Apple Inc. was in the news on Wednesday at its Hey Siri event was held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium ins San Francisco. Apple CEO, Tim Cook unveiled two new iPhones (iPhone 6S and 6S Plus), he displayed a newer Apple TV, a bigger iPad (iPad Pro), Apple Watch, and the Apple Pencil. An interesting point though, is that Apple did not unveil a single product that the market has not seen before.
Apple fans will agree that Apple has never really unveiled a “new” product even when the iconic Steve Jobs was at the helm. During Steve Job’s era, there was the iPod, but it wasn’t the first mp3 player in the world. There came the iPhone, but it wasn’t the first smartphone either. What Steve Job’s Apple was good at was to take a mundane product, rethink it, and turn it into something infinitesimally better than you could have imagined. In essence, Steve Job’s Apple perfected the art of imitation.
However, Apple’s September 9 event failed at the art of rethinking old products, because there was nothing new on display that day. This piece seeks to explore how practically all the new products that Apple unveiled on September 9 have been previously debuted by other tech firms.
iPad Pro (Microsoft was here before)
One of the highlights of Apple’s event was the unveiling of the iPad Pro –a 12.9-inch version of the iPad. This device is simply a replica of Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet – not just because it was unceremoniously named iPad Pro to mimic Surface Pro. Apple added a Snap-On keyboard accessory that doubles as a cover – Microsoft did that more than a year ago. In fact, Microsoft’s pitch for its Surface Pro touts it as “the tablet that can replace your laptop”.
Interestingly, Microsoft’s Surface Tablet has been dusting Apple’s iPad in the tablet space in the last couple of quarters. iPad sales have declined consistently in the last six quarters while Surface Pro revenue has increased by more than 100% between Q1 2014 and Q1 2015. Apple has eaten the humble pie to swallow the words of Tim Cook when he taunted Microsoft’s Surface saying, “Our competition is confused. They’re turning tablets into PCs and PCs into tablets.” Well, who is confused now?
Did you see the Apple TV? Well, it had a few new features that were different from other set-top boxes, but for the most part, it was an imitation of rival set-top boxes. The Apple TV had a universal-search tool that lets users find TV shows on different services. Universal search is cool, but it has already been debuted on Amazon Fire TV, Google’s Roku and Microsoft’s Xbox. In fact, Amazon Fire TV has had voice commands since last year; hence, issuing commands to Siri on the Apple TV is not a new thing.
Apple says it is going big on games with the set-top box and the firm displayed the gaming capabilities of the device during the event. Well, you get to play games on your TV with Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku. Been there, done that. However, critics will agree that Siri’s ability to understand human language processing to carry out layered tasks beats the competition. The touch-enabled remote, and the simple UI also adds to the uniquely Apple feel.
iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus (not much better than Samsung Galaxy S6 and Note 5)
iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus are the latest smartphones from Apple and they’ll be flying off the shelves soon enough as the contracts of users with previous models starts to expire. The words of Steve Jobs that “No one is going to buy a big phone” will continue to haunt Apple with every bigger phone that it releases. The new iPhones are not much different from the iPhones from last year on the outside – except for the Aluminum 7000 material, which will eliminate “Bendgate”.
The internal specs of the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus are however, an upgrade over the last year’s model. However, the specs while spectacular will have you thinking about Samsung Galaxy S6 and Note 5. To start with, the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus are equipped with 12-megapixel iSight cameras to mark a 50% increase in the resolutions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Note 5 are equipped with a 16-megapixel rear cameras and optical image stabilization.
The cult of Apple will surely throw out stats about how the new A9 Chips used in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are nearly twice as fast as the A8 chip used in the iPhone 6. However, Samsung Galaxy S6 has 8-core processors sitting on 3GB of RAM. The Note5 is equipped with 4GB of RAM; hence, the new iPhones won’t necessarily have a superior performance to Samsung’s devices.
Apple unveiled a seemingly “new” product in the Apple Pencil, which helps users interact with the iPad Pro. However, Microsoft has been here before with the Stylus (Microsoft Surface Pen) for its Surface Pro and it appears that Apple just added angle and slant to the Stylus. The Apple Pencil costs a whopping $99 compared to $49.99 for the Surface Pen.
Of course, the Apple Pencil feels more like a real pencil than a stylus and it has a pressure sensitivity that detects position, force, and tilt. However, it doesn’t appear that Surface Pro users would wish that they had an Apple Pencil any more than iPad Pro users would wish they had a Surface Pen. In essence, Apple Pencil will serve its need for the iPad Pro and Surface Pen serves its purpose for the Surface Pro just as well.
The next couple of months will be critical for Apple as the market gets a chance to have a hands-on feel of its new products. Of course, the market will accept some of the products and reject others. Apple will as usual go back to the drawing board and deliver better versions.
In the final analysis, Apple might have perfected the art of imitation, but without Apple’s constant and never-ending improvements, the tech space wouldn’t even have begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible.