Now there are some stories running that yesterday’s Apple event was a big, fat flop. Apple announced an iPhone SE and 9.7″ iPad Pro, to no one’s surprise.
Well, no one’s surprise because of the leaks.
But think back to last fall. The Twitterverse was agog about a 9.7″ iPad with keyboard and Pen, like the 12.9″ iPad Pro. But no one expected a Pro/Air line separation for the iPad (although I did blog that a keyboard and Pencil would not come to a model called Air).
Likewise, people who loved 4″ iPhones were beside themselves, thinking that Apple would never make a new 4″ iPhone again.
Fast-forward 5 months and both wishes came true. Is that big news? I think so.
But it’s more than just whether the news was leaked or not. Yesterday’s announcements are important for what’s coming this fall.
Let’s not forget the 32-bit Ax process to 64-bit processor transition that’s been under way since the A7. Apple has already forced developers to make 64-bit versions of their apps on the App Store. Apple doesn’t do legacy. 32-bit apps are going the way of the dodo bird. When? It could happen as early as iOS 10 this fall. Why do I think that?
Well, an inexpensive, $399 iPhone SE (special edition: just for 32-bit phone users!) was the final nail in the coffin for 32-bit Apple iOS devices (well, except for the Watch, but I’ll get to that). Everything Apple sells now is 64-bit, from the iPod touch, to all iPads, to all iPhones, to all Apple TVs. All new/updated apps in the App Store must be 64-bit. iOS 10 will be announced at WWDC 2016.
WWDC is the perfect time to announce that iOS 10 is 64-bit only, and users that want to upgrade to it will have to have a 64-bit device.
Now users won’t be able to whine that they don’t want a large iPhone 6 or 6S, because they’ll be able to buy the 4″, 64-bit CPU iPhone SE. For just $399. Or free with contract in the US. Painless upgrade.
Likewise, splitting the iPad line into iPad Air and iPad Pro, with a $200 price differential, leaves room for a future iPad line in the middle. A new iPad Air this fall would presumably have an A9 chip and be much thinner than an A10-bearing iPad Pro (and regular iPad?).
People complain that iPad Pro is not a laptop, but it’s not meant to be. Right now, it’s perfectly justifiable as a touchscreen device with a keyboard accessory for occasional typing duties. It’s not meant to be a laptop with iOS 9. Perhaps, iOS 10 will change that equation, and with Pro-level photo, video, audio, & business software, the iPad Pro may come even closer to being the ultimate computing device for many users who simply don’t need a complicated Intel-based PC.
Therefore, the 2 main announcements from yesterday’s event are laying out the groundwork for iPhones & iPads with iOS 10 and Apple’s A10 CPU this fall.
So, what about the Apple Watch?
First, the $50 price reduction (Apple doesn’t reduce prices very often!) signals that Apple wants to get a wider swath of entry-level wearable users, stealing them from FitBit and Android Wear. I had concerns about lack of Apple Watch upgradability, but the cheaper it is the less a concern upgrading is.
Secondly, developers have complained about watchOS’s WatchKit API as being too high level, not allowing fine-grained controlled over the watch. Perhaps this plays into the 32-bit/64-bit issue. Perhaps WatchKit is so high level so that it would work on both 32-bit and 64-bit watches, and Apple will bring out a 64-bit Apple Watch this fall and a new watchOS API will be available and 64-bit only? That would explain away some of the weirdness and complaints of WatchKit as it stands today.
No, yesterday’s event wasn’t groundbreaking. No major new visual designs. No new categories of devices. But then it wasn’t WWDC or a 2+ hour keynote, either. The purpose of yesterday’s event was to get the word out about an inexpensive phone that you can upgrade to in order to get iOS 10, and a smaller iPad Pro that could replace your need for a PC.
Sometimes your strategy is more laying the groundwork for future announcements, and less about groundbreaking new things.