Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Major Feature for iOS 11 - Mouse Support

I'll get right to it.  There is no reason why Apple cannot provide mouse support on the iPad.  They can and they should.  It is certainly not an issue as far as trying to figure out the best US experience or the coding to support it.  It is likely Apple had mouse support for the iPad way, way, way back then but just decided that touch was what they wanted to go with.  It's likely that they've figured out the best way to implement a mouse on the iPad and even figured out the best and unique ways to use it.  And they just chose not to support it.

If I had to take a guess, it is an issue of philosphy.  Just like Apple will not support the Apple Pencil or touch on the Mac, it's the same as far as mouse support on the iPad.  After all, Apple is placing the iPad as  potential replacements for tens of millions of PC and Mac users, shouldn't they at least afford us some sort of a transitional UI experience?

Let's just say if that I can use a mouse with my iPad, I would be able infinitely more likely to use it as a productivity machine instead of using it only to satisfys my blood lust in Clash of Clans or blasting away aliens and zombies.  Sure, I'm using my iPad to do work.  But I have artificially limited to what I want to do with it.

Which brings me to this point.  Perhaps, Apple has seen data that shows how and what people are using the iPad for as far as work is concerned and having a mouse isn't necessary.  But it could be that others are also limiting themselves only types of work and apps that they can more easily use on the iPad becaue there is no mouse support.  And therefore, Apple's view on this issue is skewed. 

Then there is the issue of competition.  Both of Apple's major competitors in the mobile and PC markets, Google and Microsoft, both support more than one way for input - most glaring is that their OS support the mouse.  Forget the low-end of the mobile pool where Apple does not like to swim in but in the high-end, Microsoft has actually shown "courage" by coming out with a line of Surface products that are really a threat to Apple.  Sure, they're no Macs or iPads but they could be good enough for many of Apple's customers.  And yeah, they look nice too. (This is a jab at Apple's VP of marketing, Phil Schiller, who famously said it took courage for Apple to remove the traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack.  Apparently, many agree it was not really courage - Mashable, Techcrunch).

So, removing a 3.5 mm headphone jack doesn't really bring up courage in my mind but if it's simple philosophical stubbornness or bad data that has kept Apple from support the mouse on the iPad or the iOS devices in general, then perhaps, Apple could admit it and start supporting the mouse in iOS 11.  That would be kinda courageous.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tablets Equal Today's Netbooks?

For many years after Apple introdued the iPad, sales were increasing at a rate that eclipsed even some of the best selling smartphones during their early days.  It was thought that the PC market would die of a quick death after the failure of the netbooks and there was no answer from the PC guys for tablets like the Galaxy.  Microsoft's own misguided attempt with the Windows RT versions seemed to have put to bed the dominance of the Android and iOS in the tablet market.  Windows was in trouble as PC sales slowed.

Well, not so fast.  The PC market did continue to decline for years but lately has shown some resilience and growth in some market even as the general world-wide sale has dropped.  It was mainly due to Asus (Gartner).

However, it doesn't seem like people who stopped buying PCs are replacing them with tablets either.  Hence, this is likely why the smartphone market continue to experience robust sales with annual upgrades. 

Now, the question is whether the tablet market is experiencing a netbook effect, albeit at a much slower place and likely won't go away entirely.  Tablets today a much cheaper than when they first came out and with better mobile and touch experiences.  And they are generally used for consuming media.  So, it is not as if upgrading tablets annually or even every 2-3 years is absolutely necessary. 

One could look it it this way:  either tablets are built to last longer than most companies expect or that there generally has been a lack of innovation in that market.  For instance, there is no reason why tablets with bigger form factors should not have just as good as cameras as their smartphone counter parts.  Go ahead, just charge more for it, Apple and Samsung.  And while Apple spent the last couple of years playing catch up with the pencil support with the iPad Pro, there has not been any notable innovation in the Android market either.  If anything, it's the integration of Google Play into Chrome OS that is most exciting but that had been anticipated for years. (Google)

So, there is still a chance that the tablet market can return to some growth but expericene has shown that it'll be overshadowed by smartphones and possibly gears that support augmented reality or virtual reality (unless tablet markers find a way to support AR/VR) and a PC market that just won't go away.  Growth will could come but slowly and the prominence of tablets of yesteryear will never return.  But hey, what company does not want to sell a few tens of millions of tablet each year?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Apple Quarter Was Bad - Hope, Analysts, Dividends Prevent A Collapse

Apple reported an earning, that by most standards and even Apple standards, was very disappointing.  Let's face it.  Aside from a slight Mac surprise and expected declining iPad sales, the quarter did not meet street expection - iPhone sales fell short.  However, more disappointing is the fact that much of what happened could have been prevented and stock should be up instead of treading water on the red end of the pool.  In the days to come, only the promise of higher dividends will keep the stock from tanking further.

Aside from an anemic iPad launch talored to get iPad users to upgrade their iPad 2, 3rd/4th generation iPad, and the iPad Air, we have not seen any major product launch or upgrade since the iPhone 7/7S.  At this point, I'd even settle for an iPod refresh. 

This isn't to say that Apple is not doing anything at all.  It's likely the company priorities have shifted and the iPhone remains a major focus as it is what is bringing in the vast majoring of the profit.  Apple did tell its professional users that they're working on a new Mac Pro.  But they'll have to wait until 2018 - probably 2019 given how Apple like to let things slide a bit these last few years.

Going forward, Apple will continue to make a boat load of money quarter after quarter.  What is at risk is the brand image Apple has worked so hard to sustain and try to keep it at the forefront of legions of its own users and potential customers.  It is a brand to aspire for.  However, even now, I don't see the same enthusiasm for Apple products as I did before.  Since it can happen to an Apple fan, it should be worrying for Apple.  And more often than not these days, other blogs that I've come across has more posts questioning where Apple is headed if not outright critizing management and the pace of "innovation" from Cupertino.

To be fair, Apple is focusing on hardware but it's also taking the long view that while hardware is bringing in the cash, app, music, video services and newer products like the Apple Watch and Air Pods is where most of Apple's future growth is going to come from. 

Also, let's not forget the additional billions Apple is putting into R&D. 

So where are we with Apple?  Well, continue to except new products and services from Apple.  It's innovative juice has not stopped flowing but do expect delays and possible missteps though not quite as bad as the Mac Pro one and, most importantly, Tim Cook's Apple will dazzle us just as it did under Steve Jobs but not as frequent or flashy.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Apple Winning Premium Phone Market - Can Do Better

Pointing out the obvious, this BGR post points out that Apple is winning the premium segment of the phone market (still don't like calling it the phone market since most people do not use their iPhones or Android devices as phones anymore) - and the lead Apple has over Samsung (and not really anyone else has any meaningful share here) has increased.

It's likely that Apple can increase its lead even more with the next iPhone, no matter what Apple calls it, since it will likely have a new design and features.  What Samsung can do to slow down Apple's increasing lead in terms of percentage is make sure it has a flawly Galaxy 8 and Note 8 launch.  No more exploding phones - it's that simple (or not quite that simple). 

But Apple can really put this thing to bed if it answers Samsung's one unique feature in its premium device:  that the Note has a stylus.  Of course, Apple would never support the use of a stylus on the iPhone.  So, it can add Pencil support to the iPhone.  That may draw so much sales away from Notes that Samsung's mobile profit will shrink even more, perhaps to mere single digits.

According to Fortune, Apple took more than 102% of the mobile profit in the third quarter of 2016.  That is possible because Sasmung broke even because of the Note 7 disaster (not bad considering) while other mobile players in the market lost money.  It's unlike that this will happen again in 2017 and Samsung should be able to mount some sort of a comeback once its next generation flagship devices launch and ship.

A better comparision would be 2015 when Apple had 90% of the profit in the same third quarter while Samsung has more than 10%.  So, should Apple maintain its momentum, it could conceivably knock Samsung's 2017 profit share down to less than 10% even if there is a penned up demand for its Note 8.  Of course, Apple could make sure Samsung has less than an optimal quarter if the next iPhone Plus supports the Pencil.

Personally, I rather have picture-in-picture support for the next iPhone but I'll make due with Pencil support.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Touch Bar on Apple's Standalone Keyboard Will Take A While If It Ever Happens

Source: 9to5Mac

Almost immediately upon learning about the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro, the next thought that occurred to me was when Apple will bring it to their standalone keyboard.

I've left it on the table for a bit and allowed it to simmer for a few days. With Halloween on the horizon, I didn't think about it until I read the above post from 9to5Mac which they showed a rendering of what an Apple Touch Bar keyboard will look like.

I'm not sure if Apple brings the Touch Bar to the external keyboard, it would be just a simple strip like what we see on the MacBook Pro. If you believe that is all Apple will do, then don't expect it to happen this way. First of all, the jury is still out for me on the Touch Bar. I'm not a professional. I'm just a regular Mac user like the most of you. It's too early to see just how useful it will be outside of Apple's reality distortion field and video and photo cutting rooms. Being able to access emoji quickly is cool but not a deal maker for most.

I get the feeling Apple has a larger design for touch input for both Macs and iOS devices in the near future. And Touch Bar 1.0 implementation on the new MacBook Pro is Apple's way to learn how people will use it. It's much like the Apple Watch. People were excited but mostly curious of the Apple Watch and it's potential. And from WatchOS 1 to 2, Apple made a number of changes. And it was not until watchOS 3 that we are beginning to see greater potentials in the Apple Watch.

I reckon it will be the same with the Touch Bar. Apple will learn from how users are interacting with it. Then there will be changes and new features added with each new macOS update. It sure makes it easier to implement updates given they the Touch Bar runs on its own processor and OS. By version 2 or 3, we'll be able to see where Apple is going with it. And Apple may even bring what it has learned from the Touch Bar to the iOS devices, Apple Watch, and, yes, Apple TV. And who knows, the Apple car too?

Features aside, there is also the hardware question. It will not be simply stripping out the top row of function keys and adding the Touch Bar. There will be new designs that best work for the users. There will be a need for a bigger battery to accommodate the strip and its LED display. And what about including Touch ID?

So, expect a long wait for the Touch Bar ever comes to Apple's standalone keyboard if it ever comes at all. But when it does, it will be fantastic and very different from the current Touch Bar implementation.