your request.
- “Hey, Siri” is now likely to get used 100X more, providing Apple and developers more insight. That should create a virtuous cycle: more use -> better functionality & better 3rd party app support -> more use.
- Live Photos: Genius. A very tasteful, straightforward, effortless way to increase the enjoyment you can get from a photo. And it’s the default mode. Very powerful. Some apps enable similar functionality. But who wants a separate app or a less certain format?
- Apple’s drive to gain Android “switchers” continues: it’s launching an Android app to entice and enable Android consumers to make the jump.
- No iPhone-5C-like model this year. Instead, the iPhone 5S is the lowest-price model. It also appears to be the last 4” iPhone. As I mentioned above, iPhones that are traded in as part of the upgrade program can now be re-sold at lower price points, reducing some of the need for an iPhone-5C-like model.
- Big leaps forward on every front: interface, device hardware, content, functionality, and developer access.
- It’s not a hobby any more. It’s a platform. Apple has been telegraphing this shift for years, yet no competitor has launched anything of this caliber.
- New OS and SDK: tvOS. Impacts of this are yet to be seen, and hold tremendous promise.
- Why? Because, as Apple says, “Apps are the future of television”. I believe it. Apps and games will expand the purpose and audience reach of Apple TV, and the time spent using it.
- Roku (nice company, nice products) pioneered apps and games, but Apple TV and the developers who’ll build for it have the ability to take things to a whole new level. Why? Combination of superior hardware, better OS/SDK, better developer base, and the ability to utilize iOS devices.
- To paraphrase a great Tweet by Zac Cichy:
“Xbox went from games to the TV. Apple TV is going the other way around.”
- Amazing combo UI: Siri voice control and touch.
- Universal search with ability to filter. (Congrats to Amazon for debuting universal search; they did little to market it, however.)
- Search results emphasize, in practice, content over source.
- Remains to be seen: How effective the UI is for apps like shopping. And whether people want to do that from their couch.
- Absent: any sort of channel bundle, for now. So why launch now? Here’s the answer, via a great Tweet by Joe Rosensteel:
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A box refresh is leverage for future OTT negotiations. US-only OTT concerns? Myopic.”