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TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

Thoughts on Apples ‘It’s Show Time’ event

posted on Wednesday 27th of March 2019 in ,

I actually liked the concept of the event: Focus on new announcements instead of telling me again that you managed to put a new CPU in one or two of your systems which therefore are now 0.5% faster making them the fastest $x you ever built. It seems though like the idea of getting the unspectacular updates out of the way goes against the expectations of some people – years of conditioning did a great job there. While I heard “I had no idea they updated their lineup” a few times, I actually know two people who were waiting for the keynote with buying a new laptop since they wanted the most recent model.

Two of the announcements – Apple Card and News+ – actually made me go “Oh nice, but will it ever come to Germany? Maybe 2030…”. So, without further ado, my two cents on the event:

Apple Card sounds like a pretty nice thing looking at the German credit card market. Cash back? Fancy new concept. Low interest rate? Well, I don’t really care, I pay off my card at the end of the month, but okay, might come in handy some day. No data on the card? Nice! Finally being able to use my card in a US restaurant without thinking about all the things less honest people than my always nice and professional waiters and waitresses would do with this opportunity? Yes please. (And do not get me started on bars…)

I am not that excited about the UI to be honest. Other companies already solved this pretty well and I do not believe it is a differentiating factor.

But coming back to the “low interest rate” promise. Let us take a look at the marketing page. 13.24% to 24.24%.

I know Apple is in the market for premium, but maybe let us talk about the definition of “low”, because this is simply ridiculous. I can easily name three banks which are in the 6-7% range. No late fees? Sure, additional interest only accumulates towards your balance. I am sorry, but this is what I expect from the finance industry I left a decade ago. And guess what – this is exactly what it is.

Apple is not a bank, and as such they are patterning up with Goldman Sachs. A typical bank showing their standard TOS. I honestly expected more from Apple.

Apple News+ looks like something I would immediately subscribe to if I could. I like some of the magazines shown, I am sure my wife also finds one or two she would like to read and the price point is okay. I actually tried reading GQ on the iPad once. A horrible experience, and I simply assume Apple News+ would fix this.

I get why they are targeting US, Canada and later UK first. What I do not understand is why I cannot buy an Apple News+ subscription for the US region today. I do not particularly care about content tailored to Germany or Europe. Even when the service is available in Germany I am not sure if I would not prefer content from another region.

(One of the things people regularly suggest is switching the AppStore region to US. With family sharing and all the little inconveniences people had in the past I will surely not try to ruin my day that way.)

Apple TV Channels and TV Plus. Well, there was an announcement, I can tell that much. I do not particularly care about channels. I honestly do not think it will ever come to Germany anyway, we have a bit of a different concept over here how TVs work and I do not see US publishers licensing their content for other markets. And if it would I already have Netflix and a free Amazon Prime subscription – which is nice for Grand Tour and… well, that is it. (My wife thinks there’s more to Prime than just Grand Tour, so I guess there’s that.)

Plus on the other hand might become really interesting. Netflix is doing a very good job with their own productions and it seems like Apple has some potential talent there. Past reports suggest that Tim Cook is pushing for family friendly content, a demographic I am not really falling into even if I enjoy the occasional Pixar movie.

Apple Arcade will be interesting. I think it is no secret that I condemn micro transactions and all the “buy 1/7th of a game now and the rest via in app purchase”. I do not game a lot on my iOS devices or the AppleTV, partly because the input is horrible for the games I like – looking at you Final Fantasy 7. And there are games with very good critiques where I am not sure if I will enjoy them – hey Stardew Valley.

While the input will likely not change, especially considering what a dead end MFI controllers are, I might start exploring games a bit more if there would be a nice bundle offering like “Apple Entertainment package” that includes all services making it a matter of a dollar or two to get Arcade.

I heard a few times that people have a hard time with the concept that channels will come to other streaming devices which are a lot cheaper than an Apple TV. I think it makes a lot of sense. You do not buy an Apple TV because you want an Apple TV. You buy one because you have an iPhone, maybe an iPad, a MacBook or iMac and you want all your devices to work nicely together. Maybe you want a HomeKit central without leaving one of your iOS devices at home.

If you really only are only in the market for streaming content you might go for the lowest cost hardware anyway. But this means you would not be able to throw money at Apple TV Plus if they did not bring the app to other devices. And the more devices we see, the higher the potential revenue is, the more likely we will see some great content being produced – I am always okay with great content.

I actually hope that this also forces them to invest more in the integration between devices. With todays iOS update I can finally ask Siri to play a movie on my Apple TV. Remind me how long Alexa could do this already with a Firestick. Integration is one of the big selling points why you can ask people to spend three to four times as much on your streaming box compared to alternatives, but it actually has to be a clear differentiating factor.

Overall I liked the announcements, but I have the slight suspicion that it will be a long time before I can get my hands on Apple Card and News+.