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    Newsletter Issue #1022: So Much for Apple Silicon Being Cheaper

    October 19th, 2021

    Forgive me for being naive about it, but I honestly expected Apple to be able to reduce the price of new Macs as a result of the switchover to Apple Silicon. You see, they no longer have to pay a third-party provider for those CPUs, and thus they should not have to concern themselves with prices that were high enough to ensure a profit for the manufacturer, Intel.

    Instead, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,499 for the entry-level model, $100 more than its predecessor with Intel Inside. With all the goodies, which include the 32-core GPU, 64GB of unified memory (shared by the CPU and GPU), and an 8TB SSD, it maxes out at $6,099.

    Now to be fair to Apple, there are no doubt billions of dollars in development costs to build the new Mac processor family even though it’s based on the existing lineup of A-series chips for iPhones, iPads, and the Apple Watch. So I’m not begrudging Apple’s right to cover its costs and earn profits, but those higher-end Intel chips aren’t cheap.

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    Newsletter Issue #1020: The Old Apple Complaints Mostly Fade Away

    September 23rd, 2021

    I wrote part of this article ahead of the September 14th media event where Apple introduced the iPhone [lucky] 13 and the Apple Watch 7. Although the former, days from shipping, garnered the usual favorable reviews, some were not so impressed. To them, the changes were largely “incremental” compared to the iPhone 12. It has a beefier battery, better camera performance, a slightly smaller notch and a little faster performance. It looks nearly the same, but will require a different case because it’s a tad thicker and has a larger camera bump.

    Except for battery life, I rather doubt most of you would notice much of a difference, and it’s likely people upgrading will be switching from Android or replacing a much older iPhone. Otherwise, paying more for some models may not make a whole lot of sense with discounts to be had on the iPhone 12.

    Some might suggest that this is an example of Apple losing its competitive edge. But it’s more about the fact that such a high level of performance has been achieved that it becomes harder and harder to improve things. Compared to all the expected possibilities, the complete elimination of the still-controversial notch would be the most effective move. Apple could sell an iPhone without one and it would probably succeed as much or more than most any other improvement.

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    Newsletter Issue #973: Did Apple Really Admit iPhone Prices Are Too High?

    February 7th, 2019

    As I write this column, Apple is probably still smarting over the news that lower sales in China and delayed iPhone upgrades that combined to produce an $5 million shortfall for the December quarter. But I’m not going to focus this column on old news. You’ve read all about it, but it’s also true that the sky isn’t falling. There was some good news too, such as higher sales for Macs, iPads, wearables (such as the Apple Watch) and especially services.

    With services, Apple can extract more cash from every customer which, in turn, keeps them closely tied to the platform. But it’s fitting to look at the history of the company for a larger perspective.

    So our image of Apple, Inc. has long been that of a maverick company that defies the conventional wisdom and goes its own way. Here’s to the “crazy ones” indeed!

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    A New Way To Deliver an Apple TV? Give Them Away!

    August 22nd, 2018

    It’s no secret that the Apple TV isn’t doing terribly well compared to similar gear from Amazon, Google and market leader Roku. While Apple was the pioneer in this space, it took far too long to modernize the product.

    Even when Apple introduced an all-new model in 2015, it made it much more expensive, yet still lacking 4K support at a time when tens of millions of TV sets featured the higher resolution capability. So it left the customers with a dilemma. If they still wanted to stick with the Apple ecosystem, the entry-level 32GB model was $149, compared to $99 for the third generation model before it was discounted.

    I suppose some might have found the new features, which included an enhanced remote, and Siri and app support, to be reasonably compelling, but did it really matter? How many people really strayed beyond iTunes and Netflix anyway.

    In 2017, Apple discovered 4K. Rather than keep the same price, or, better, reduce it, the entry-level unit was priced $30 higher. This may have been necessary to the bean counters who evaluated such matters as the price of raw materials and such, but it made even less sense.

    Other than Apple’s ecosystem, the $99.99 Roku Ultra offered a similar lineup of useful features, including 4K and HDR. If you just wanted Netflix and maybe Amazon Prime, Hulu along with VUDU for movie rentals, the $69.99 Roku Streaming Stick also features 4K and HDR.

    When you look at the numbers, paying $179 for an Apple gadget seems outrageous.

    Now some might cite the same argument for a Mac or an iPhone, but it’s not valid. Compared to premium PCs, the Mac is in the same ballpark. Compared to premium smartphones, so is the iPhone, and you can make the same argument for the iPad or an Apple Watch.

    None of this justifies paying $79 more for an Apple TV 4K compared to a Roku Ultra beyond the commitment to Apple’s own services. The added features just aren’t compelling enough for most people, and picture quality isn’t so much different. A TV set’s own upscaling of HD content produces similar results, except for the HDR enhancements.

    As most of you know, I haven’t been using my vintage third generation Apple TV since late 2017. When VIZIO sent me a 4K TV for long-term review, I tried out its embedded SmartCast app, which is based on Google Chromecast. My iTunes movie library is scant, and it was easily transferred to Movies Anywhere so I can play them on almost any streaming device. The VIZIO remote offers one-touch access to Netflix, Hulu, VUDU and other services with a decent interface.

    If the price of an Apple TV 4K was cut in half, I still wouldn’t buy one even if I had the spare cash, and I suspect a lot of devoted Apple customers have come to the same decision for various reasons.

    So what is Apple to do, other than cutting the price to a sensible level?

    It’s doubtful Apple will join its competitors and license Apple TV technology to a TV set. I actually think it would be a good idea, but would probably work only if tvOS took over a TV’s interface completely. Coming up with something similar CarPlay is a half-baked solution.

    Is there another alternative for Apple?

    Well, apparently there is, although it apparently involves sometimes giving an Apple TV 4K away. This is what DirecTV apparently did for a while to launch its NOW! streaming service. If you signed up for three months at $35 per month, and paid the total of $105 in advance, a 32GB Apple TV came along with the package. To some, it was a great way to get one cheap, since there was no requirement to keep the service after that period.

    Just recently, I read a report that Charter TV, the second largest cable provider in the U.S., will offer an Apple TV 4K to pay-TV customers along with a Spectrum TV app. This means you may be able to bypass the service’s own DVR. I am not at all sure whether it’ll be offered for sale, for rent, or both.

    According to a published report from Bloomberg, Verizon plans to offer an Apple TV or Google TV when it rolls out its 5G broadband to homes, which is due later this year. I’m not at all sure how an Apple TV will be offered, and whether it will embed a Verizon app of some sort with a streaming service offering.

    I suppose it’s possible that Apple is poised to launch its own streaming service, something rumored for years before it was reported that it couldn’t strike deals with the entertainment industry. But with Apple busy creating original TV shows, maybe there will be an offering that will mix content from iTunes, including TV shows, with the new programming. That is if Apple doesn’t make it part of Apple Music.

    But is giving away an Apple TV as a premium for pay-TV systems, or allowing them to offer it cheaply, going to save the Apple TV? Consider the value of replacing set-top boxes with an Apple gadget that offers a custom app to navigate these services and manage time-shifting.

    That might be a worthy goal, one that will save Apple TV. If I had the choice, the Apple TV 4K would probably be superior to the set-top boxes from the cable and satellite providers. Well, if Apple also offered a cloud-based DVR system.

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