Remember. With Apple, Things Are Never as They Appear

Apple Park campus cafeteria doors opening

It’s a tough job to analyze Apple as a corporation. It does so many things, and the underlying technology of everything it does is very complex. Often, things are not as they appear.

And so questions about Apple are fraught with difficulties. Even so, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet asks some interesting questions about Apple’s hardware.

iPad mini 5
iPad mini 5 took 42 months to arrive. Image credit: Apple.

First, he wonders if Apple doesn’t hold press events for products that “don’t move the sales needle that much.” Then why develop them? Perhaps major press events are just too exhausting and must be rationed.

In addition he ponders why Apple finally came out with an iPad mini 5. The iPad mini 4 launched in September, 2015, and then … a long break. There never has been a satisfactory explanation of why Apple let the product linger, then resurrected it 42 months later. Author Kingsley-Hughes gets straight to the point.

The risk, however, is that people forget about certain products. For example, it’s been such a long time since the iPad Mini was updated that it may very well have fallen off some people’s radar. But on the other hand, I don’t think that the iPad Mini contributes that much to the company’s bottom line!

So which is it? Apple is crass and only pays attention to big money makers like the iPhone? Or Apple is conscientious and eventually gets around to mending fences with its customers and low-volume, beloved products? Either way we look at it, we’re confused about Apple’s corporate motivations and industrial capacity.

The simple answer may be that everyone at Apple is overworked. As observers and fans, we don’t like to think that way. But it’s a decent Occam’s Razor approach. And one born of my own experience. Plus, there’s another factor….

A Personal Story

A long time ago, I was on a combat simulator team in which each programmer attended to his and her specialty. Mine was engagement physics. In time, as the simulation evolved and matured, we became aware of the fact that no one programmer possessed a complete understanding of the whole system. Let alone make predictions of outcomes. Moreover, the overall behavior of the simulation bore no relationship to the individual modules designed by the team members.

And so, when we got surprising results, we had to depend on the fact that each individual coder had done a good algorithmic job in his/her area. This is a very hard notion to brief to senior managers who seek simple, comforting analogies so they can build a personal (and always limited) mental model of the simulation.

I think Apple is like that. Every engineer, every developer and every manager does a superb job. Mix it all together and you get occasionally surprising results that mystify Apple manegers and, in turn, individual journalist observers. The job of the CEO is to generate and present some semblance of order. But in a trillion dollar company, there are always loose ends that defy explanation.

In a variation of Hanlon’s Razor, “Never attribute to corporate malice that which is adequately explained by over-worked employees.”

More Debris

• Apple will need a 5G modem chip for its 2020 iPhones. But Apple’s relationship with Qualcomm went sour, so Apple turned to Intel for that critical component. Now, Apple is said to be unhappy with Intel’s technical progress. So Apple is reported to be working on its own 5G chip in a project with over 1,000 engineers. Here’s a report from Fast Company . “Inside Apple’s shaky plan to deliver a 5G iPhone in 2020 [UPDATED].” This article is chock full of details and context.

5G graphic (mesh)
5G iPhones in 2020, not 2019.

• Back to 2019. At ComputerWorld, Jonny Evans has put together “The iPhone 2019 rumor guide.” Among his predictions: Lightning ports, not USB-C. And support for the Apple Pencil. 5G won’t arrive until 2020, if that. (See above.)

• Who’s interested in Apple TV+ ? This survey has some demographic answers. The bottom line? If you’re not one of Apple’s target customers, you’ll be confused about Apple’s market strategy.

• What’s the best Mac to buy in 2019? iMore has an answer.

Each year, we take a lengthy look at the new Apple products on the market and put them through the paces. We then let you know which products are the ones you should buy, including the best iMacs on the market.

This year, the pick is a top-tier 21.5-inch iMac with a 1 TB Fusion drive. I’d quibble with that because I only recommend SSDs, but check out author Bryan Wolfe’s reasoning.

2019 iMac
2019 iMac. Image credit: Apple

Finally, I’ll end with “Another Creepy Robot From Boston Dynamics To Replace Us Human Workers.” Here’s an example of how efficient physics can remind us of insect labor, and that feels creepy. We’ll see more of this in time, and we should always keep a level head about it lest we become overly emotional about machines that take manual labor jobs.

And so, with that … all brushed up on your Swift, Java and C++ ?


Particle Debris is a 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.

8 thoughts on “Remember. With Apple, Things Are Never as They Appear

  • Funny you should link to iMore. I like René Ritchie and I used to like iMore, but the current incarnation of the site (which has gotten much worse since around the time Serenity Caldwell beamed up to the Apple mothership) seems to be mostly “deals” and advertorial content rather than actual articles.

    As principals of another Apple news site, perhaps you might be able to convince him to save iMore before it is too late.

    1. I agree, archimedes … I have visited iMore for a while now for the reasons you mention and the fact that Rene had an article that included the words “F*** Me” in the headlines. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t want to see that…

      Old UNIX Guy

  • With over 130,000 employees it seems very few products (and services) drop out of the Apple “pipeline”. – what on earth do they all do? They may be busy, overworked even, but progress (not to be confused with motion) is painfully slow.

  • “First, he wonders if Apple doesn’t hold press events for products that “don’t move the sales needle that much.” Then why develop them?”

    Yup, Apple never held special press events for things like the latest Apple Watch bands, the new Smart Battery Cases, etc… Apple should stop selling those things immediately!

    But seriously, what company in the world holds press events for every single new or updated product that they produce, whether they sell well or not?



  • Apple is nothing but a disappointment for me today. I cannot recall the last time it truly excited me. That goes back to Steve Jobs. Everything since has been a slow but inexorable decline. Apple claims a modular Mac Pro will be released this year. Even that does not excite me. Why? Because I think it will be overpriced with too many design shortcomings. I truly hope I am wrong. I want to believe. I want to feel the passion I had for Apple. For decades. I miss it, but am patiently treading water waiting for a regime change.

    1. Sometimes the things that used to be new and exciting to us are no longer exciting or new. Is it that Apple has become bland and uninteresting (apparently its bright future involves becoming a clone of Netflix) or is it simply that we’ve seen computers, technology, and the internet before and they no longer hold the allure they once had?

      That being said, Macs have almost always been “overpriced with too many design shortcomings” so I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Apple to start competing on price and feature parity with other PC vendors.

      1. I think “overpriced with too many design shortcomings” is a pretty great summary of initial reviews of some of Apple’s greatest products of all time including the original Mac, iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

      2. And yet, those products sold. Apple’s current crop?
        The Mac Pro remains a product in our lineup.
        iMac, where’s the T2 co-processor that even MacBook Air received?
        MacBooks – nobody’s buying until the keyboard works.
        iPhone – biggest drop off in sales yet – in my assessment – too expensive, thick & heavy, everything on-screen is not as bright and physically smaller than the 6Plus, a how many years old phone? Plus round-cornered screens look 1980s compared to Samsung’s infinity display.
        iPad, desktop CPU testbed, expensive and crippled by a phone operating system.
        iPod touch remains a product in our lineup.
        HomePod, price falling, still no interest.
        I’m depressed now, I can’t go on.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.