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  • More About Apple’s Secret Sauce

    March 8th, 2018

    Apple has made a huge amount of progress overcoming common impressions of the company over the years, and the unexpected continues to happen.

    At first, there was a computer named Apple, but a different product, the Mac, had the staying power. in the early days,. the use of a graphical user interface was considered controversial at a time when a PC operating system was text-based. Only when Microsoft delivered a mostly usable version of its Mac imitation, Windows 95, did GUIs become acceptable.

    By 2001, Macusers were wondering about the first release of Mac OS X when Steve Jobs introduced us to “1,000 songs in your pocket,” the original iPod with a tiny hard drive. Cute and overpriced at $399, I didn’t expect much from it. But one day a new version appeared that was compatible with Windows. Before you knew it, the iPod was the number one digital music player on the planet. In the space of a few years, Apple had turned itself into a consumer electronics powerhouse.

    But things really took off when the best iPod ever, the iPhone, arrived in 2007. It wasn’t too many years before the iPhone was everywhere and other mobile handset makers had to scramble to give up old fashioned features such as physical keyboards and embrace touchscreens.

    It certainly makes sense that, to many, the Mac has become an afterthought, even though it’s a hugely profitable platform and Apple promises its ongoing commitment after giving it second shrift for a while.

    As more and more companies bought into the iPhone, and iPad, Macs gradually became acceptable to the enterprise. A deal with its former rival, IBM, resulted tens of thousands of Macs and other Apple gear being sold to IBM’s employees and customers. The mind boggles.

    Not long after, there were reports of corporate conquests everywhere. Delta Air Lines has them. Walmart has them. HP is leasing Apple gear as part of its new subscription program. It’s adding up.

    On a personal note, I took my wife to an eye doctor this morning. While the office PCs consisted of the usual nondescript boxes, the receptionist handed out 9.7-inch iPads for patients to complete their profiles. No more pens and scribbles, not to mention the time saved in processing the data for their medical records. Now if they could only convert the traditional computers to Macs, but it’s one step at a time, right?

    Certainly, the iPad is an excellent tool for a medical practice, a legal practice and even a car dealership. I recall when luxury cars makers were apt to include iPads containing the owner’s manual. At least they’d be read.

    The superb integration of Apple’s ecosystem makes a compelling case for growing business use. To think that the enterprise was, to Apple, once a dirty word. That’s also before the boss would routinely bring in an iPhone or a MacBook Pro, and demand that the IT people hook ’em up.

    The Apple Watch took an interesting but predictable turn as it became more and more successful. Don’t forget, it is the number one wearable on the planet, and with estimates of over 50% sales growth last year, it’s not as if it’s going to lose its luster soon.

    At first, the Apple Watch appeared to be meant as a piece of fancy electronic jewelry, with one model, the Edition, selling for $10,000 plus a line of fancy watchbands. But you could use it as a fitness tool and, integrated with Apple’s HealthKit for iOS and watchOS, its main purpose is being realized.

    Indeed, the focus on fitness may entitle you to a free Apple Watch courtesy of your health insurance carrier. So it is reported that UnitedHealthCare is going to include the Apple Watch Series 3 in its Motion program. By meeting a set of minimum fitness goals, you’ll be credited up to $1,000 off your insurance premiums to cover the price of premium fitness gear, such as the Apple Watch.

    The goals are labeled F.I.T.:

    • Frequency: complete 500 steps within seven minutes six times per day, at least an hour apart;
    • Intensity: complete 3,000 steps within 30 minutes; and
    • Tenacity: complete 10,000 total steps each day.

    For an insurance company, it’s enlightened self interest. If you live a more healthy lifestyle, you aren’t apt to get sick as often or for as long. you’ll keep your weight under better control, and thus the insurers will pay out less money for you in benefits and thus return some of the benefits to you for to cover the cost of your new Apple Watch. At roughly $4 per day to meet the goals, you can get one with a fancy watchband, or acquire two.

    Other insurance companies offering similar discounts include Aetna and John Hancock.

    Now large insurance companies may have tens of millions of members, and these particular programs appear to be strictly available in employer-based health plans. It’s unfortunate that there’s no word about it being offered as a benefit to those covered by the Affordable Care Act’s Exchange, but I suppose that could happen someday if the government doesn’t succeed in killing it first.

    I can also see the value of companies offering Apple Watches and other gear to encourage their employees to live healthier lifestyles. It doesn’t have to be done as part of an insurance company program, and it may fuel the sale of tens of millions of Apple gadgets. Secret Sauce indeed!

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    One Response to “More About Apple’s Secret Sauce”

    1. dfs says:

      It’s more than a history of this device and that device. As I recall, Apple was the first to offer enough multiple devices that interacted with each other that they collectively deserved the word “ecosystem.” Since then, the smart consumer knows that it doesn’t make sense to choose, say, this smartphone rather than that one simply on the merits of that device. He is aware that in buying a smartphone he is buying into a given ecosystem, and that this will dictate his choices making future purchases, and so he has to evaluate rival ecosystems as well as rival products.

      In some ways, i. m. h. o, Apple’s ecosystem is still the best. For one thing, over the years I’ve come to dislike and distrust Bluetooth because of its limited range and a long history of dropped connections, failed pairings, and so forth. To me, Bluetooth is fundamentally unstable, whereas Apple’s wireless system is by comparison rock-solid and hassle -free. As I see it, this may be the Apple ecosystem’s strongest selling-point.

      But I have to admit that Apple’s supremacy is not guaranteed to last forever, and its ecosystem has at least two serious problems that might hasten its downfall if Apple doesn’t change its ways.

      First, the Walled Garden approach is bound to turn off legions of potential customers. Take the HomePod, for ex. Suppose I get the idea of buying a pair of them to use with my t. v. instead of a soundbar. Well, okay, but then I discover they would work just fine (and even more so whenever Apple gets around to implementing stereo for the HomePod) as long as I’m watching programming delivered by my Apple TV. But suppose I want to watch programming from some other source — I quickly find I ‘d be screwed because the HomePod can’t handle sound supplied by anybody else. Give me a pair of HomePods with a line-in port ( which might add twenty bucks to thk price of the poroduct) and I’d vastly prefer them, but built the way they are they’re useless for my purposes. So good-bye Apple, hello Sonos, because I’m sure as hell not going to let myself get bullied into relying exclusively on AppleTV, and if Apple imagines otherwise, well then, market research has never been their strong point, right? And I could invent a number of other scenarios that would lead to the same conclusion.

      The other problem, of course, is that if you were to draw a diagram of Apple’s full ecosystem you’d wind up looking at something not unlike a wheel, and right at the hub would be Siri, the most visible common denominator that links them all together and helps them work in tandem. That means that Siri damn well better work. Well, day by day the Web is increasingly humming with complaints that it doesn’t and mounting evidence that rival voice-command systems are better.Weakness of Siri jeapordizes the health of the entire Apple ecosystem. Apple needs to stop futzing around with peripheral stuff like making Siri “a musicologist” or cranking out scads of new e-mojis and focus on restoring the health of its core technology. Put differently (and I say this with special reference to iTunes, Apple Music, the Home Pod, and Siri) Apple needs to tell the guys from Marketing to butt out of the product design business. Whenever they are allowed a vote they manage to screw things up. When it comes to design, that’s what engineers are for.

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