Apple blows away CES to start 2011 on a rampage
January 8th, 2011
Daniel Eran Dilger
CES was supposed to break loose that avalanche of Android tablets that would bury Apple. Instead, it was merely what it always is: a bunch of low impact PR fluff that Apple blows away with one or two new announcements.
Mac App Store
This year, it was the Mac App Store. One would think that opening a storefront for desktop PC apps wouldn’t be that newsworthy. It seems Microsoft did this for Windows at one point, but apparently nobody even noticed.
Apple rather expertly snuck its App Store shovel under the snow as it fell, pre-announcing its launch date underneath CES so that everyone could prepare their measured reactions and interview developers in attempts to find disgruntlement to report. But of course in the marketing world any attention is still attention.
The overall experience of the Mac App Store was very positive, because it’s something that offers a lot of value to the Mac platform, its developers, and its users. All Apple had to do to make its initial mark on 2011 was flip up the handle on its shiny new App Store shovel, launching the flurry of CES announcements into the air and to the curb, cleaning a neat path to its front door.
Even I was surprised by how much good content there was from day one; it’s important that Apple didn’t let the store fill up with wallpapers and music clips just to be able to report impressive “app numbers.” Take note, Google and Microsoft: less is more in the new app store.
Verizon on the horizon
Apple’s second announcement didn’t even need to be made. Everyone knows the iPhone is coming to the other big US carrier at this point. My critics like to complain that was wrong when I said that the iPhone wouldn’t come to Verizon in 2008 and 2009 and 2010, but it seems to have turned out that I was correct after all.
Apple of course wont be announcing the “new” iPhone on Verizon, because it’s not really new. As has been pointed out by a variety of Mac luminaries, including John Gruber and Jim Dalrymple, Apple’s letting Verizon do the announcements in New York because this is simply a matter of the iPhone gaining a new carrier. The underlying network transmitter isn’t interesting to the masses.
If Apple hosted the event on the Left Coast, it would appear to be abandoning its initial cozy partnership with AT&T, something it needs to maintain. It would also be difficult for Apple to let Verizon go wild in attacking AT&T’s network performance were Apple actually running the show. Since Verizon is doing it, Apple is pretty much hands off, all except for the disinvitation of Gizmodo.
However, it is interesting that the Wall Street Journal published such a confident confirmation of what we all knew right at the end of CES. It seems pretty likely that Apple arranged to drop that particular bomb at just the right time to flash melt the few flakes of CES PR that had escaped its shovel. Among those flakes were the official CES party thrown by Verizon, introducing its LTE rollout and the Android phones that will connect to its fast data network. Expensively.
So while Android will take over Verizon’s high end niche as early the adopter of 1.0 LTE technology, Apple will become the carrier’s flagship workhorse, capable of stealing away disgruntled AT&T users and entering the enterprise in a way that Android phones simply can’t, because they lack support for corporate proxy servers and full Exchange Server support. Seem the shoe is on the other foot.
And I’d also like to take credit for predicting, controversially, that 2010 would be the beginning of the end of Android hype. Verizon began betting against it late last fall before it began carrying the iPad, and is now moving to the iPhone to get the subscribers that Android can’t. Samsung is hedging its bets with Bada and Windows Phone 7. HP is going solo, as is RIM and Nokia, leaving just the “see what sticks” licensees left: HTC, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung, and so on. The mass market producers of previous years’ Windows Mobile, JavaME and Symbian phones.
DED on CES
I’ve been documenting the fall of CES over the past decade; the notes for this year’s fizzled event is just a bookend for what has been a decade of failure. You might call it the curse of Microsoft, and it is so engrained into the DNA of PC makers that it has even managed to taint Google’s Android (“the Windows that’s worse than Windows”) and everyone else, even TV makers from LG to Samsung to Sony. Which collectively are doing to Smart TV what Palm did to smartphones in 2009: making promises they likely can’t deliver.
Here’s a recap of how CES has proven to be a graveyard of Microsoftic milestones:
2000 – Microsoft appeared to be stomping the remains of Apple and its Macintosh into the ground as it announced initiatives to expand Windows everywhere, first with WebTV and Microsoft TV, and then to smartphones with its new role for WinCE (still two years out) and tablets with Tablet PC. Apple announced the PowerMac G4 Cube, previewed Mac OS X’s new Aqua interface, and debuted iTools, the beginnings of its cloud services it has never been credited for (and which were later renamed .Mac and then MobileMe).
2001 – Microsoft launched the initial Xbox, relaunches Microsoft TV as Ultimate TV, and coins “Windows Powered,” an umbrella term for various WinCE devices. It’s starting to look desperate and ineffective. Apple released its new Titanium PowerBook, iTunes, iDVD, and shows off Mac OS X 10.0. Steve Jobs introduces the Digital Hub, with the Mac in the center, attached to digital devices like MP3 players, mobile phones, PDAs, and DVD players via Apple software and hardware integration.
2002 – Microsoft launched Mira Windows Powered Smart Displays and Freestyle (which would become the Window Media Center PC). Where’s the Microsoft TV thing? and Where is its answer to the iPod that Apple released the previous fall? No matter, Apple releases the flat panel iMac G4, the 14 inch iBook, and the new iPhoto, giving Macs something else graphically intensive to do so users would need a faster one.
2003 – More Media Center PC, more Tablet PC, SPOT watches (remember that?) and a video-capable answer to the iPod with Media2Go, albeit delayed until the middle of 2004. Still no worthy iPod competitor, as its Windows Media DRM is still MIA. Apple launched 12 an 17 inch PowerBooks, Final Cut Express, its new Safari browser, Keynote, and the new iLife suite.
2004 – Microsoft rolled out Media Center Edition 2004, enabling users to recognize that the product had been updated, along with showing the Portable Media Center players it had introduced earlier but wouldn’t have ready for several more months. Tying the desktop monopoly to new mobile devices didn’t work, leaving a gaping hole for Apple to continue selling iPods to Windows users and making iTunes the default music player for PC users. Apple focused on its new Xserve, iPod mini, Finals Cut Express 2, and the new GarageBand included in iLife 04.
2005 – Microsoft gave up on specific product introductions, talking only about a nebulous new Digital Entertainment Anywhere initiative laced with new brand names, including PlaysForSure and Windows Media Connect. Bill Gates’ keynote suffers significant technical problems, but nobody cares because nobody is even listening anymore. Apple debuts the Mac Mini, iPod Shuffle, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, Final Cut Express HD, Pages with Keynote 2 in iWork 05, and iMovie HD in iLife 05.
2006 – Microsoft unleashes Xbox 360, a money pit that would eventually break even after consuming around $8 billion of the company’s profits. It also relaunched Portable Media Center in an effort to take on the iPod, although it would subsequently abandon that ecosystem by the end of the year to go it alone with its new Zune device. Apple launches its Intel-based new MacBook Pro and iMac, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger for Intel, iWork 06, and iWeb in iLife 06.
2007 – Microsoft launches Windows Vista and the Windows Home Server. Apple introduces Apple TV, AirPort Extreme with 802.11n, and of course, the iPhone, which sucks the oxygen from CES in an unprecedented way, leaving pundits and rival executives struggling for words.
2008 – Bill Gates announces his retirement from Microsoft. Apple launches Time Capsule, introduces new iOS updates, movie rentals in iTunes, Apple TV “take two” with HD rentals, and the ultra thin new MacBook Air, with an aluminum unibody construction that would trickle down into the rest of the MacBook line later that year.
2009 – Steve Ballmer took over Microsoft’s keynote, debuting Windows 7 with multitouch stuff that never materialized. Palm takes over the show with the new webOS Pre, which it says will trash the iPhone. On Apple’s side, Phil Schiller took over for Jobs, presenting new iLife’s new geotagging and face recognition in iPhoto and new Learn to Play lessons in GarageBand. An update to iWork was paired with new cloud collaboration features in iWork.com. Apple also launched the new unibody 17 inch MacBook Pro with an integrated battery design, completing the transformation of the MacBook line.
2010 – Microsoft rushes Slate PC to market in an attempt to head off the rumored Apple tablet. Shortly after CES, Google builds upon Verizon’s Droid inertia with the release of its Nexus One. Apple doesn’t participate in Macworld Expo, but does reveal the iPad, which shuts Slate PC out into the cold and delays competitors’ plans as they scramble to catch up in sophistication and in price.
2011 – Microsoft talks about the future of Windows PCs, tablets and smartphones, offering so little that Apple can hijack the entire event with nothing more than the announcement of the Mac App Store.
End of Wintel
Interestingly, this year Microsoft chatted up its eventual support for ARM chips two years hence. Its inability to run the NT/Vista/7 kernel on ARM mobile processors means that it can’t deliver powerful, mobile devices competitive with the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, all of which share the same kernel as Mac OS X.
Intel, meanwhile, being snubbed by Microsoft, turned things around by calling essentially calling Microsoft incompetent in delivering a worthy tablet OS, although it also said Google’s Android was having troubles as well.
In the 2010s, Wintel is gone, Android is replacing Windows among mobile devices as a weaker, more permissive monoculture, and Apple is set up to build a new ‘golden age of computing’ based upon simple, easy to use third party software apps with built in security limits, running like video game cartridges on its wide scope of Mac OS and iOS products, tightly integrated with its hardware designs. This should be interesting. Next up: my predictions for 2011. What are yours?