Applesauce: All Things Apple – December 16, 2012
America wants a TV, Google FINALLY releases what everyone’s been clamoring for, and the rumor circuit finds a story that will inevitably become a reality. All this and more in this week’s issue of the Applesauce.
The Apple TV Rumors All Over Again
All it took was an interview with Brian Williams to get people talking about an Apple TV (or an iTV) once more. There are those out there, analysts, pundits, reporters, wild-guessers, what have you, that have not yet lost hope in an Apple TVs existence. However, the rumors had mostly died down to a dull roar once again after the iPad mini became the Crazy Rumor Turned True of 2012. And then, during an interview wherein he discussed making Macs in America and how he’s fared in his first year at Apple, Tim Cook said: “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years.” Bump, Set, and: “It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.”
We’ve known for over 5 years now that Apple has some sort of interest in a TV. Apple referred to it only as a “hobby” when they released the first Apple TV box in 2007. They really began to mess with our heads when they released the incredibly tiny hockey puck box in 2010, of course. There are some who still want an actual television unit, complete with a screen and hook-ups in the back.
Ah, but could Apple just release a more powerful puck, stay out of the dirty business of having to produce 42- to 50-inch screens, and bring their content to any living room with an HDMI port?
The Rumored Apple TV has split the Apple world into 3 camps: Those who believe in an actual TV unit, those who believe in an add-on, a set top box, and the atheists, those who don’t believe Apple will ever make anything more than what they have.
(These are becoming rarer, however. After all, Tim Cook has made comments like this before. It’s becoming clear that Apple will do something with TV at some point in the future.)
Those in the Actual TV camp were given a few more rumors to contemplate this week as analysts conducted some of their own surveys to measure the public’s possible reception to a new brushed aluminum (or LiquidMetal, if you’re into that kind of thing) television set. The next day, the Wall Street Journal issued a report which said Apple is working on prototype television sets and has asked some of their manufacturing partners to build some test units for them. According to analysts from AlphaWise and Morgan Stanley, 47% of Americans surveyed would be interested in buying a new Apple Television set.
A brief aside: In order to avoid confusion between the new thing Apple is rumored to be working on and the actual thing that exists, these analysts referred to the new thing as the “iTV.” Part of me wants to mock this name and ask if we as a public whole are entirely done with placing lowercase “i”s in front of everything Apple could or might do. On the other hand, they stuck with iPad in 2010, so…iTV probably wouldn’t come as a shock.
More importantly, these surveys found that many of those who said they’d be willing to buy an Apple TV said they’d even pay what’s known as the “Apple Tax,” that premium price associated with each of Apple’s products. Some of the younger participants in the survey even said they’d pay an even larger amount of Apple Tax if that meant getting the iTV in their homes more quickly. The next day, the Wall Street Journal issued a report claiming that Apple is in the testing phase of such a device. According to the WSJ’s sources, Hon Hai Precision and Sharp have been asked to begin building out some test units, presumably as an audition for these manufacturers as well as a way to test the units themselves. The Journal is careful to mention that Apple is still in the testing phase and as such, things are likely to change.
As it stands, this report doesn’t sound very much like news to me. Cook and Jobs have both made statements before about Apple’s interest in the TV market. Whether driven by the desire to innovate and revolutionize the market or by sheer profits, Apple has been eyeing this industry like an architect looks at a piece of new land. They’re very interested of course, but they absolutely must get it right. So, Apple is building out test units? Sounds about right, does it not? If at some point in the testing phase things go horribly awry or they decide they’d rather move their heaps of cash and influence elsewhere, they’re free to do so. After all, they haven’t made any promises about an upcoming TV, we’ve just been talking about it as if they have.
It’s this Go Slow approach to the way they release new products which has driven many an Apple fan to breathe an exasperated “Finally…” when Apple unveils their latest thing. Therefore, it’s ironic that this week many tech writers spoke about a Google product with the same, relieved “Finally…”
Google released their Maps app for iOS this week, opening the floodgates of the App Store and rocketing the app to the top of the Most Popular Free App charts in just under 7 hours. In fact, so many people rushed to the store upon its release, the app was briefly unavailable for many users, sparking a rumor that Apple had decided to pull it shortly after releasing it. (They didn’t.) The release of this app is yet another chapter in the ever unfolding story of Apple vs Google. It began when Google released the first Android phone in 2008 and many battles have since been fought on the iOS vs Android front. This year, Apple parted ways with YouTube and Google’s maps, which is where the entire maps storyline begins. Though it needn’t be dissected once more, it should suffice to say that Apple’s first attempt at Maps in iOS 6 fell flatly on its face. This caused many to cry out for what they once had, an Apple designed app with Google data. Of course, these people may not have honestly preferred Google’s data over Apple’s, but at least it was better and, more importantly, what they were used to. Google quickly became the hurt girlfriend in the scenario, the one who was kicked out on the street, left cold and lonely by Apple. Suddenly people began sticking up for Google’s maps, demanding for Apple to take them back or at least approve a Google-branded iOS app for maps. Google was in a position of power at this point and controlled the conversation.
They were oddly quiet.
Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt had a few words to say about it, however. Speaking with Reuters, Eric Schmidt said: “We think it would have been better if they had kept ours. But what do I know?” Later in this September interview, Schmidt said his company had not submitted a maps app to Apple yet and gave no indication as to when such an app would be available. Apple didn’t surprise Google when they launched the new Maps in iOS 6. Google knew this was going to happen for a while and yet, they seemed to have taken their time with this new app. Taking your time to make sure you get the product right is a good thing, of course. And so far, Google Maps seems very impressive. It fits in with their new clean, minimalist design and makes use of the wealth of data they collect from their millions of users. Yet, it seems as if they took a little too long to write this app, as if perhaps they didn’t get started until iOS 6 was actually released. There’s almost the feeling that Google was too excited about all the attention they were receiving that they forgot people were actually looking to them to provide a Maps alternative. The app is available for free in the store now for all to try and remember all those times Google’s Maps has gotten them lost in the past. After all, mapping is a tough business, and no one can get it perfect every time. However, while Google’s maps brings public transportation data— a very important feature— it also tends to get its location data wrong from time to time, just like anyone else’s maps. In my opinion, people weren’t missing Google when Apple released iOS 6, they were scared of change. Once news came that Apple’s maps weren’t perfect, it simply became easier to bash Apple’s new thing.
It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time, Gizmodo gets it right. This week’s iPad mini with Retina Screen rumor is not a rumor, it’s an inevitability. When it comes to tech news, few companies make for better headlines than Apple. It’s a double-edged sword that comes with the territory of making wildly successful products. For every line outside an Apple’s store’s door days before a product release, there’s an outlandish story or rumor posted in order to either drive traffic to a Web site or simply fill some dead air. And, as Brian Barrett pointed out, tech news is running scant right now, just weeks away from CES 2013.
As often happens, the often wrong DigiTimes posted a rumor about an upcoming Apple product which many Web sites linked to and discussed. This week’s big news from DigiTimes?
A Retina iPad mini.
Rene Ritchie of iMore has pointed out before that DigiTimes isn’t often wrong so much as they are incomplete, an important distinction. They have a tendency to get good information, but aren’t sure what the information means or how it pertains to Apple’s future plans. Yet, after Harry McCracken’s fine post about DigiTimes’ track record when it comes to Apple rumors, many writers (this one included) have been quick to take two steps back whenever they cover a story from DT. However, the claim that Apple plans to release a Retina’d iPad mini can’t really be labeled as a rumor. “Apple’s next-generation iPad mini will focus mostly on enhancing the device’s display resolution, according to Taiwan-based backlighting industry sources,” claims the DigiTimes report. There are certainly aspects about a Retina’d iPad mini to discuss and consider. However, these were all considered before the iPad mini became an actual thing. Issues such as price, thickness and weight are all likely to play a part in such a decision. As it stands, the iPad mini is an incredibly thin and light device. When held in your hand, the mini strikes a great balance between thinness and weight. As much as we might not like it, Apple must pay close attention to the way these things are priced. Furthermore, they’re locked into a 2 out of 3 scenario. They could make a mini with a Retina display at a low price, but it’d likely be thicker than they’d like. They could release a thinner device, but lack LTE and the Retina screen. What’s important to remember, however, is that technology continues to advance. If history has taught us anything, Apple will likely release a mini with a Retina screen.
It’s inevitable. They’ve done it with each of their iOS devices. The first two iPads shipped without Retina, the first 4 iPhones did as well. Granted, the Retina screen wasn’t a thing until 2010, but it’s likely Apple had been working to make these displays fit the entire package. Think about it; Apple doesn’t want to ship a Retina screen by itself: It has to fit the entire package. The device is what’s for sale, not its screen or its speed or its size. In the next two years, Apple will likely have found a way to implement new technology and tweak their mini recipe to deliver a Retina screen and still meet demands for a thin and low-ish priced device.
It’s kind of Apple’s thing. So, an iPad mini rumor? More like an iPad mini inevitability. (Parenthetically, could you imagine the headlines if Apple took the stage to release their third generation iPad mini without a Retina screen?)