How Apple is Winning a Secret War

When observers analyze a new or existing product from Apple, they tend to focus on the design, operation and features. In some cases, the conclusion is that some competitor, X, has a better product. That misses at least half the story of Apple's secret product war.


We love to analyze Apple products from the human interface perspective. Apple is, after all, an expert at developing the intersection of technology and the humanities. However, when observers tire of that or just want to ignore it, there are always opportunities to cast a critical eye on Apple. Either Apple has failed us in some area, perhaps software quality, or some competitor does a few things better and is having a burst of financial success.

But there's a different story to be told. In November of 2013, I wrote about the massive investment Apple makes in manufacturing technology. "Apple: How to Spend $10 Billion And Make a Few Friends."

Apple's investment in manufacturing hardware is on this kind of scale in dollars.

If you'd like to review that article, I'll wait....

That general discussion about Apple's investments in manufacturing is further explored on page two below. It turns out that Apple has the industrial and design capacity to create monster headaches for the competition. Classic examples of this are Apple's security capabilities with the iPhone's Touch ID, secure enclave, followed by Apple Pay and a larger display. Arguments have been presented that these developments have severely punished Samsung.

Again, these features on a comparison chart don't mean nearly as much as they do when it comes to manufacturing and instantiating the technology in a real world product that earns a handsome profit. This explains why, even though some observers try to make a case that some Apple product is insufficient in some respect, Apple continues to have phenomenal earnings reports.

Apple will have another one next week.

Back to the coming discussion on page two below. Daniel Eran Dilger reminds us once again that Apple is a dangerous opponent. It has the experience, cash and resources to seize part of the manufacturing, perhaps key Silicon, become even more vertically integrated and start to gather more profits for itself than the competition can muster.

The ability of Apple to engage in global warfare on a hardware level takes a lot of the sting out of software patent infringements. Accordingly, when you ask yourself, as you might also on page 2 below, why Apple didn't jump on the Google Glass bandwagon, it may well be for the obvious reasons that we came to discover: the unacceptable social profile of the product. But I'll also propose that this isn't the kind of product that offers the opportunities for Apple to engage in its well-developed hardware warfare.

That puts the initial glow about Google Glass and, by contrast, the forthcoming Apple Watch in a whole new perspective.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of January 19. Apple's hardware warefare capacity, Google Glass shatters, juicy tidbits on the Apple Watch.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of January 19


At AppleInsider, Daniel Eran Dilger suggests that when Intel forced Apple to design and build its own Ax mobile processors, it opened new doors for Apple. This week, Mr. Dilger wrote:

"While rumors have long claimed that Apple has plans to replace Intel's x86 chips in Macs with its own custom ARM Application Processors, there are a series of more valuable opportunities available to Apple's internal silicon design team.... Rather than further alienating Intel with plans to replace the Mac's dependence on x86 chips (for fewer than 20 million computers sold every year), it would appear to make more sense for Apple to first apply its chip design team to the task of replacing Qualcomm as its supplier for the order-of-magnitude greater number of 4G baseband chips...."

This article, full of of sharp observations, is a must read. "After eating Intel's mobile lunch, Apple could next devour Qualcomm's Baseband Processor business."

Google has concluded that there's just too much pushback for Google Glass, in its current form, to become a success. "Google Officially Stops Sales Of Google Glass." [Here's the analysis from TMO's Bryan Chaffin. "Can Tony Fadell Save Google Glass? Probably Not."] This is continuation of a disturbing trend for Google. Aside from search and maps, Google seems unable to develop products of fundamental value and enduring interest. This famous Slate article must now be updated to include Google Glass. Clearly, employing an incredible number of very smart people is necessary but insufficient.

This week we also learned about the utilization of Google+. As Business Insider put it, in overly dramatic fashion, "Nobody Is Using Google+" The analytics there seem respectable, but I also wonder. Headlines like that, something our 6th grade English teacher taught us not to write because they're clearly false, now become click-bait Internet headlines. Sigh.... Back on track... could it be that products designed to serve the developer rather than the customer have their faults exposed so quickly on the Internet, they're destined to fail? It's a lesson Google isn't learning, in my opinion.

For those who have been following, along with me, the developments with Dish's AutoHop feature. there's been another win for Dish. "Court Upholds Dish's Hopper Ad-Skipping Feature" Home Media Magazine writes:

The United States District Court, Central District of California, Jan. 20 publicly released Judge Dolly Gee’s summary ruling upholding Dish Network’s right under U.S. copyright law to incorporate ad-skipping technology on the Hopper DVR, among other features.

Of course this doesn't keep the networks from holding the public hostage by declining to renew (usually temporarily) Dish's carriage licences. There's a lot of fuss, then things get resolved. But these court rulings endure and will be good for consumers in the long run.

The AutoHop ad-skipping feature exists because the advertising model is broken on broadcast and cable/satellite. That's driving customers to other methods of media consumption. Have you ever noticed? You don't need a DVR for your iPad. Just fire up Netflix.

Speaking of Netflix, that company is doing its level best to further destroy the traditional model of 18 minutes of interruptions per hour of TV. "Netflix Seeks to Bow 20 Original Programs Annually."

There's more.

When fairly affluent young people, people who never got into "appointment TV viewing," are educated about technology and are presented with lots of technical options, they may develop personal viewing solutions that are surprising. Or at least don't go with the flow the content holders had envisioned. Hence, I direct you to this tidbit number three from Home Media Magazine. "Parks: 50% of HBO OTT Video Subs Would Cancel Pay-TV Service."

In my view, these experimental services are designed to be revenue enhancers. When they turn out to cause problems, they get cancelled. So permanence is not one of the features of all these new services.

All the above is what Apple is faced with when it thinks about trying to be disruptive in the TV industry. Perhaps it's time to revisit the idea of Apple buying Netflix. The reason would be getting a foot in the door with at least one stable, next generation content provider. It would be an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and change the future with its own vision.

How long has it been since you bought a PC? John Moltz recently did and told his story. "The opposite of Apple: A Mac user's weird experience buying a PC laptop." I was all smiles after I read it.

Finally, how long will the battery in an Apple Watch last? Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac, has published what he's learned from sources. "Apple targets for Apple Watch battery life revealed, A5-caliber CPU inside."

Apple initially wanted the Apple Watch battery to provide roughly one full day of usage, mixing a comparatively small amount of active use with a larger amount of passive use. As of 2014, Apple wanted the Watch to provide roughly 2.5 to 4 hours of active application use versus 19 hours of combined active/passive use, 3 days of pure standby time, or 4 days if left in a sleeping mode.

There's a lot more in this article, especially an explanation for why the launch date has been pushed back.


Aircraft carrier & F/A-18 teaser via Shutterstock.

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.