Apple Quietly Kills AirPort Extreme by Breaking Up Wireless Router Team

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There’s a good chance the next time you buy a Wi-Fi basestation for you Mac, iPhone and iPad network it won’t come from Apple. The company reassigned the engineers from its wireless networking team to other projects and doesn’t have plans to continue developing its AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule products.

Apple kills AirPort wireless routers by disbanding the engineering team

Apple breaks up its AirPort wireless networking team

The company hasn’t made an official announcement, but sources speaking with Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman say the wireless networking team has already disbanded. Considering Mr. Gurman’s track with insider Apple sources, Apple may as well offer up an official confirmation.

Dropping out of the wireless router game means at some point macOS and iOS device users will have to turn to other companies for access points to build their networks. For some users, that’s no big deal because they want features Apple doesn’t offer, but losing the easy setup we have today won’t sit well with others.

Apple’s software makes setting up AirPort products simple enough for novices, and once configured they tend to run without any need for maintenance. For the average user, Apple’s AirPort products are essentially appliances: they do their job without any need for interaction.

That said, Apple’s routers feel hobbled despite their high quality design. The company intentionally locked down settings and features for ease of use, leaving users who want more control over their wireless networks in the hands of competitors selling products at a much lower price.

While seeing the AirPort line fade away is kind of sad, it isn’t too surprising. Apple needed the AirPort BaseStation when it first introduced wireless networking with the original iBook so customers could build their networks. Now that Wi-Fi is firmly established, the need for Apple’s simple basestations is gone. The resources the company was putting into its routers can be better used somewhere else.

Still, it is concerning to see Apple walking away from yet another product. When Apple quietly killed off its stand alone display earlier this year, the future of the Mac Pro and Mac mini is in question, and last week we learned Sal Soghoian—the company’s automation and scripting manager—was let go.

The knee jerk reaction is that Apple is floundering can’t make anything anymore, and that this wouldn’t have happend if Steve Jobs were alive. The reality is that Steve was notorious for ruthlessly killing products that distracted from the company’s core vision, and the AirPort lineup very likely would’ve been cut if he were still here to run the company.

For now, the AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule are still available at the Apple Store. And just like the Thunderbolt Display, they’ll quietly fade away as inventory dwindles and eventually Apple will promote another company’s wireless router instead.

17 Comments Add a comment

  1. The reality is that Steve was notorious for ruthlessly killing products that distracted from the company’s core vision,

    Very true. And yes the AirPort likely would have been dropped by now if SJ were still here.
    But what is Apple’s vision? I’m not seeing a coherent vision or strategy? Floundering car projects, wrist trinkets, and tired Macs are not a vision. Profit uber alles is not a vision?

    Apple used to be “about” making insanely great things that delight the customers. Making a seamless ecosystem of computers and devices that “just worked”. I just don’t see what Apple is “about” any more.

  2. I don’t see what they are about anymore, either. It’s pretty clear they aren’t interested in professional technology. I guess they are more or less a lifestyle, consumer brand from now on. Nothing wrong with that per se, it just isn’t something I’m very interested in myself. I do love my iPhone, and I love their stance on customer privacy, but that’s pretty much the only non-Mac product of theirs I’m interested in (including their services. AppleMusic? No, thanks). Their prerogative, I guess.

  3. Great, that leaves me with few alternatives if my Time Capsule goes kaput. I have a printer currently in the available TC USB port, but as my router has only one USB port I would need a USB hub to accept an external drive AND the printer for Time Machine backups and, well, printing. Basic stuff. Or, I need a relatively (in comparison) expensive NAS device. That, and I’d need to relocate my router for wireless work, as it currently resides in the basement because the wireless is deactivated and it resides on my patch panel. There’s a lot of unnecessary wiring. (The Time Capsule is first floor and is in bridge mode.) So I’ll have to totally reconfigure darn near everything because Apple lost interest in wireless. They could milk the Time Capsules for a long time. $300 for 2TB with wireless? There’s profit there, or they wouldn’t have had them this long. While Time Machine backups aren’t perfect, they are effective and useful as part of a more extensive backup strategy. Apple established a standard that made users lives easier (kinda Apple’s motto) and are abandoning it for….. nothing.
    What the H is Apple thinking?

  4. Well, I stopped using my AirPort Extreme about a year ago because the wireless router that came with a new ISP was better. I do my Time Machine backups once a week by plugging a portable drive into my MacBook. My regular CCCloner backup is done over Ethernet. Some automation is sacrificed this way; but it isn’t a hassle.

  5. I wonder if they will give away the Airport or Airport Utility technology to router manufacturers who want to offer an easy-install Time Machine ready version for Mac owners. I mean they stopped making monitors but didn’t they partner with LG for a 5K screen that plays well with Mac? Why not go the similar route for a router?

  6. Apple is definitely headed in the wrong direction. I live within 10 minutes of 3 Apple stores and haven’t set foot in one in at least a year–there’s just nothing exciting that they make any longer. I’ll hold on to my iPhone 6 and MacBook Pro (late 2011 edition) for as long as I can but don’t hold out much hope of them getting me back as a customer.

  7. Well, crap. So much for my whole Apple setup. I bought a new base station about a year ago, so it probably has a lot of life left in it. But I’m wondering if I should just buy another one to keep on hand …

  8. Paul Goodwin

    Well, so much for good Mac compatible software for a LAN. Airport Utility probably won’t work. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that setting up a Mac network with a non-Apple router is a royal pain in the butt. The makers of PC focused hardware could give a crap less about Mac users. This will be life degradation.

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