The Wide-ranging Challenges Now Facing Apple

Apple Park building.

Apple Park building.

The Particle Debris article of the week is from iMore.

Kudos to the freebies, but Apple will need to do much more to stay afloat.

Apple executives know full well what problems they’re facing now and will face in the future. We don’t need to delineate for them. But neither do they talk about them in detail with customers. So, from our standpoint, as loyal, concerned customers, it’s helpful to have that discussion. That’s what author Wolfe sets out to do.

With that being said, Apple is a public company first. Soon, it will face the inevitable task of offering high-quality, premium products during a time when more people are unemployed than at any time in the history of the company. For plow ahead successfully, Apple will need to do more than slash prices on iPhones.

There is focus on students. Suddenly, Apple’s tradition of premium products will come under strain as parents scramble to provide better and more educational hardware. We should be attentive to how Apple handles that situation.

Author Wolfe also thinks ahead to how/when Apple’s retai stores will once again be packed with customers, touching everything in sight.

Thinking more long-term, Apple should rethink the hands-on customer instruction it has typically offered in retail stores. No doubt, even when the economy re-opens, many will decide to stay closer to home and avoid stores packed with customers.

Eventually, things will mostly get back to normal. But some of the changes Apple is making now may become a permanent part of our lives.

One I can think of is a home pickup and (signature) delivery for repairs. Another, is a virtual retail sales experience over FaceTime. There will be other, unforeseen changes.

In any case, our relationship with Apple will change. As always, all our tech journalists will be here to help you through it.

The Week’s News Debris

HBO Logo

• Do you have a 2nd or 3rd generation Apple TV? See: “HBO gives older Apple TV owners a short reprieve.

HBO will no longer axe support for certain older Apple TV models for its HBO GO and HBO NOW apps at the end of the month, though the reprieve is only temporary.

No doubt a concession to the pandemic.

• iPhone Face ID won’t work with a facemask. You can just wait for Face ID to fail, then enter your passcode. If that brief delay annoys you, you can disable Face ID for now.

• Some, repeat, a few Mac customers are having a very bad time with macOS 10.15.4 and its Supplement from 4/8. Read, digest, be aware, be backed up. Then see: “New macOS update is wrecking MacBooks: What to do now.

• Have you wondered about the “Brave” web browser? This will fill you in. “Billions Of Google Chrome Users Now Have Another Surprising Option.

• Finally, “Apple to Reportedly Release Over-the-Ear Headphones in June 2020.

Leaker Jon Prosser, who also broke the rumor on the 14-inch MacBook pro release, took to Twitter to reveal his findings. According to the tech analyst, the over-the-ear headphones goes by the internal codename B515 and draws similarities to the Bose 700. The headphones will reportedly launch at a price of $350 USD during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

But why? Here’s why…

Prosser further states that Apple’s end goal is to phase out Beats, a company they bought in 2014 from Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine for a whopping $3 billion USD.


Particle Debris is generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

6 thoughts on “The Wide-ranging Challenges Now Facing Apple

  • John:

    Bryan Wolfe’s piece on iMore is neither the first nor even the sole article to be penned suggesting that, not only should Apple do more, but that even Apple’s fortunes are tied to such actions, during this pandemic. Nor is this confined to Apple, but has been extended to the tech sector in general. In a recent CNN interview, the question arose as to why, in particular, we expect action from the tech sector and not others.

    Before addressing the first question, whether or not Apple and other tech giants should be doing more, and if so, what, let’s address the latter; why do we expect the tech sector, including its CEOs to do anything, when we appear not to hold similar expectations, or to be making similar demands, of other sectors. I suggest two reasons; mindshare and identity.

    Regarding mindshare, the tech sector reaches into our personal lives with devices, products and services in a way that few other industries, apart perhaps from the health, food services and distribution services and utilities sectors as examples, can rival. What distinguishes the tech sector (which is not a monolith, but a disparate range of discrete industries) from those other examples is that our relationship to tech is, in part, volitional and initiated by the individual client. We choose to engage, and even for those items that today one might consider obligatory, such as a smart phone, we select which brand and model to purchase, budgetary considerations notwithstanding; and as studies have shown, sometimes at an entry price that violates economic models of supply and demand. We also choose the level of our engagement and investment with these companies, such as which devices and services, and whether or not to be only partially or fully committed to one or another ecosystem.

    This leads to the question of identity. As Ezra Klein points out in his recent book, ‘Why We’re Polarized’, our loyalties to a brand, whether for a clothier, a political party, a religious community, or a tech company are an extension of, and become inseparable from, the question of our personal identities. The boundaries between these entities, our worldview, and our perceptions of personal identity are commingled and often conflated. A threat to one is a threat to self. Our personal preferences, values and choices are often projected, without evidence or validation, to the entity as an extension of our worldview and value system. We support a specific social cause, therefore our religious community or a brand with which we identify, like Apple, should support that cause or at least demonstrate respect for it through some action, eg divesting from a market governed by an authoritarian regime. Little wonder, then, at a time of crisis, when we expect communities to look after one another, we expect a brand with which we identify and which occupies significant mindshare in our daily lives to behave in a charitable spirit of community that we would expect of the idealised version of ourselves. The caveat is that the Apple community, no less than the community of tech users writ large, are not a monolith. What we want, and what we expect, is as diverse as are its members’ preferences.

    This leads to the original question of what Apple should do. While many of us might agree that Apple has no unique obligation above that of other industry giants, some might argue otherwise. As a sector, there are two broad categories of action that the tech community could provide. The first is in the area of communications and entertainment. While people are required to self isolate and practise social distancing, our capacity to remotely communicate and collaborate is essential for commerce and social cohesion, no less than for our mental health, as is entertainment. Whatever the tech companies can do over the coming months to facilitate that should be priority one. While this will primarily involve services and software products, in addition to entertainment content, it could conceivably involve communications hardware, like the iPhone. The emphasis should be on extending service capacity at no extra cost, as well as services, such as networking of larger groups, at no or substantially reduced cost. NB: if social networking companies provide these products and services at no cost on the front end, then expect them to exact compensation on the backend, namely in the form of trading in our data. Importantly, at a time when people are shut in, entertainment, as attested by mental health professionals, should not be seen as discretionary, but as essential.

    The second area is in the rollout of new products, both hardware and software (eg productivity apps). The idea that rollout of such new products should be suspended at a time of crisis is not even a non sequitur, it is ahistorical. Our successful response to any crisis has invariably required new products if not entirely new technologies. Innovation has been essential to our successful response to both natural and manmade disasters, hence the empirically derived saying, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’. Innovation does not exist in a vacuum, but requires an active and supportive background of creativity and productivity. Without such churn, the spark of creativity and invention does not occur. More to the point, there is not a straight line from threat to successful innovative response, but rather a multidisciplinary response that wends its way through a milieu of isolated adaptive and creative responses to that threat. Another key requirement is what is known as ‘surge capacity’, the ability to ramp up production by recruiting and repurposing extant lines of active productivity in various industries.

    A new technology that enables collaboration in novel ways, or that increases the efficiency of productivity, or simply inspires one to engage, all of these have occurred in the past, and none can be dismissed a priori. Making these maximally available to the public at no or reduced cost, and continuing to upgrade, refresh and innovate new products, are essential to overcoming crises, perhaps more so in today’s interconnected world than at any other time in our history.

  • If Apple comes out with it’s rumored AR glasses people could turn their homes into an Apple store. Turn on, log in, place the Apple Watch display by the fireplace, the iPad table in the kitchen, the tech desk in front of the comfy sofa, and the training table on the dinner table. Who needs brick and mortar when you could visit the Apple store in your backyard?

    As for telecommuting, I know some people who’s job have changed forever. For example, a friend of mine worked in an office job where the manager kept insisting that telecommuting was impossible because nobody would get any work done unless he was standing over their shoulder making sure they weren’t slacking off. Not only is everybody from the office now working at home (except the manager, they’ve been keeping him out of the loop, he’s not a good person) but they’ve gotten an entire month’s worth of work done in two weeks, have caught up on everything that’s been put off to prevent overtime, and are working with their fellow employees in France on new projects the company didn’t think they’d ever have time for. My friend emailed me yesterday to say that his HQ is now planning to make this permanent for 90% of their workforce and asking for suggestions to make it better.

    Side note: One of his co-workers established a rule in her household. If anyone disturbs mommy when her office door is closed then nobody gets dessert after dinner, which her kids have been adhering to religiously. One day the smoke alarm went off and she rushed out of her office to find the waffle maker (which she accidentally left on) had overheated, melted the plastic covering and was filling the house with smoke. When she asked her kids why they didn’t let her know about the emergency the youngest said, as if it was obvious, “We wanted ice cream for dessert.”

  • Beats did give then respect in the music world. Slowly they will replace the Beats line with the AirPod line. At the end Beats will be gone but it will have served its purpose.

    I like the ideas you have for revamping the Apple sales experience. Apple will have to completely rethink their retail model. Society changes and times like these it changes fast. I suspect a surprising number of people will find after working from home for a couple or three months that they don’t want to go back. Professionals working from home and only going out to meet clients, unless they can do that online as well, may become the norm. This will change their relationship to technology. Who knows, maybe having an iPhone on your belt will not be as important as having a good tablet that connects anywhere. However, networks will have to improve in order to support the increased load. We are already seeing systems stumbling from the strain of so many people working from home. An offshoot of the reduction in commuting and driving will be that the $25-$30/bbl oil may become the new norm. Less demand will cause the price to go down. That will help the Climate Change problem.

    I suspect a fair number of the stores that folded because of the closure orders, won’t open up again. The people that worked there will find new jobs, in new places, the likely will be doing new and different things. Things we don’t even see coming now. Restaurants that catered to business lunches could be replaced with food delivery places. Possibly with drones making the deliveries. As Wolfe says I think this experience will make people less likely to go to packed stores to shop. This will feed into the well established trend toward fewer people owning cars and younger people not being as interested in driving. The result will be that online will boom. Malls will take a huge hit and many will I suspect never recover. They were in trouble before this.

    It’s probable that Apple Stores will have to change their primary function from sales centres to education, meeting, and service centres. I would not be surprised if Apple Stores themselves end up changing, with many of them closing. Apple Centres where you can hold a conference, get stuff fixed, attend a class, or have lunch might be the new model. (But if you want, they will have a room where you can look at an AppleWatch or whatever and order one.)

    The retail world of 1950 looked totally different from the prewar world. This will be the same. The US and the World will recover from Covid-19, but when it recovers it will be fundamentally different from the World of 2019. Apple will have to be quick on its feet to stay on top. But one thing that Apple has shown is an ability to think outside the box, to have a flexible strategy, and to be unafraid to cut their losses if the market turns and something is no longer viable. Combine that with the massive cash reserve they have and I suspect Apple will do just fine.

      1. I thought Sears had folded completely. I just checked and much to my surprise, they still exist, with like 200 stores. I think you’re right though. The old Department Store model is broken and I don’t see Sears, Penny’s or many of the rest surviving. Walmart and Target probably, but not may others. Retail itself will change. The old idea of “Retail Therapy” just might not last much longer.

  • iPhone Face ID won’t work with a facemask. You can just wait for Face ID to fail, then enter your passcode. If that brief delay annoys you, you can disable Face ID for now.

    Oh yeah 😀

    At least ApplePay works with the double-click on my watch. And I am using it even more these days so hard currency doesn’t need to be exchanged. Home Depot needs to upgrade their terminals, at least at my local store, as they are not equipped with NFC and ApplePay.

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