Which Products should Apple Kill in 2013?
✍ This post was originally envisioned as a welcome to the new year post. We almost killed it, but figured it was worth writing anyway. It’s only March. Sweden celebrated New Years on March 1 until 1753. Gott Nytt År, friends.
iPad Smart Case — Apple seems to be somewhat ashamed that they even make this product — it is referenced on some of the iPad product pages and conspicuously missing from others. It also strongly competes with many similar, nay almost identical, third party cases. But, and this is a big but, you can get it laser engraved with the very same tiny Helvetica characters you have on your iPad. Don’t look for an iPad Mini variant, though — Apple has apparently realized that it’s a horrible idea.
iAd Gallery — This one is easy pickin’s. The app was updated to “support iOS 6” but didn’t even get enough love to support the new iPhone 5’s screen size.
MacBook Air — Don’t cry. It’s inevitable. Maybe not this year, but if not, then next year. The Retina MacBook Pro will continue to decrease in weight and and product envelope size until the Air is an unnecessary product. And we all know that Apple doesn’t like unnecessary products unless that product is an iPad Smart Case.
- Non-retina MacBook Pro — The non-retina MacBook Pro will die long before the MacBook Air goes away. The Air is here to stay as long as there’s a market for low-priced, low-powered MacBooks. As the retina MacBooks get smaller, the Airs can get even smaller. If the Air keeps a standard resolution screen, it will have an advantage on cost and battery-life (or, since Apple often prefers weight savings to battery-life, on weight). An open question — and the non-retina’s lifeline — is whether the 13” MacBook Air can get enough storage to replace the 13” non-retina MacBook Pro as Apple’s best-selling laptop. I have a hard time recommending the entry-level 13” Air only because 128GB isn’t enough storage for most people. If the Air’s storage doesn’t see a bump, the non-retina Pro might see one last update this year.
Apple Web Apps Discovery Page — Web apps are great, but Apple doesn’t care about them or seemingly even care about keeping up the pretense of caring about them. This isn’t to say that you can’t make stellar web apps for iOS. You can. Its just that Apple doesn’t care to market them for you. Some would say this is because they don’t get their 30%. I’d argue that it’s more likely that they don’t see it adding to platform desirability in the same way a native app does. Apple’s web app page hasn’t been updated since 2010. Just put it out of its misery already.
8 GB iOS Devices — Apple is limiting its users’ usage by only giving them a few gigabytes of space to fill with music, apps and video. Many high quality games clock in at a few hundred megabytes to over a gigabyte (FIFA 13 [1.48GB], Amazing Spiderman [829MB], Carcassonne [448MB]), leaving users with little room for any amount of music or video (cf. arguments about the 32GB Surface). 8GB devices should disappear and 16GB should be the new 8GB, with 32GB becoming the default for Apple’s flagship products. As Apple tries to keep costs down to drive worldwide sales this may not be feasible. But from a strictly user perspective, 8GB just isn’t enough to experience all of what Apple wants its users to do with their devices.
Ping — Apple’s failed social network for music discovery and sharing seems to be that, failed. Maybe the right thing would be to kill it softly?
Why None of This Will Happen
Apple released Texas Hold’em in 2008, and updated it for the last time in September of that year. The game lasted on the App Store until November of 2011. I give the Apple Web Apps Gallery at least another year, in all its standard-resolution glory (nothing at Apple.com/webapps supports retina-resolution on the Mac). The iAd Gallery will, I expect, have a similar shelf life, unless iAds themselves go away. My speculation: the primary reason Ping died is that killing it made iTunes 11 easier to ship. Stand-alone apps and web galleries have no such dependencies, so there’s no advantage to killing them.
As far as storage goes: Apple’s lowest-end iPhone has 8GB of storage, and its lowest-end Mac has 64GB of storage. Both of these stats seem embarrassing to power users, but I’m not sure they’re more embarrassing in 2013 than they were in 2012. Apple could bump these specs—the company’s shown a willingness to cut its margins in order to sell products. But should they? Customers aren’t avoiding these devices because of their low storage capacity. If customers buying an iPhone 4S in 2013 are feature-conscious at all, they’ll buy an iPhone 5. If customers want more storage on their Macs, they can upgrade them—at time of purchase only, naturally. The student price for the low-end MacBook Pro is $1099, while the 256-GB 13” Air costs $1349 with Apple’s education discount. So the entry-level MacBook Pro, with its spinning rust, will likely continue to be Apple’s best-selling laptop in 2013.
Apple also seems to loathe killing products without having a knockout replacement available for them, and rightly so. The best time to kill a product is when there is a transition path for that product’s devoted customers to upgrade to a remarkable new product that Apple feels outshines and obsoletes the previous one. If you want an example of this, just look at the iPod Classic, which almost made our list, but fell outside the statute of limitations covering products that have had so many other years to be killed in that they cease to be fun to suggest. In the case of the iPod Classic, the storage sizes of the iPod Touch have never been large enough to obviate the need of some users to simply have their full music library available in Apple Lossless on a 2.5” x 4” rectangular solid in their pocket.
And inside that rectangular solid sits a tiny, tiny plate of spinning rust. Hard disk drives are incredibly hard to kill — it will be interesting to see whether Apple has a fully HDD-free laptop line-up while they’re still shipping hard drives in their iPods.