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This week: How and why Apple should completely free its watch from the iPhone. Also: The company aims to take over your car’s controls, Apple appeals the Epic Games lawsuit result, and more.
The Apple Watch Series 7 went on presale this past Friday, and on the 10th anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs, I can’t help but think about the Apple co-founder’s last major initiative, iCloud, and how it relates to the smartwatch.
As a refresher, Jobs’s big final push was what he called the “post-PC” era. Before 2011, Apple’s ecosystem worked as such: The Mac was the hub from which the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV and other devices received much of their content—like photos and videos. If you’re old enough to remember, you’ll recall that the iPhone, iPad and iPod required a Mac with iTunes to set up, activate and synchronize.
With iCloud and iOS 5 in 2011, Apple and Jobs changed that, making the cloud the hub for all of Apple’s devices. Out of the box, iPhones and iPads can now be set up and used entirely without a computer, and all of Apple’s devices receive their content from the cloud instead of a Mac. In other words, you can use any of Apple’s mobile devices—the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch—without even owning a Mac.
But seven years into the Apple Watch era, one of Apple’s most promising device categories still does things the old way. As any Apple Watch owner knows, an iPhone is required for activation and setup, syncing data and day-to-day operating. The Apple Watch doesn’t meet the Jobs vision for every Apple device being able to operate and exist on its own.
Apple has taken some steps over the years to push the Apple Watch in that direction, though:
Despite those enhancements, you still can’t buy an Apple Watch, set it up from the device itself, and move over all of your content from the cloud. That limits the potential user base of the Apple Watch—and excludes people who might want to only own an Apple Watch and a Mac or iPad and no iPhone. Or, one day, people who want an Apple Watch as their only device.
The good news is that the Apple Watch Series 7 brings us closer to that vision with something as simple as a built-in qwerty keyboard and the potential for more expansive controls.
Apple should add a setup system to the watch so that a user can log in directly to their iCloud and iTunes accounts, download data from the cloud, and activate the device with their cellular carrier.
The company would need to add a few other features to make this happen:
Making the watch completely independent could turn the device into an even bigger part of the company’s product portfolio, increase sales and help reach customers outside of the Apple ecosystem—including Android users.
Given all of the feature additions—plus the larger screens—the watch is clearly closer than ever to the Jobs vision. I just hope it happens sooner than later, and before Apple has the same conundrum with its future augmented-reality glasses.
Apple’s planned CarPlay expansion could be a precursor to its own car. Launched with limited automaker support in 2014, CarPlay—the system that lets your iPhone and an Apple interface take over your car’s infotainment—has become a hit.
Cars’ built-in navigation systems and user interfaces are mostly horrible to use, outside of the Tesla Inc. ecosystem. Apple changed that, making your car’s infotainment system a bit more like an iPhone. Over the years, the company has even added robust third-party app support and deeper integration with more Apple services. It’s in more than 600 vehicle models and, for many consumers, is a must-have when buying a new car.
But Apple’s more recent car initiatives haven’t been as successful: CarKey for unlocking a car with an iPhone or Apple Watch is only in some BMW models; EV routing has yet to arrive in any car currently shipping; and support for an Apple interface in digital instrument clusters is only on some BMWs and Volkswagens.
The company is hoping its next major move in cars, an initiative codenamed “IronHeart,” will be as successful as its main CarPlay system. While it’s likely years away and relies on carmakers playing along, the goal is for CarPlay to replace a vehicle’s main functions. That includes climate controls, adjusting seats, flipping through radio channels and reading the speedometer.
For those wondering what this means for Apple’s work on its own car, here’s my take: Don’t forget that iTunes laid the groundwork for the iPod, HealthKit debuted before the Apple Watch, HomeKit was a precursor to the HomePod, and ARKit on the iPhone and iPad is setting the stage for Apple’s upcoming headsets.
But the auto industry could hinder Apple’s ambitions. Many carmakers are probably thinking something like this: Apple is building its own car to put us out of business, and now it wants to take over our existing cars too? Yeah, right.
Others may realize they won’t have a choice. If the upgraded CarPlay system becomes a must-have for consumers, it will also be a must-have for the carmakers.
New Apple Watches in short supply. Speaking of the Apple Watch, the supply constraints hitting the new models quickly became apparent. Just minutes into the start of preorders on Friday, many models saw their delivery dates slip into November. In fact, some higher-end models are already being listed as “currently unavailable” or won’t be delivered until early December. If you go to an Apple retail store on launch day, however, you might have some luck.
Tim Cook on Steve Jobs: I wish he could see what Apple launches next. Oct. 5 was the 10th anniversary of the death of Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs. As it has done for previous anniversaries of Jobs’s passing, Apple marked the occasion with a message on its website and a post on Twitter from current CEO Tim Cook.
To acknowledge the decade anniversary, Cook sent a memo to Apple employees worldwide. You can read the full email here. But I wanted to highlight what I thought was the most key passage—one that focuses on the future, not the past:
Most of all, I wish he could see what you do next. Steve once said that his proudest achievements were the ones that were yet to come. He spent every day imagining a future that no one else could see and working relentlessly to bring his vision to life.
Of course, Apple has some major new products on its road map that Cook could be alluding to. The company is working on health technologies for the Apple Watch, a foldable phone, a redesigned standard iPhone for next year, and a mixed-reality headset and AR glasses.
Apple asks for stay in case with Epic, delaying App Store changes. In an unsurprising move, Apple appealed and asked for a stay on the permanent injunction levied by a California court in the trial with Epic Games Inc. Epic made a similar move last month.
For those who need a recap: Apple and Epic went to trial earlier this year, with Epic claiming Apple is a monopolist that engages in anticompetitive conduct. Apple largely came away clean, with the judge ruling in the iPhone maker’s favor on most counts. The court didn’t force Apple to allow third-party app stores or push the company to change its commission structure, and it even made Epic pay 6 million bucks in damages (Apple is worth nearly $2.4 trillion).
Where Apple lost, however, was with an injunction that would allow third-party developers to point users to the web to complete transactions, essentially bypassing Apple’s fees. Earlier this year, Apple said it would grant that ability to media apps. Now, the injunction would expand that to games—a much bigger category.
My math from September indicates that Apple could lose around a couple billion dollars per year if the injunction were implemented as most industry watchers expect. Others have made the argument that Apple could still try to collect its 15%-to-30% fees from developers even for purchases completed outside of the App Store.
Whatever the case is, Apple doesn’t want to deal with it. This appeal forces the judge to reconsider her stance and, at the very least, pushes back the timeline for Apple to make changes—probably for a year or more. The injunction originally had a 90-day stay, meaning Apple had until early December to make its App Store changes. Now if a shift ultimately happens, it won’t be until later. Cupertino gets to enjoy the holidays. Developers? Probably not as much as they expected.
Apple names new treasurer, elevates other key managers. It’s promotion season at Apple: The company has elevated executives from its marketing, software engineering and chip divisions to the vice president level, in addition to naming a new treasurer. Eden Sears, Alan Gilchrist, Stacey Lysik and Ron Huang are all now VPs of brand, chips and batteries, software program management, and sensor software, respectively. Michael Shapiro takes over for Gary Wipfler, who recently retired as the person in charge of Apple’s massive cash holdings.
Google’s Pixel 6 is near: Months after announcing the phone and previewing its design and some of its features to me and other media, Google will hold an Oct. 19 event to showcase the device and the rest of its capabilities to consumers.
The MacBook Pro wait is likely almost over: The new MacBook Pro didn’t appear at Apple’s September product unveiling, but it should still be launching this year.
Q: When is CarPlay gaining the new Apple Maps designs for landmark buildings?
Q: Why would Apple launch the Apple Watch Series 7 this month with such little supply?
Q: Is Apple working on a robot like Amazon?
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