Where Apple Is Taking Us To?

Today, in the Apple event, there are 3 product upgrades and a highly anticipated product announcement. The upgrades are the Watch Series 3, TV 4K, and iPhone 8/8 Plus, but the most exciting part and the highlight of this event is the iPhone X Edition (Refer to iPhone's 10th Anniversary, also the Executive Edition).

Whilst most journalists and consumers were narrating the design of iPhone X release, they were reluctant to look at the macro picture of what future Apple is leading us to. In 10 years ago, Nokia's key dial phones were still dominated in the market, and Apple stunted the world with a new interface in a flat screen. Today, this company continues its market leadership to innovate the industry but taking a less intrusive method by gently shifting consumer behaviors to adapt a new computing model: Artificial Intelligence (AI) + Augmented Reality (AR).

Before you moved forward to continue the reading, remind you that Apple is still the only company existing today with a complete conglomerate, included full research & development (R&D) capability in both hardware and software from ASIC processor to operating systems, Supply Chain Management (SCM) ability, Distribution Network from online to retail, and the most valuable element, "BRANDING". A scheme neither Google nor Samsung has yet accomplished. With its market privilege in positioning, Apple has the unbelievable power to revolutionize the old computing model they invented - "Personal Computing In The Pocket" to a new mobile world.

An achievement ain't be possible in the past history until the moment Steve Jobs pulled out the 1st Gen iPhone from his pocket at the MacWorld 2007. The iPhone revolutionized the UI interface from 'Click' to 'Touch', now one leap forward to 'Motion Detection' by first introducing the Face ID. It is a baby step for Apple to learn and reshape the human adaptation in Augmented Reality (AR). If an iPhone is capable to read, analyze and identify your different facial gesture thru the support of its A11 Bionic neural engine and the complicated TruDepth camera design, it could also interpret and convert any physical object and movement into a 3D article.

Ultimately, your EMOTIONS.

By combining the Artificial Intelligence power of Siri Assistant, imagine how prominent our future is going to be, especially the time when all that technologies are available right on your wrist. And that's the reasoning the Apple Watch is born alive - Another eminent technological innovation after the iPhone.

Technology leaders included Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft all envisioned and commonly agreed our future will be powered by AI, but they have very different perspectives in how to model the future with Computer-Mediated Reality (Including AR/VR/MR). In the AI development side, new artificial form of life like Alexa, Siri, Google and Cortana were created by their parents, thru the sculpturing of Data Structure and Algorithms. On the other hand, the Big 4 appears in a huge divergence when developing the immersive Computer-Mediated Reality. Microsoft introduced the HoloLens to build a Mixed Reality (MR) future; Google failed in gaining market adoption of its Glass and now focuses in 'Daydream' the adventure of Virtual Reality (VR); Amazon is still missing in action; And contrarily, Apple makes some concrete steps in constructing the future of computing with AR. To doing so, Application Programming Interface (API) and Software Development Kit (SDK) will be naturally where the A.M.G. (Not the Mercedes Benz) first established. In comparison, Apple AR Kit comes more mature for developers to easily adapt. Also, a larger existing install base to experiment/serve (iPhone) unlike others. AR on iPhone is only a transitional phase for general public to acquire the technology implement.

The Watch was then positioned as a sidekick of iPhone. Without the assistance of iPhone's cellular network, it's only a self-contained device functioning like any digital watch or fitness waistband in the market. But now, the new GLONASS GPS and LTE connectivity will give the Watch a promotion from Halfback to Fullback. How and why? The key is laid in the newly integrated AI assistant, Siri. It requires a significant communication bandwidth for the Watch connected to the AI data structure to perform its task. With Siri and LTE, users can now verbally command performing more sophisticated tasks on the Watch like booking a dinner reservation, dictating a note, conveniently replying messages and storing data on the iCloud. You may concern about the privacy whilst listening a phone conversation or message, but Apple already deployed a solution ahead of time, which is AirPods. And let's visualize the near future when all the iPhone X's camera components compiled into the Watch. There'll be a bunch of magnificent works could be carried out to improve our productivity and quality of living.

Now, as you can see, every product Apple prior introduced were thoughtfully designed to served a main block in its ecosystem to fulfill its corporate mission in "defining the mobile media".

Sideline Story:

In July, I've been sharing some hints of those products naming and key features in my personal FB account. It's really hard for a big corporate to keep any secret. Why? The bigger the company it is, the longer the supply chain there is. And even you safeguarded the information well from leaking, but the little pieces of puzzles in supply chain will allow an outsider or competition to solve the whole picture without violating any data protection laws.

All the leads were, foremost, resided inside the iOS Developer Betas. For months now, the iOS 11 betas were tested by people whom possessed a Developer Account like me. Theoretically, the new iOS platform must be accommodated the key features in the new hardware. Each new hardware would also require a different device ID to identify for activating or disabling certain functions for the best compatibility and performance. Thru that route, the marketing names were gradually found and explored on the news media in a few day ago before released. Besides that, this new generation iPhone is a very meaningful one to Apple itself, which specifically designed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its most iconic product and its new spaceship campus; represent the company entering into a new technology era; highlight its market leadership; and make a tribute to Steve Jobs. Therefore, its product marketing name must have some association with the number "10". But it'll be awkward to skip the prefix "9" and jump to call "iPhone 10", right? So, the name of iPhone "X" was born. To align with its more premium position in product line, "X" could also stand for "Executive Edition". On the other hand, to compete with Samsung Galaxy Note 8, they have to avoid using the previous naming convention to call the upgrade model as "7S/7S Plus". So naturally, the new mainstream model will become the iPhone "8/8 Plus". That's a easy one to solve. Plus, the product packing in assembly line had revealed the names as well.

But the biggest clue was coming from the changes in UI behaviors and design of iOS. As mentioned earlier, the radical UI change in unlocking the phone, how to navigate Control Center, Notification and several functions without the Home button, how multiple applications flow in & out, where some UI elements are now being placed, and etc had given away the design overview of its new hardware, especially in the iPhone X. Nevertheless, the Watch Series 2 sales in Best Buy (BBY) was a clue of new Watch launch. Apple is a company managing and policing its market price outstandingly, and never allowed its channel partners to discount its products, in a way, depreciating its brand premium. But starting from June, Best Buy had rolled out a $50 deep discount in Apple Watch Series 2 during its Back-to-School promotion, and repeated the same in the following months until August. The only explanation was either BBY overstocked or they were instructed by Apple to clear on-hand inventories. Again, Apple is a company flawlessly performed in Supply Chain Management and no reason for them prior oversold (stuffing) its channel. Just not their practice. Then, the next logical answer was to welcome a new Watch model on today's event. And for the TV4K, the reason I sorted out was quite simple. It's the enormous dimension of current 4th generation given away clue about an upgrade. In comparing the 4th Gen Apple TV with any previous generations, the height had almost doubled. But why? Historically, for cost efficiency, Apple tended to manufacture the TV with the mass produced ASIC processors but not the latest. The increased height is to accommodate more effective cooling solution within a plastic housing for a more powerful processor with better graphical performance to display higher quality images and videos. Unfortunately, during the launch of 4th Gen Apple TV in last Fall, two key elements weren't ready to align with the hardware upgrade: Content and Storage Infrastructure. Only limited 4K movie or drama titles were available from studios and Apple's backend infrastructure wasn't ready to support the massive bandwidth required for hosting the 4K HDR content. So, I believed Apple postponed one cycle until this year to launch a 4K HDR supported Apple TV, embedded with the A10X processor. Furthermore, the entire Mac lineup already supported 4K t0 5K resolution and there's no reason Apple TV left behind in this refresh cycle.

Last but not least, their last quarter's financial statement, the $1 Trillion revenue goal (Increase Average Spend per Customer) and standard product cycles had exposed the timing of the Apple's upgrade plan in those two product lines.

A very critical message behind me sharing this insight is to point out how easy it is to crack down the secret code of your competition's master plan without sending a spy. Every clue you needed is always on the table, but rather if you pay attention to details and apply strategic thinking to your problem.

Ref:

1. Apple Event - Keynote September 2017

2. Steve Jobs iPhone 2007 Presentation

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