OPINION

The Pain of an Apple Enthusiast: When Will I Be Wowed?

Apple is firing on all cylinders. The company is excelling in so manyways, it’s hard to keep track of it all. It’s building an amazing new”spaceship” headquarters. It’s building solar farms to power its datacenters. It’s cleaning up its supply chain, both environmentally andthrough better labor practices.

Apple produces the best-selling MacBookAir and MacBook Pro with Retina display, which have helped to increaseits PC market share in 32 of the last 33 quarters, despite generally lackluster U.S. and global economies.

The iPhone is holding strong market share numbers and is vastly moreprofitable than any other handset. Same goes for the iPad, which saw abit of a sales slip — but who can call selling 16.4 million tablets ina quarter a disappointment and keep a straight face? That’s just plainsilly.

But Wait… There’s More

Apple has invested in sapphire glass, which seems crazy tough. Last year, itunveiled the 64-bit A7 processor, surprising everyone andcatching the competition napping. It has forged relationships with morethan two dozen car manufacturers to introduce CarPlay, a new methodfor letting manufacturers deliver cars and third-party audio systemswork with iOS and iPhones.

The company is poised to do the same with HealthKit, working with themedical field to transform patient treatment. For the home, there’s HomeKit, aframework that lets third-parties play in Apple’s world make it easyfor mere humans to get into home automation and connected appliances.

Apple will roll out Mac OS X Yosemite along with iOS 8, both of whichoffer dozens of welcome improvements. Better still, they offer arationale for their existence — iOS runs tablets and iPhones, while OSX runs a powerful PC — and both seamlessly connect their userswith documents and experiences. Continuity. Working together.

An iPad doesn’t have to be all things to be worthy of existing. AMacBook doesn’t have to do tablet stuff well. It’s a vision of productand usage that makes sense, even if some consumers still pine for onedevice to support their lives.

The iPhone 6 is about to be released, and demand is high — what Appleenthusiast doubts that it will sell like crazy? None. It will selllike no iPhone that ever came before. Ah, the virtues of a happycustomer base and a craving for a bigger, 4.7-inch in screen.

Profits are high. WWDC delivered a more open, developer-friendlyApple, complete with a new programming language to make appdevelopment easier, faster — and presumably, more profitable. iCloud.Apple is working on diversity.

Apple Retail Stores have a new leaderwho will put a fresh stamp on glass and presentation. IBM might sell alot of iPads for Apple, boosting its enterprise play with little effort and zero risk. A genius business move.

Apple bought Beats,possibly securing hope for amazing music services amid a changingworld for years to come.

Everywhere you look, Apple is striding forward, improving, evolving.

And Yet, and Yet… Is Something Missing?

I think I’m a reasonable Apple enthusiast — maybe a little morecritical than most — and I’m always pleased to see Apple bust out anastounding new quarter of sales and profits, to hear Apple CEO TimCook tell idiots to get out of the stock, to show Apple enthusiaststhat our precious iPhones and MacBooks and Apple TVs will continue toevolve.

This is a company that is firing on all cylinders.That is insanely competent. Yet it is just doing all the things thatany company that rakes in US$170 billion or so a year ought to be ableto do.

OK, didn’t Apple take a leap of faith to see if sapphire glasswould work? You bet your ass — but why the heck not? What company has the ability tomake this happen at this sort of scale? Apple.

HomeKit. HealthKit.CarPlay. These are all cool initiatives — but mind-blowing? No way.Will they make our lives better, more fun, possibly more healthy?Definitely. Totally cool. But mind-blowing? No way.

They are really good, really profitable, really cool — but they are all, at their heart, just natural extensions of a company using its assets in smart ways.

What I’m backing into is this: Even though as a die-hard Apple enthusiast,I’m more excited than ever for this year’s fall lineup of evolutionaryawesomeness, I’m desperate for something surprising. Ready forsomething that inspires a “wow.”

I don’t want to see a home run. I want to see a game-winning grand slam.

Enter the iWatch

In all likelihood, Apple’s chance to cause people’s jaws to dropopen, to trigger a palm-to-forehead slapof dumbfounded amazement, to elicit a low wow, will come with the iWatch. Or iTime. Or some new name.

The anticipation has been years in the making — a long, slow frenzy ofrumor and hope. A smartwatch, a smartband, a device that already has been invented and found lacking… but remains somehow tantalizing.I want to want a watch. I want to use a smartband.

But it has to be amazing. It has to look and feelfantastic. It has to work. It has to tap into something primal, with a bitof fashion and the belief of need.

Perhaps Apple can introduce something no one has even suspected,something that is a new real product and not a component, not a tweak– something that is both hardware and software and design andpatently Apple.

So the iWatch is it. The iWatch is a product that hasthe potential to show Apple still has its mojo, that Apple issomething more than a global company of astounding competence.

I don’t envy Tim Cook or Apple. The better you are, the more peopleexpect. The higher the stakes.

What are the stakes? They’re not tangible. With so many incremental improvements hitting the market this fall, Apple is all but guaranteed to knock out a couplemore gangbuster quarters.

If a slimmer MacBook Air based on Intel’sBroadwell fanless processors manages to hit in late 2014, great. Ifnot, it’ll just boost early 2015 sales. For Apple, a company ofextreme competence, a razor-thin MacBook Air with a Retina displayisn’t exactly new, is it?

Will I want an iWatch?

That’s what it comes down to. The iWatch. Can Apple speak to somethingprimal in us? I know I’d like to be a watch guy, but thepracticality of a smartphone kills the need and some of the desire tobother with a watch. Can Apple spark irrational product lust onceagain?

If you’re an Apple enthusiast like me, that’s what you really want toknow — and what you want to see, come September.

TechNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com. You can also connect with him on Google+.

6 Comments

  • I remember when the Mac first came out and what I thought of it.

    I remember when the iPod came out.

    The same goes for the iPhone and iPad.

    I think that we are in era that I call "Perfection of Design".

    All of the Items that that Apple has come out with since the Macintosh are in that category.

    If you look at most products there history shows gradual and incremental change not radical change and the companies that prosper are those that truly put features into the product that people feel or believe they want or need.

    They can WOW people because they have seen the poor designs that others have come out with, and continue to, and contrast them with the well thought out designs that Apple produces.

    Apple doesn’t just look at a segment of a market and say to itself "How can we make something just enough better to sell more then the other guy, but how can we truly make this product something that the public wants to have and feels they need to have because it is SO MUCH BETTER".

  • "I want to want a watch. I want to use a smart band."

    As the Rolling Stones sang: "You can’t always get what you want… but you get what you need."

    Apple doesn’t necessarily produce products that we want, but they usually seem to make products that we didn’t know we needed… until Apple produced them.

    And Apple doesn’t enter an existing product category until they know that they can offer something different and innovative.

    Some examples:

    We didn’t know we needed (or were able to master using) a personal computer, until the Apple II was introduced.

    We didn’t know we needed a personal computer with a graphic interface and mouse, until the Mac was introduced.

    We didn’t know we needed a smartphone that could do a lot more than other smartphones, until the iPhone was introduced.

    We didn’t know we needed a tablet that used multi-touch, until the iPad was introduced.

    It is very likely that if Apple does produce a smartwatch, it will not be what we imagined and wanted, but one that we need.

  • "I want to see a unicorn, and I want it to have a rainbow mane and diamond hooves."

    How about more useful desires, like for Apple to continue to lead in all facets of usability and performance? You surely aren’t really lusting for a watch!? I don’t think there is any quality you could give a watch that would get me to wear one again.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

E-Commerce Times Channels