Apple's Grand Unified Theory of Products Has a Beautiful Explanation

My showcase article of the week explains "The Grand Unified Theory of Apple Products." The article caught my attention for several reasons.

First, there is a clever use of the term "Grand Unified Theory." This comes from a model of physics that tries to unite the electromagnetic, weak and strong forces of nature. So right away, I was pleased with the terminology when applied, playfully, to Apple.

Image credit: Apple

The real thrust of the article, however, is a discussion of the proliferation of Apple products and how Apple has had to approach its marketing in that light. The author notes that in earlier times, Apple's marketing approach was simpler. Just buy everything. Now, however....

[When] Apple sold a handful of products, it wasn't much of a stretch for a consumer to buy every product category as each had its own unique role. Fast forward five years, and the product dynamic has changed to such a degree that the iPad seems like a redundant device to many people. The space between an iPhone and Mac continues to shrink, and iPad sales are declining. Apple's previous strategy of selling the idea that there was room in our lives for every Apple product category was beginning to come undone. Apple needed a new way of explaining its product line.

In the course of the discussion, the author looks at the collision in the usage models for the iPad Pro and the MacBook Pro, what he calls the "tricky iPad versus Mac debate." However, where it gets really interesting is when the article analyzes Phil Schiller's comments to Steven Levy in terms of each Apple product category.

...there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that this theory [of Schiller's] actually does a good job of describing Apple's product line. In fact, Schiller's message provides the clearest clue yet as to how Apple management views its product lineup, even more so than the previous product theories put forth with the iPad and Apple Watch introductions.

As with any analysis of this type, there are conclusions that can be drawn and a possible roadmap created. Doing so puts the rumored Apple electric car into perspective and also sheds light on how customers approach their products and how Apple meets the needs of the user with each type of product.

This is a fascinating article that puts Apple into a perspective I haven't seen before. That the author approaches the subject with the precision of a physics professor doesn't hurt either.

Next page: The tech news debris for the week of December 7th. The Ugliest. Apple. Product. Ever.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of December 7th


Image credit: Apple

By now, you must have heard about Apple's new iPhone 6/s Smart Battery Case. The product itself gives one pause. Why does Apple want to distract itself with such an accessory? Worse, the product has been universally acclaimed as ugly. The Verge said that it doesn't measure up. The criticism has been so intense that Tim Cook had to make an appearance with Lance Ulanoff at Mashable to explain the design. Personally, I think the ugliness trumps any explanation for the design justification.

Of course, one product doesn't signify impending doom for Apple. All successful companies make mistakes. Here's hoping Apple rectifies this one.

When companies say something that we just know is a public relations front and we don't believe a word of it, we wish Steve Jobs were still here to make an acerbic comment that bursts the balloon of arrogance. Somehow, Apple, despite its desire to succeed, make lots of money and still deal with consumer laws manages to deftly market itself with integrity. Perhaps it really is time for Apple to get into the communications business and provide some competition. Case in point. "Comcast CEO says data caps are about ‘fairness,’ but they’re really about raising prices."

Have you ever wondered how the cable TV business differs in Europe? Here's a short essay that's enough to make one wonder how our own industry has evolved. "World’s Cable Consumers Retain Their Connection."

Have you been pondering what Apple might be up to in 2016? It's the job of Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray to think about that too. Here are his predictions in a very interesting video. "Gene Munster's big predictions for Apple in 2016."

Apple doesn't seem to be shy about tailoring variants of OS X for different products. We started with iOS for iPhones and iPads. Nowadays, we have watchOS and tvOS. In fact, one can argue that the iPad Pro is such a different kind of iPad that it should really have its own OS. Jan Dawson makes his case for "padOS". I think he succeeds in his argument. And just to punctuate the point, Apple is already leaning in that direction with Split View and P.I.P. These features are not exclusive to the iPad Pro, but we may be seeing an early sign of Apple's thinking.

Finally, say what you will about 4K UHD, it's coming. One can complain about upgrade costs, being burned as an early adopter, the confusion about HDR, the 4K retina effect, and current lack of content. But these are all factors that will be resolved in the coming years, probably faster than the HDTV revolution of 2007-2010.

Over at Apple World Today, Dennis Sellers does a nice job of sizing up the forecast for 4K UHD adoption and the market over the next few years. "One-third of US households will have 4K TVs by 2019 (so where’s our 4K support on the Apple TV)."?

As always, the trickis to intelligently roll with the changes, all the while having a plan for one's own technical evolution that doesn't bust the budget. Having oodles of knowledge is the only way to deal with this coming sea change, and we hope that Apple is our partner, even hero, when it comes to helping us navigate the choppy technical waters. That's why I wrote, "How I’d Like to See the Apple TV Evolve."


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) 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 holidays.