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June 16, 2012

Jun 16, 12 June 16, 2012

So, what have we learned this week?

We’ve learned that Apple still has it, releasing some impressive updates to their MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines, not to mention the beautiful, unrepairable MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

We’ve learned Apple hasn’t been resting on their laurels, as they announced some updates and improvements to their Mac OS X and iOS platforms.

Predictions before WWDC were a dime a dozen, and while some of them did end up to contain some shreds of truth, some of the finer details were largely unknown. For instance, we had heard Apple would be announcing 2 new apps at WWDC. Maps was pretty much a given, but Passbook (which should be an ultimate game-changer) was a complete shock to us.

Even the addition of Siri into Maps was surprise enough. It was predicted the new Maps would have turn-by-turn, but how many of us actually knew Siri would be baked in and able to tell us where the closest gas station on our route is, all for free?

Speaking of Siri, we also learned that she’s become a beautiful flower, ready to take on some new challenges.

Over all, we’ve learned that Apple has more than come into their own, they’ve hit their stride.

When the iPhone first arrived, they admitted to delaying Leopard (or Mac OS X 10.5) so they could focus all their energy on their smartphone. This year, Apple was able to announce and demo both their latest wildcat in Mountain Lion AND their newest iteration of iOS.

Apple users only stand to benefit now that Apple has finally galloped comfortably into their gait. It’s only Apple’s competitors that need to worry. Apple is a huge beast, after all, taking over new worlds and being powered by record sales and profits.

As Apple goes, so go their customers, which is why this year’s WWDC was as much about announcing new products as it was a final warning to several companies and industries. Apple’s reached their pace, and if you aren’t ready to get on board, you run the risk of being run over.

“I feel good I feel great. I feel wonderful.”

When rumors first began to fly about Apple ditching Google’s mapping service, there were some who began to look upon the search behemoth with eyes of pity. “But, they have hundreds of millions of users!” they’d gasp. “What will Google do?”

Google is a big company, a company who makes much of their money in search related ads. Sure, no one is going to pass up easy money when it comes their way, but Apple’s shift towards their own mapping solution will likely only account for 2% of Google’s total revenue, according to Gene Munster. Besides, Apple would be completely foolish not to allow Google to sell their version of maps in the App Store. Those who want to use Google maps can. And those who want to use Google search will still be able to do so in Safari’s search bar.

That, my friends, is what Google calls “the Gold Mine.” (Ok, so I’ve never been to the Googleplex, but I’m sure there’s some mucky-muck who’s referred to it thusly.)

So if Apple’s Maps aren’t going to hurt Google, who will they hurt? Certainly not TomTom, who sheepishly announced a partnership with the Cupertino company earlier this week. GPS makers may not have been shaking in their seats when Apple announced their new Siri-voiced turn-by-turn solution, but their shareholders were, and that, in turn, caused one company in particular to leap into action and try to keep everyone from jumping ship.

Now, Apple cannot be solely blamed for driving the GPS industry away. If anything, Google could be placed more at fault, as their Android has been offering free turn-by-turn for years. Apple may just be the last million straws on the breaking back of the industry. So, when Tim Cook walked off stage after Monday’s Keynote and TomTom confirmed their partnership the next day, it seems some in the market decided to pull their money from Harman, maker of luxury infotainment systems, and invest it in TomTom.

Reuters reported shares of Harman had begun to drop by 10% on Wednesday while shares of TomTom started to climb. Leaping to right the ship, Dinesh Paliwal, Chief Executive of Harman, issued a statement, making sure to let everyone know Apple is their friends, not their enemy. After all, Harman deals more in the high-end market, luxury cars and what not.

“A car has a seven-year life cycle while a phone lasts for 14 months or 18 months, so no car would integrate a complete phone-based application,” said Paliwal.

He then went on to point out that they’ve been working with Apple for more than 2 years to integrate the iPhone into their existing systems. In fact, Paliwal said they’ll be releasing the first “Eyes Free” system for BMW later this year. So no need to be worried, guys! Don’t leave us, keep your money here!

Paliwal does make a good point: Luxury car buyers will always want these kind of touch-screen, integrated “infotainment” systems. (I love the fact that they call them “Infotainment” systems. Sounds so QVC!) I have to wonder if the luxury market is growing, shrinking, or is stagnant. These luxury car buyers may be able to sustain Harman for a while, but if Apple AND Android (who will probably be the only two competitors in the smartphone races for the next several years) are offering free navigation systems which are not bolted and glued to the car, the middle market could be overwhelmed.

So, yes, become good friends with Apple, but maybe reach down a bit to us common-folk to ensure your sustainability, eh?

“I sail! I’m a sailor! Ahoy!”

As common folk, we often enjoy any moment we can pretend as if we aren’t so common. That’s why we sometimes buy things we can’t afford or use those coupon services which get us a night’s stay at a fancy hotel for the cost of the local Motel 6.

One way to make us really feel like royalty is to be able to pay by waving our phones in front of a black device or, better yet, just entering our passwords. For all the bragging Apple did on their new app, Passbook, they also left so many questions unanswered, and by leaving them unanswered, it’s pretty obvious what Apple plans to do with it. Change the world. Have you ever tried the Apple Store App? If you haven’t, I’ll give you an hour or two to run to your closest store and give it a shot. I’ll wait.

It’s revolutionary, really. Apple has always been “weird” in the sense that there’s no real check-out line in their stores. When you’re ready to buy anything from an iPod Sock to a 27″ iMac, you only need to find a blue shirt and ask them to zip your card through their modified iPod Touch POS. It’s magic.

With the Apple Store app, you can purchase any of the small ticket items (anything on the walls or shelves, really) just by snapping a picture of the bar code and entering in your Apple ID password. Boom. You can walk out of that place feeling like a badass who just stole from The Man while still being able to get some sleep at night with a clean conscience.

I know you – You’re a good person.

In all of Tim Cook’s numerical brags on Monday, one stood out as a little out of place: 400 million iTunes accounts.

He was likely trying impress the developers by saying “Your market is THIS BIIIIIG!” but it came across to me as “When we pull the lever on this thing, we will be unstoppable.”

Think about it. Tim Cook has 400 million credit cards at his disposal. Those of us with Apple IDs (anyone with an iPad or iPhone, for sure) already trust Apple to handle 1-click style payments. Anytime we find that long lost album on iTunes and click “buy,” we confirm to Apple that we like doing business that way. Our passwords are our payment.

Now, imagine if you will, in a not-too-distant future, going to buy coffee at your local Starbucks. You walk in, iPhone in your pocket, and place your order. The lovely barista behind the counter confirms your Joe, then asks for your ID. You give it to the barista, they tap a button, and BOOM. Your account has been charged. By using geofencing and location data, the Starbucks system knows you’re in the building. (A system like this already works for Square users.) The barista will be able to see a list of all users in the building and tap the appropriate name. Simply enter your password while you are waiting for your extra whipped cream and caramel to be applied.

Google has been trying to get some traction in the eWallet space as well. Their Google Wallet offering works similarly to how Apple demoed Passbook: A digital wallet containing your cards, passes, and tickets.

As it stands, Passbook will bring up your digital Starbucks card when you enter the coffee shop, making buying your coffee as easy as having your phone scanned. But if they implemented NFC in addition to their own eWallet solution, the results could be outstanding.

And who stands to be run over by Apple at that point? Google, for one.

If Apple can sign more deals and actually have a set group of retailers ready to implement these systems and run with it out of the gate, Google won’t be able to catch up.

Sadly, popular online payment business Square might also be run asunder by this announcement. You’ve probably seen Square around: Many small businesses in the hip parts of town are using Square with iPad to complete payment. You can even buy a Square device at the Apple store with your Apple Store app. Now, how’s that for appropriate?

“Death Therapy”

Normally, the last bite of Applesauce is “rumor” flavored. However, we’ve just come out of the second rumor season of the year. So, rather than yank the spoon from your hands prematurely, we thought it’d be appropriate to spill a little out on the curb for our dead homies, Ping and the 17-inch MacBook Pro.

Yes, like Steve Jobs to the late Newton and the clones before him, Cook has taken it upon himself to put the gun to that which is no longer worth their time. After all, the 17-inch MBP was heavy as all get out, and if Apple is going to run this marathon efficiently, they need to get rid of any deadweight.

And Ping? Well, Ping was mostly an eyesore, an embarrassing rash on an otherwise toned and fit body.

Throughout its entire life, the 17-incher was more than the choice of those who had something to compensate for, it was the only option for those Pro users who needed an extra boost of performance from their portables. Apple always put the most RAM, the fastest processors, and best graphics in these monstrosities. However, as more people joined the Mac family, they looked away from these whoppers, deciding they could do with a lesser machine if it meant not having back surgery in 10 years.

Those sturdy Pros who preferred the Bertha of the Mac line worried that if Apple were to “Trim the Fat,” as it were, it’d be a sign that they planned to leave all of their Pro users in the cold, with only their girth to keep them warm. The MacBook Pro with Retina Display is the perfect compromise, (no matter how unrepairable it is) offering these users the high-powered ports they require as well as the speed they’ve come to rely on. Not only that, but they can now also take advantage of that beautiful, beautiful display.

There is one caveat, however: Now that these brick-toting Pros will be (presumably) switching to the 4.46 pound MBP RD, there is a real concern for safety. It’s likely there will be a short period of adjustment while these Pros get used to carrying around such light and portable muscle. As such, it’s recommended these users lift with care, lest they end up launching their laptops into the stratosphere.

And finally, it’s time to lay Ping to rest. Even if the service did launch with Facebook integration when it was first announced, it’s unlikely it would have fared any differently. The idea sounded great on paper.

I take that back.

The most elementary explanation of Ping sounded great on paper. After all, who doesn’t want to share music with their friends? Once it got past this point, however, things kind of took a hard turn towards the cliff, didn’t they? Sharing music is fine, but calling on users to act as unpaid salespeople for iTunes seemed a little daft, especially since iTunes has been doing well for all these years without our constantly pitching it to our friends. Artists never really grabbed a hold of the service and those that did just forwarded their tweets to Ping.

What I hated about the service is I no longer had a dark corner wherein to purchase all of my guilty pleasure music. Sure, I could have just turned off my account, but that solution sounded much too easy. In the time I had Ping, I got more texts than I care to mention from my friends asking me why I just bought “Butterfly” by Mariah Carrey or “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” by Shania Twain. After all, I have a reputation to uphold!

So, farewell, back breaking laptop and crummy social service, and be sure to send Jobs our best when you meet him in the great Apple campus in the sky.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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