Apple, routers, external displays, and spreadsheets

By , Nov 22, 2016

AaronXic Apple October 27 Event desktop

For a while now I’ve had this sentiment that there is a growing lack of focus or care at Apple, which has led me to feel pretty concerned about some of the company’s decisions. Yet one thing is helping alleviate these concerns and it’s Apple’s recent decisions to discontinue two major product categories: its family of AirPort routers, and its Thunderbolt display business.

To be fair, Apple hasn’t officially announced the discontinuation of any of these products. Yet Bloomberg felt confident enough running a story this week about the disbandment of AirPort routers, and Nilay Patel of The Verge mentioned in October that an Apple representative had told him the company was out of the display business.

If you were a user of these products, then I can understand your frustration, but ultimately, I believe it to me a good thing for Apple. The reason is, Apple is not a router company. Neither is it a display company.

So what kind of company is Apple then?

The answer is written black on white at the bottom of each press release the company sends out: “Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Apple’s four software platforms — iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud.

Computers, operating systems to support these computers, and internet services. That’s what Apple is about these days.

The fact that the company was making routers and external displays for so long was just a distraction for a company that already has more than enough on its plates. Arguably, it didn’t help that these two product categories probably weren’t big money makers for Apple. For instance, I don’t know anyone in my direct group of friends and family who ever owned an Apple router or monitor. It’s a very unscientific thing to say, but one that clearly highlights the fact that these products weren’t that popular to begin with.

Now that some of these business units have been dismantled, Apple can focus on what it does best (or what it wants to be best at): computers, operating systems, and internet services.

I’ve seen people argue that being one of the largest corporations in the world, Apple should be able to allocate resources to these business units. They could do that for sure. But the real question is why would they? Why would they keep directing resources towards products that aren’t part of their core business? Why would they keep putting money into products that aren’t successful, selling in significant numbers, and generating comfortable profit margins? Why would they assign human resources to negligible product lines when there is so much more important work to be done?

There is absolutely no sane business reason for Apple to continue working on these products.

Now I could also argue that because Apple is so big, it can afford to support products that don’t make money in order to please a small yet very loyal part of its customer base. As a matter of fact, I agree with that.

Apple could keep making routers and displays, but it’s just not today’s Apple. Today’s Apple makes most of its decisions based on numbers and spreadsheets. Be it for the best or for the worst, this is the direction Apple is taking.

I don’t always agree with Apple, but when it comes to these two recent decisions, I tend to see eye to eye with the folks in Cupertino. Focus on what’s really important to you, and abandon any other distraction.

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  • So now, if someone had the $ and wanted their Apple desktop to look as good as the MacPro, they would have to settle for an ugly Dell Display? Seriously? and now people who can barely deal with a computer need to deal with routers? My entire network with the exception of a T-Mobil Router is Apple Stations, which are exponentially easier to set up than that T-Mobil Router. This is not a good move. They should be pushing to make their devices ever more sophisticated and affordable, so that the “Everything Apple” actually means something.

    • Anonomous.TECH.man

      https://9to5mac.(DOT)/2016/11/04/opinion-apple-recipe-for-success-has-become-boring/amp/

      Apple is kinda killing off unprofitable and time consuming businesses tbh it has grown to be boring Tim is starting to be a numbers man and I’m tired of it the repetitiveness not in thier line up but in feature cutting. Apple has the ability to do what ever they want to do but they don’t they amount of fragmentation throughout apple right now would have never been present under Steve Jobs. Also Apple could be doing so much more with workers right/conditions in thier factories etc. At least they do the green power and recycling yet all the ewaste from a the removal of the 3.5mm jack will create and the every year product cycle I still use Apple products and love my iPhone but I’m no longer a “sheep”.

      • 5723alex .

        ..”could be doing so much more with workers right/conditions in thier factories etc..”

        Apple doesn’t have factories.

      • Anonomous.TECH.man

        Really man, come on you know what I mean, Foxconn and all the thousand of suppliers Apple gets its parts from; even down to the miners who get the raw material/metal. There is a huge carbon footprint and so much that could be done. Apple does have a good energy program that a lot of tech companies don’t yet there is always more to be done. With the amount of money Apple makes on each phone better quality working conditions/worker treatment could be pushed through the industry.

      • 5723alex .

        Apple isn’t and shouldn’t be responsible for workers conditions of their suppliers. Its the responsibility of local governments.

      • Anonomous.TECH.man

        Definition of a sheep right here. Seriously how can one of the wealthiest companies in recent history not be held responsible for worker rights/treatment. You can’t put worker rights off on developing countries governments.

      • 5723alex .

        Stupid response. Wealth of a company has nothing to do with suppliers working conditions.

    • TechnoBuff

      It is a good move for the investors….

      Make no mistake about it.. No company exists to make certain products at a loss so that its customer base can be happy… Every product line has to justify its existence.

      Only a small minority of Apple users buy Apple routers and displays as well.. Most Macbook users do not even have a secondary display and considering the price of those displays.

      Moreso the business of manufacturing displays is capital and resources intensive.

    • raulortiz318

      Sorry, but routers like Eero, Google Wifi, and others are more current, and easier to configure. On top of most cable modems now have the router built in, and most average user just uses the default network/password given to them.

      With displays, there are some nice options aesthetically. Although not for the new MacBook Pro, the Dell UP2715K is beautiful, thinner than a Thunderbolt Display, and has a much better adjustable stand. I love it, and my guess is they will upgrade this to a Thunderbolt 3 model within a year.

      Not everything you own has to be from Apple. Lots of great options out there.

      • I just checked out the Dell UP2715K, sorry, no match to even an iMac with all components inside. I’m sure apple would make a super thin display if they wanted to.

        Are the routers mentioned all show up in an app? That’s the advantage of the Apple routers, I have 5 of them and they all show up in one window.

      • raulortiz318

        These routers are set up through apps, so multiple units would appear in same window. They create mesh networks with little to no config on the user’s part, as they are to be used in packs of 2 or 3. I believe a pack of 2 eero’s is comparable to the price of one AirPort Extreme.

      • Do you have a link to those?

  • burge

    And yet there is some rumour about a car project.

    Apple already make displays with the iMac range and it wouldn’t be a loss to make these just displays.

    • Exactly, I don’t see the logic behind this. How can it cost so much if they already make the iMac. I was waiting for thin displays at a price point comparable to Dell. How can Dell beat Apple at this?

      Christ just put the iMac’s display on a damn aluminum enclosure and your done! and there is nothing wrong with their routers, just keep making as much as they are sold.

      Apple is just going to join the rest of the losers.

      Tim is a cook.

      • Making and selling a display isn’t as simple as saying “let’s just turn this iMac into a monitor.”

        Some of the related cost involved in developing this product would be design, prototyping, engineering, software engineering, production, shipping, packaging, marketing, and much more.

        All these steps would take time away from Apple employees that could be focused on doing something more meaningful for Apple’s bottomline.

      • burge

        Apple might actually sell more of these if they didn’t over price them to start with. At one point the Apple TV wasn’t popular but they stuck at it.

  • Mark S

    Apple isn’t a headphone company either yet they market those.

    • Anonomous.TECH.man

      Well they do own beats.

      EDIT: Im sorry they aren’t a headphone company

  • ikshields

    Personally, as a musician, I’m distressed about the loss of the Airport Express with its stereo sound connection. This was a truly unique and useful product, and enabled me to go wireless with my home stereo, as well as send wireless music to any sound system easily on-the-go.

    Also, Apple was on its way to home automation, I thought. Aren’t these key parts of that system?

    It seems the bean counters are as shortsighted and unimaginative as ever. Steve Jobs would be punching someone in the face right now.

    • cdlenfert

      I agree with this thought. My guess is that they’ll have to offer something that does wireless audio streaming at least. If it’s not a full fledged router like the Airport Express, at least something that lets you continue to do AirTunes (the precursor to Airplay). If they cut out the router part, maybe they could even get the pricing down to be competitive with the Chromecast Audio. I own 4 Airport expresses, and 1 Extreme and they all play very nice together. Before I got the extreme I used my ISPs router with built in Wifi and had constant drop outs of streaming audio, it just never worked reliably no matter how I configured the 3rd party router. There’s definitely been a benefit to me to using all Apple wireless network products.

  • oh the nonsense spewed by those with limited historical perspective…

    Here’s a brief history for those who refuse to study:
    – apple invented the home computer – at a time when everyone said it wasn’t possible
    – they owned the entire market lock stock and barrel – almost 100%
    – steve jobs, the supposed “visionary”, had his head so firmly planted up his back side that he was more concerned with making pretty things that didn’t have upgrade slots than providing the world with what it wanted (and made it too expensive)
    – over time, apple’s marketshare sunk to under 2 percent (yes.. that’s two.. as in less than 3, after having previously had about 100%)
    – microsoft, as much as they suck (and they do), and pc manufacturers at large gave the people what they wanted: cheaper and more expandable computers. both soared to 98+% marketshare
    – apple, who previously had a HUGE cash horde, started sinking into bankruptcy, looked for a way out… so they put their hand in too many cookie dishes and were making absolutely every product on planet earth , trying to find something that would be a cash cow to keep the doors open (printers, PDA’s, monitors, ink, etc… )
    – When steve jobs returned he nixed 99% of this stupidity and focused on 4 things intently: home desktop, business desktop, home laptop and business laptop
    – After creating this intense focus , which was wise, he re-introduced some key products that turned the mac experience into an actual experience: the staples of your computer environment… monitors, routers, keyboards, mice, etc… brilliant move.

    the point of that last move was not to try and be ridiculously profitable, but to create a seamless experience. and the REASON to make it this way was because of sinking marketshare – to induce pc users to switch, becuase your ENTIRE life got easier when you moved to mac.

    fast forward a bit and watch history repeat:

    – apple reinvents the smart phone
    – they owned the entire market lock stock and barrel – almost 100%
    – steve jobs, the supposed “visionary”, had his head so firmly planted up his back side that he was more concerned with making pretty things that didn’t have upgrade slots than providing the world with what it wanted (and made it too expensive)
    – over time, apple’s marketshare sunk to under 11.7 percent
    – google, as much as they suck (and they do), and phone manufacturers at large gave the people what they wanted: cheaper and more expandable devices. both soared to 87.6% marketshare
    – apple, now sitting on a cash horde, is doing what they did last time… not adjusting and will eventually have a cash issue as sales continue to dwindle. Forgetting the lessons of the past, and not caring about inducing pc/android users, apple nixes key pieces of the product experience. even worse… they have COMPLETELY alienated their pro customers. absolute idiocy
    – believe it or not, when it all collapses at apple (and it will), there is another steve jobs in the wings ready to save them.. scott forestall

    so… the dummies keep making the same mistake

    but even more telling is your inability to see how dangerous this move is…