New Products Apple Might Give Us While We Wait for the Car

Surely we won't have to wait until 2019 for The Next Big Thing from Apple. After the company's recent Earnings Report, I've been pondering what goodies Apple might give us in the years leading up to the Apple Car in 2019-2020. After all, it's all about the product pipeline. 

When I think about what qualifies as a new Apple product, I think about Apple's legacy. From what I've gleaned:

  1. It may not be the first of its type, but it sets a standard in new ways. It disrupts the current ho-hum products. (iPod)
  2. It fits in with Apple's current family of products and infrastructure. (iCloud)
  3. It moves the state-of-the-art forward. (MacBook)
  4. It has broad appeal and can make money. (Apple Watch)

Here's a list (by no means exhaustive) of things I think Apple might do over the next 3-4 years, while we wait for the iCar, that meet those criteria, in no particular order. It's also a chance to point to some interesting articles I ran across during the week.

1. iCloud Time Machine. There are several different services right now that can back up a Mac to the internet cloud. This list makes me think that this is a service that's ripe for disruption by Apple. That's because one has to research, digest, and evaluate the features and security and (generally) pay for the service separately.

Apple could roll this service out in a version of OS X and charge the customer's Apple ID, perhaps as one of its emerging subscription services. The company could leverage off its security policies and its direct connection to customers. Users of other services might well defect for Apple's integration into the OS and peace of mind working with Apple. See, for example, "Apple’s 'first' subscription service paves the way for more."

2. Siri 2.0 as an AI Agent. Right now, Siri (loosely) is generally natural language parser that's connected to a lookup agent. If Siri thinks it has a digestible question, it  looks up the answer from data sources.

However, one can imagine an AI agent inserted into the mix that could not only look up information but also become intimate with the user. The issue here is that for the AI agent to be really helpful, it has to know a lot about the user, user habits, the apps, and the data on the device. It's what I call the Creepy Factor.

If Apple could figure out how to deliver an AI agent that protected—and felt as if it were protecting—one's privacy rather than invading it, Siri 2.0 could really be helpful. And it would be a precursor technology of great assistance as the UI in the (rumored) Apple car. It also might be so advanced and so cool, it would be another candidate as a subscription service.

3. A 5G Apple TV with 4K+HDR+DVR. This looks fairly easy and obvious. It seems Apple concluded that 4K technologies were not yet ripe in October of 2015. But in the coming 8-14 months, it's almost certain that Apple will jump on the 4K bandwagon because the industry will have settled on High Dynamic Range (HDR) standards for streaming video.

Plus, the major ISPs are likely to get more on board with 4K streaming and re-evaluate their data caps. See page 2 right here, linked below, for more on that.

One nice feature that I'd like to see added is a terabyte of Flash storage and DVR technology (under license) for recording Over the Air (OTA). That would make it a no-brainer to upgrade from the current 4G model, especially for cord-cutters. It's a splendid idea.

4. Apple Watch becomes a super enhanced wearable. I have a feeling that the Apple Watch is just getting started. Nowhere will advanced technologies make themselves more obvious than in the Apple Watch as it also cuts the "cord" from the iPhone: LTE cell phone, sleep monitoring, blood chemistry (starting with blood glucose levels), Dick Tracy-like FaceTime calls, to name a few. While the Apple Watch 2.0 of 2016 may not set the world on fire, by 2019, the Apple Watch will be an amazing, indispensable must-have.

5. New Kinds of iPhone Displays. I've talked about this before, and so have Dave Hamilton and John Braun in MGG 600 (at 1h 12m). There's a basic problem at hand. We are constrained by our device's display size. If the device is large, it's not very portable. If it's small and portable, it's hard to see fine detail in the display. Solving that problem has to be one of our Holy Grails for the near future.

There might be ways to use certain kinds of optical technologies, perhaps combined with inconspicuous eyewear, to interact with a small device but a big display. For example, if the iPhone could project its display in some fashion in space before us and maintain the user interface (or use Siri 2.0), we might be no longer tethered to physical displays. Whether this could be done by 2020 is a long shot, and it depends on whether Apple has been thinking about this all along or not.

Another concept that's often discussed is the rollout/rollup display. This concept was used prominently in the SciFI series Earth: Final Conflict (1997-2002) It seems somehow un-Apple, but Apple may have its own, better take on a graphene-based rollup display.

I could go on, but that's enough for now. It's time for page 2's news debris—which is a little different this week.

Next page: The Tech News Debris for the Week of April 25th. Will Onerous ISP Data Caps Disappear?

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of April 18th.

ISP Data Caps Might be Changing for the Better.


This week I came across this announcement from Comcast: "A Terabyte Internet Experience." Marcien Jenckes, Executive Vice President, Consumer Services wrote:

As the world changes and the Internet evolves, so do we. That’s why we are making a major change to our Internet data trials and moving to a terabyte data plan in all of our trial markets. [Emphasis mine.]....

In our trials, we have experimented with different offers, listened to feedback, and learned a lot....We have learned that our customers want the peace of mind to stream, surf, game, download, or do whatever they want online. So, we have created a new data plan that is so high that most of our customers will never have to think about how much data they use....

We’re currently evaluating our plans to roll this out in other markets, we’ll keep listening.

Note that this is a trial, and Comcast hasn't committed to a nationwide rollout. But it's movement in the right direction.

My first reaction to this news was that it's a recognition of the emerging 4K UHD TV era. For example, the Comcast announcement notes that a terabyte of data would allow for about 700 hours/month of HD video. Now, 4K UHD TV doesn't quite require 4 times the data. That's because the H.265/HEVC codec is much more efficient than H.264 used for HD. Also, adaptive streaming can lessen the data rate and total bytes downloaded. Let's say, roughly, a data cap of one TB can get us to 350 hours of 4K streaming a month. (Ignoring everyday internet data use.) That's about 11 hours of 4K UHD TV each day.

I would say that we'd be pretty much worry free at that point, as Comcast suggests.

To get more background on this announcement, I asked Charlie Douglas in Comcast's Corporate Communications Dept. about some of the details in the announcement above. He responded:

Hi John,

By markets we mean cities. We¹re currently running trials in about 14 percent of our markets in places like: Huntsville, Mobile and Tuscaloosa in Alabama; Little Rock in Arkansas; Fort Lauderdale, Miami and the Keys in Florida; Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah in Georgia; Central Kentucky; Houma, LaPlace and Shreveport in Louisiana; Jackson, and Tupelo in Mississippi; Chattanooga, Greeneville, Johnson City/Gray, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis in Tennessee; Charleston in South Carolina; Galax in Virginia; Maine; and Tucson in Arizona.

We did not announce any new trial markets or comment on plans to roll this out nationally. We¹re evaluating those decisions.

I also asked specifically if the movement to 4K UHD TV is driving this trial. Mr. Douglas responded:

In general, what we've learned is customers want a worry free experience and this data plan will do that. And our flexibility with either the unlimited data plan or pay-as-you-go buckets of 50 GB for $10 each gives super users choices to use more data if they wish. It's a fairer approach than trying to enforce a static cap.

My take on this is that Comcast has had a boatload of feedback from customers, (and maybe content providers) and many may have expressed concern about their ability to upgrade to 4K UHD TV with a 250 GB data cap, even in those cases where Comcast suspended the cap.

For example, our Dave Hamilton and I have both had our enforcement of the nominal data cap suspended for some time. Dave showed me this.

Finally, I can understand why the politics of the situation would lead Comcast to a more general affirmation of customer service and a worry-free experience than any specific mention of TV technologies.

Whether the smaller ISPs are thinking like this remains to be seen. But one notion seems clear from Comcast's statement. If U.S. internet technology is to move forward, onerous data caps need to become a thing of the past.

That's about it. I've used up all my space this week. I scanned the Particle Debris folder, and only this stellar article at iMore by Rene Ritchie must be squeezed in. "Apple Stores on Mars."

I loved it.


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 on page two 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.