Apple updates hardware, software, and services every year and has never been too afraid to cannibalize an existing product range to make way for the new — the iPhone ate the iPod, after all. Now, we hear that Apple is preparing its late 2022/early 2023 product salvo, and, as expected, this may include AR glasses.
What’s the story?
Mark Gurman at Bloomberg condensed all the current Apple speculation in a recent post. In brief, upcoming arrivals include:
- Macs, including M2 and M3 models, including an M2 Pro, Max, Ultra and Extreme configurations.
- Four iPhone 14 devices – two with an A16 chip and always-on display.
- iPad updates, including M2 iPad Pro models and an A14 entry-level model.
- Three Apple Watch models, including an SE and a rugged version.
- The mixed-reality headset, equipped with an Apple chip, likely a low-power, high performance M2 processor.
- An Apple TV upgrade, with additional gaming capabilities and a better processor.
- HomePod, which may include a display.
- And an AirPods Pro upgrade, including heart monitor.
That’s the round-up, so what might it tell us?
New business opportunities loom
First, it tells us Apple is preparing to open a new business segment around AR glasses. CEO Tim Cook has been guiding us towards this for ages and we’ve written extensively about the company’s purported plans. But this fresh frontier is now about to emerge and will provide businesses with a chance to build customer and internal collaboration relationships, digitize business processes, and explore/pioneer new market opportunities.
We can anticipate companies already in the space will probably be preparing to pivot their own product design and development roadmaps to reflect Apple’s eventual design. Sony, Microsoft, Valve, HTC, and Meta will all be watching, and you can anticipate some spicy talk from at least some competitors through the vehicle of the Metaverse Standards Forum. Talk is cheap, but the overall effect will be to promote rapid growth across the existing AR/VR industry.
Content and services developers will directly benefit, predicts analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. I agree.
Apple silicon roadmap is coalescing
Second, it tells us that Apple is very, very focused on its own Apple silicon chips. We knew this already, of course, but any business considering implementing employee-choice schemes or introducing/extending support for iPads/Macs can now (if they didn’t already) see a clear road map for product development stretching out years ahead. Apple has proved its commitment to regular security and software updates while the market for enterprise supporting products and services continues to expand. There seems little beyond inertia to stop businesses from deploying additional Apple products. That’s possibly why Jamf CIO Linh Lam expects the company will be the number one (endpoint) vendor by 2030.
This is also why Apple will continue to evolve its offer to enterprise pros.
For end users? Fast, increasingly powerful computers with incredibly low power requirements, all of which include on-chip features (such as UWB (probably) and/or machine-learning capabilities) much of which haven’t really been stretched yet.
That built-in and unexploited upside within existing products, along with Apple’s commitment to continuous software upgrades, means the Mac or iPad you purchase today (or next year) will be a better machine the year after that.
One more thing: We don’t know, and we’ve not been told, but it appears Apple is betting on COVID-related production slowdowns ending. With this in mind a lot will depend on health data as we enter the fall.
Health, fitness – and eye care?
Third, it tells us about health. A second report today explains that the new AirPods Pro will use USB-C, have microphones built into the case for use as a hearing aid, motion sensors, built-in fitness tracking, temperature detection, and a heart rate sensor.
In other words, Apple is proliferating its health data collection systems across its personal products, further expanding its reach into augmented health.
When not evangelizing Apple’s AR products, Cook has frequently extolled his company’s work in health. While I don’t think we’ve seen Apple’s big idea in that sector yet, the addition of health sensors to AirPods gives us a firm direction of travel and, if nothing else, probably means digital health solutions developers should sign up for an Apple developer account.
Starting in iOS 16, Apple has told us to expect the capacity to save vision prescriptions to HealthKit. It says this is because such prescriptions are easy to use. But given the looming launch of AR glasses and that such data is now available to developers via ‘requestPerObjectRead’ authorization, it’s hard not to wonder if there’s something more to this. After all, 75% of US adults rely on prescription glasses. There’s not a huge amount of value in mixed reality if all you can see is the overlay.
The return of the Apple quadrant
Back when Steve Jobs returned to a near-dead Apple and cut the cruft, the company adopted a much-simplified product road map: Pro, Consumer, Mobile, Desktop. There were and still are shades within that, and new product families also now exist, but the company has remained focused around those divides.
Apple’s claimed decision to place A16 chips only in the Pro iPhone models while equipping the iPhone range with (albeit optimized and improved) A15 processors suggests the company’s returning to that strategy. Pro iPhones (and by inference, all Apple’s pro products) will gain additional features and capacities to set them apart more clearly from the consumer range. Apple has reached a point where it’s only truly credible competitor is itself. What’s a firm to do?
[Also read: We already know how Apple will prosper in uncertainty]
Consumer users needn’t feel too down about this, of course: Those high-end features get to be universal features eventually, usually over around two years.
The green slide
One thing that isn’t being discussed much is how Apple must continue work to mitigate the impact of hardware manufacturing as it seeks to meet its own zero carbon 2030 goals. Manufacturing is inherently wasteful of resources, raw materials, water, fuel, and more. The need to optimize manufacturing processes continues across every industry, and this means sustainability and recycling will be core to new hardware designs from the firm. Apple’s approach to “designing in” sustainable business practice across its own and partner businesses should help inform every enterprise as to what’s possible.
The green slides Apple produces during its looming product presentations should be looked at deeply for what they reveal around process innovation, use of recycled materials and more. There is, after all, a lot of otherwise squandered cash to be released within any company through application of more efficient, less wasteful manufacturing and distribution practice. To what extent can Apple’s decisions on this help guide your own as you seek to more effectively manage your business?
One more thing
Bloomberg also seems to predict the introduction of a multitouch screen atop a new model HomePod. If that’s the case, this could conceivably offer up more visual elements such as album art and an on-device music selection system, but it’s not too huge a stretch to imagine support for relevant home-focused apps and widgets. To what extent will Matter and Thread support enable smarter smart homes?
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