Apple had big plans for 2020.
The year began with a major Mac and iPhone introduction in the spring, sped forward with a little more Mac and further revelations around AirPods and services, with a major iPhone upgrade and introduction of an all-new ARM-powered Mac product at the end of the year.
Next year was going to be even bigger.
Not business as usual
Everyone on our planet now knows that business is not going on as usual and won’t be for a while.
Even once we’ve dealt with the current crisis, governments will be forced to support businesses and individuals who are adversely impacted (in unpredictable ways) by the pandemic.
Normal business will have to wait.
Apple knows this, which is why it has reportedly delayed the planned launch of the iPhone 9, is providing more limited than usual service and support for existing products, has scuppered unannounced plans for a March spring launch event, and will — let’s face it — more than likely abandon WWDC 2020.
These decisions and the market reality are hurting the company’s business, but it’s not alone: The great majority of businesses all across our planet will be suffering at this time, and the consequences of this pain will continue even after the pandemic has abated.
All the same, “Our first priority — now and always — is the health and safety of our employees, supply chain partners, customers and the communities in which we operate,” Apple has said.
What did Apple have planned?
Here’s some of what we think Apple had planned for 2020:
- iPhone 9
- iPad Pro
- AirTags and improved AirPods
- 14-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air with new scissor switch keyboard
Early summer introductions
- Mac mini and iMac Pro upgrades, with new LED displays
- Apple Music enhancements, likely to include video
- HomePod improvements
- Apple TV upgrades
- WWDC event, complete with first glance at ARM Mac plans and OS improvements
There are other products, of course, but this should give you some sense of what an important year 2020 was intended to be for the company. It’s also important to read between the lines of this schedule — look at how so many of these products introduce new display technologies, and the extent to which AI, voice and augmented reality are woven into most of these plans.
That’s because all three technologies aren’t just fundamental to making improvements in its existing products but will also prove to essential to the company’s 2021 introduction of its own Apple glasses, and for its developing vision for the future of transportation — with 5G an important component of all these visions.
2020 was intended to be a pivotal year as Apple began drawing a host of its separate strands of technology development together in order to orchestrate its moves into new voice first and then other platforms.
Apple’s gonna have to think differently
It’s still going to be that, but Apple will likely handle it slightly differently.
- The first thing it will need to do is pull back on new product releases. The company has a fantastic operations team, but the fact that it is running out of spare parts and replacement devices suggests the scale of the problems it faces. The challenges aren’t simply logistical. Consumers are staying home, becoming risk averse and, toilet paper and pasta sales aside, the shops are certainly not buzzing. It’s just not a good time to introduce something new. This is (allegedly) why it has delayed iPhone 9, but will allegedly proceed to launch new Macs in the coming weeks.
- The second thing it will need to do is look at how it communicates new operating system features to developers and customers. Ordinarily, this is something that takes place at WWDC, when the company reaches millions with a couple of keynotes and a horde of enthusiastic bloggers. This time around it’s going to have to take a far more virtual approach, with private online briefings for key developers, partners and people to help get its messages out – bloggers, vloggers, and journalists.
- The third thing it must think about is how to stoke the engines of its business at a time when people are less interested in making purchases. This will favor the introduction of new Macs, iPads and pro devices, but probably won’t help boost smartphone sales, given that people will probably be staying in for a few months. Announcements will likely take place online, with press releases and detailed video briefings.
- The company will also have to think very deeply about the welfare of its partners, suppliers and employees, introducing work from home, wage support and more to help its people through.
When it comes to the big picture stuff — things like its more sophisticated plans to deploy the U1 chip introduced with iPhone 11, future AR evolutions and everything else, the perfect storm of complications make the company more likely than not to hold back a little longer, until things settle down.
That means delayed product introductions, and (potentially) a late summer ‘Developer Conference’ on a much smaller scale than WWDC, possibly organized on a regional basis (North America, Europe, Africa, South America, APAC).
None of this will be the same, of course, but those companies that best plan their course through the current crisis will be those that prosper.
Like any other digital transformation, this one requires business agility and understanding of the true connections that drive every enterprise supply chain, a connection that spans the space between the people who make stuff, the people who use it, and everyone in between.
Of course, Apple’s fundamentals remain as strong as ever.
Recovery will happen.
However, the nature of its business — and those of every business — will likely change as a result of the current crisis, not just to make it through a challenging present, but also to face a more complex future on our deeply interconnected planet.
Now wash your hands.
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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.