The Flock: Another tech podcast


Apple's Showtime Event

30 March 2019

The consensus among observers is that the 25 March event was not Apple-like. As far as what was announced, sure. However, although the things Apple unveiled are not things you would expect Apple to create, they were marketed and framed in a very Apple-like way. Apple News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+ are all constructed based on the same core values as any other Apple product: privacy, simplicity, and the user experience. We can debate whether the services will actually achieve those ideals, but it’s clear from the slideshow that these are the advantages Apple is pushing.

No company lasts a long time by refusing to change. If Apple wishes to be successful far into the future (I assume it does), it must continue reinventing itself just as it has over the past four decades. Drastic change will certainly anger portions of Apple’s customer base, but that’s just how the ball bounces. The people who know Apple only as its former self always end up in the minority. Of course, not all change is good, so we should scrutinize every strategic shift Apple selects; but Apple can’t remain the way it is forever.

I’ll be concise with my thoughts on the services unveiled at the event. Mostly because, if you really think about it, Apple itself was rather concise. Not much information has actually been given to us, leading me to think this event would have been unnecessary if Hollywood hadn’t started shifting in their seats and wondering why Apple was silent for so long on the TV front. The lack of pricing information on Apple TV+ leads me to believe this was a slightly premature announcement meant to appease the TV industry, so any judgment about the success or failure of TV+ — or the other services Apple had to pre-announce — is equally premature.

Apple News+

News+ is unique in that you can subscribe to it right now. I haven’t started my one-month free trial yet, as I’m waiting for the kinks to be worked out, but the service seems like a very good deal for people who read lots of magazines. For bigger publishers, giving Apple a 50% revenue cut seems wholly irrational, which is probably why only two major newspapers are currently involved in News+.

I don’t read magazines; I prefer information that’s condensed into shorter bits (hi, Twitter!) or medium-length articles (hi, Apple News’ free tier!). News+ wouldn’t really save me money the way it would if I were currently subscribed to several magazines individually, but if I were, I’d see no reason not to jump on board the all-in-one subscription.

In fact, it’s such a good deal for customers that I can’t see how it could possibly be a good deal for publishers.

Apple Card

I’m no financial expert, so I won’t tell you whether it’s a good idea to borrow volumes of money from Apple as opposed to from your current credit provider. However, from what I can read, the general impression of Apple Card is the same as mine: it’s nothing extraordinary as far as the numbers go, but it’s a leap ahead in the experience.

Seeing where purchases were made with Maps? Check. Having a more secure, numberless, titanium card? Check. A sliiiightly more understandable cash-back program? Check. Pretty average interest rates? Check. Overall, it’s an easier way to burrow deep into debt. Great!

Apple Card isn’t as revolutionary as Apple’s marketing team would have you believe, but it seems like a step up from most other credit cards. I expect it to be successful.

Apple Arcade

By far the most exciting new service to me, and by far the one I’m most likely to subscribe to.

Arcade is Apple’s big play (pardon the pun) against the scourge of free games on the App Store. It promises a pristine gameplay experience free not of charge but of ads. If it costs $10 per month, as Apple News+ does, I’ll probably subscribe in a heartbeat. The games Apple showed look fantastic, and there are even more than we saw briefly on stage.

Nevertheless, without full details, it’s impossible to make an informed judgment on Arcade’s true value (the same goes for all of these services; even the News+ story is incomplete without the bundle). I’m not sure what else to say about it — the announcement itself was really just a sneak peek.

Apple TV Channels and TV+

TV Channels is exactly what it sounds like: Amazon Channels. If you subscribe to the right third-party content providers, Channels seems like a great experience: putting all your shows in a single app. If you’re a Netflix person, well, you’re out of luck.

Information on TV+ is so scarce that I’m tempted not to discuss it at all. In the end, it’s all going to come down to pricing. The shows described (no footage yet; just verbose pitches from celebrities) seem good enough, but it’s going to take a good price to convince people they need to fit TV+ into their already-full roster of subscription services.

The endless parading of celebrities on stage just seemed like a needless alternative to the obvious way of introducing shows: just show us some trailers. I’m excited to see said trailers whenever they hit the interwebs.

The bundle

This is the unannounced other shoe that will probably drop in the fall. When Apple does finally give us information on pricing for Apple Arcade and Apple TV+, it will have four major subscription services (Music, Arcade, News+, TV+). I’m expecting each of these to cost $10 per month.

Everyone knows Apple will sell these services at a discounted bundle price. No one knows what the bundle will be called or how much Apple will charge for it. The obvious name would be Apple+ (Apple All Access or some other creative name would be very welcome); I expect the bundle to run at $25 or $30 per month. This is Apple, so I’m betting high: my guess as of now is $29.99 per month for individuals and for families.

So, yeah, 2019 is going to be a busy year. Apple is starting its transition away from an iPhone-first company and toward new revenue sources. Like it or not, it’s happening. This isn’t the same Apple we had in 2018, which wasn’t the same Apple we had in 2011, which wasn’t the same Apple we had in 2001. In 2025 and 2039 and 2050, we’ll have different Apples still.

What I’m saying is that change is fine. Even if you think the Apple you know is the one Apple to rule them all, there are always people who knew the previous Apple and loved it even more. Being a company, Apple can’t please everyone — it has to march on. That has proven to be its greatest strength: not holding on to the past; always knowing when it’s time to think different.