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  • Newsletter Issue #1035

    August 23rd, 2022

    SO HOW CAN APPLE BE DULL?

    Note: It’s been a while since I’ve posted in this space. Part of this was due to my physical issues, the worst of which involved surgery for what is called a pseudo aneurism in my right leg, which occurred on August 1st. The procedure required three blood transfusions to deal with a low blood count condition. I spent three nights in the hospital, and I am currently running around with what is known as a wound vac to help the healing process along. A nurse comes three times a week to check things out. The condition has also killed my endurance, so I am easily fatigued. But getting better.

    So what about the title? Is Apple no longer an interesting company, worth following with lots of enthusiasm as before?

    One thing is clear about Apple under Tim Cook He knows how to manage the company with finesse and he made it a powerful money making machine with market caps in the stratosphere. Even at times when other companies have trouble selling product, Apple manages to push more and more iPhones into owner’s hands. It almost defies gravity.

    The product that introduced me to Apple, the Mac, continues to iterate. The arrival of Apple Silicon has been predictably smooth. Apple has done the processor switch routine twice before, to the PowerPC and then to Intel, so it knows the ropes and how to make the experience as seamless as possible.

    Indeed, if you place an Intel Mac and an Apple Silicon Mac side by side, the designs might be somewhat different. But how many shapes can a notebook computer have anyway? Even the 24-inch iMac, a major redesign, on the surface doesn’t seem all that different from earlier models unless you look real close.

    The user experience isn’t that much different, beyond the obvious performance boost from Apple’s own chips. In passing, it seems amazing that processors that are derived from the ones in your iPhone should power Macs and make them soar past most Intel hardware.

    But the user interface, what you need to do to run your apps, is predictably the same. Apple’s Rosetta 2 emulation system means you don’t lose much with your older apps. Well, at least if your Intel apps run. Most do, some don’t, and that may be the deal killer if you depend on apps that just won’t work properly.

    However, some Intel Macs, such as the Mac Pro workstation, are still being produced, and the recent models should be supported for over five years, so no need to rush. Indeed, I use an Intel iMac from Late 2014, and my workflow proceeds at a decent rate. Sure, an Apple Silicon Mac will do wonders for the tasks that require a little waiting. And I’m stuck with MacOS 11, Big Sur. My computer is vintage, not supported.

    But don’t call me old fashioned. I’m actively saving for something new, and hopefully the cash will be there soon now. I suppose I’m living on borrowed time, but after that recent surgery, the phrase has an even more direct meaning, and it’s not about obsolete hardware.

    The iPad seems to be doing well, though sales have declined somewhat reportedly due to ongoing supply chain issues. But it’s hard to see much innovation, although iPadOS 16 will offer multitasking far closer to the Mac model. Sometimes I think the iPad will some day become a Mac with a touchscreen; they are getting closer.

    But it’s not that I have no new Apple hardware. Some months back, a close friend gifted me with an Apple Watch Series 7, partly as a late present to observe my 76th birthday last year. It has two health features that seem to be essential. ECG checks for AFib, related to a condition I am being treated for. It can be set for automatic monitoring, so I’m checked periodically and notified if there’s a problem. The other is the blood oxygen sensor.

    Indeed, when a physician’s assistant recently ran into a problem with the blood oxygen sensor she placed on my finger, I ran the test on the Apple Watch. She found a working unit and the results were near identical.

    I like the ability to answer phone calls on it. The volume is barely loud enough, but I feel I’ve entered the future, or the past, because I remember those Dick Tracy comics and his wrist radio.

    In the meantime, the Apple Watch is a surprising success. Not an iPhone level of success, but appears to show continuous growth in Apple’s wearables category.

    When it comes to services, I find them hit or miss. iCloud is still no great shakes and fails occasionally. I don’t see enough fresh content on Apple TV+ to be worth spending even $4.99 a month for yet another streaming service. I’m not enamored of Apple Music, because I can get the cheapest online only version of SiriusXM satellite radio for less; the version for your car costs a lot more. But I won’t quote rates, because they vary and they offer occasional deals for one-year trials, or annual prepays.

    So where does this leave Apple?

    Well, the annual changes are largely iterative. From year to year, the updates are usually minor, facelifts or slight performance upgrades. Even the Apple Watch Series 7 wasn’t altogether different from the Series 6 except for slightly larger displays.

    Apple’s media events, headed up by the iPhone launch in September, are quite predictable, and quite dull. I used to enjoy them, but this time, the scripts are largely the same except for the modest changes to reflect product updates. Production values are typically slick, but the presentation is prerecorded. They are thus perfect, and perfectly dull.

    When Apple was the counterculture company acting against tech industry norms, it was fun to watch. Excitement was in the air, but no longer.

    Despite having products that differ in key respects from the competition, mainly because of the OS differences, it’s hard to lust after the latest and greatest if you’ve upgraded recently. If not, the new Apple gadget becomes mostly an essential purchase rather than something to lust after.

    The Apple powerful money machine just keeps chugging away. You can be assured your Apple product will be reliable and do most or all of the things promised in the spec sheet. Fancy features introduced by the competition, such as folding smartphones, may or may not come right away because Apple prefers to perfect rather than innovate in many cases.

    All right, Apple Silicon was different, but Intel’s failure to deliver advanced processors in a timely fashion helped Apple decide to control its own destiny when it came to hardware.

    So is Apple dull? In the scheme of things, it’s a huge multinational conglomerate. It’s mainstream, and you can get perfectly find coverage in the mainstream press. Sure, some of the Apple-specific sites continue to provide additional information, although the remnant of Macworld magazine, online and in a digital edition, doesn’t have a lot of new content. Quite often they just take an existing article, give it a shave and haircut and a revised title, and pretend it’s a new story.

    I will continue to follow Apple, and will for the indefinite future. I will continue to write about the company when there’s something significant to report. But forgive me if the excitement is rarely there.

    THE FINAL WORD

    Gene Steinberg’s Mac Radio Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
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