Fall of Year 2016, the year that the giants of Silicon Valley’s consumer tech – Apple, Google, Microsoft all made huge hardware and software announcements within a short span of a few weeks, and all made waves in the news, for different reasons.
Google started the ball rolling.
- Under the new #MadeByGoogle moniker, they announced what they felt was a (secret) revolution
- Google Pixel Phone – a first Google branded and fronted phone where they threw in all their chips, where reviewers are saying it is a pretty good contender in all aspects to the iPhone. It wasn’t super standout in features, but it didn’t seem to get anything wrong.
- Google Home – a relatively small-ish product, actually made to show off
- Google Assistant – their newfound Artificial Intelligence embodiment, their precious new baby which takes the entire (impressively large and talented) company worth of (world best) knowledge gathering, (one of the world’s best) machine learning, (again one of the world’s best) artificial intelligence and combines it into one singular entity called Assistant that for now spans the AI-assisted chat app Allo, the imbued Pixel Phone, the pure Home.
- Daydream headset – a further push into VR after last year’s successful Cardboard surprise.
- A reorganization of Google Apps for Work into a new G Suite brand, a new Jamboard whiteboard to bring all of G Suite into your brainstorming sessions
Microsoft put down some really good hands with
- Windows 10 Creator’s Update – a surprisingly wholesome gang of 3D image capturing, manipulation and sharing. It brought a fresh new swiss minty breath to the Windows OS, as if Microsoft was forgiven for the Windows 8 debacle, the respectable Windows 10 steps. A Windows PC could now be cool again. It had a new function that it could not do before. And it tied so well with the darn Hololens they have been talking up for years but gotten nowhere, and it tied so well with the Surface line full of touch interface.
- Surface Pro – already selling well and growing steadily since gaining momentum a year back hitting the right spots, now souped up with more power and more battery
- Surface Book – continuing to impress with the fancy cool super suede design and computing power for engineers. This blew the crowd away last year.
- Surface Studio – this year’s mind blowing hardware which beheld so much attention in the design and form, which really really seemed to make you want to have one. It was just so dreamworthy, so perfect for what it was advertised for. It was the talking point of the year. And OMG the Surface Dial.
- Xbox – nothing big this time round.
Apple’s cards were all flops
- iPhone 7 and 7+ with some more camera tricks, CPU tricks and battery tricks. Nothing at all worth noting, year after year of performance and speed improvements with no useful real-life gain. Not in terms of hardware, not in terms of software. Oh and they took away the headphone jack without any discernible benefit and everyone hated that, and their wireless earphones are delayed.
- iPad – lost in oblivion as people refuse to buy new ones
- iMac – lost in oblivion and forgotten by Apple in the quest for better iPhones.
- Macbook, Macbook Air, Mac Pro – again lost in oblivion.
- Macbook Pro – this year’s stunningly bad reveal from Apple. A marketing disaster all told coming 24 hours after Microsoft’s mindblowingly and expertly delivered presentation by Panos Panay (Corporate VP of Devices) (a man who could move you to tears the way he talks about his Surface devices).
The Macbook Pro took away all the needs of the programmers, the designers, the artists, the scientists – all the people who use the Macbook Pro and iMac with the highest end configurations at few thousands of dollars each, people who run the heaviest of applications that require tens of gigs of ram, xeon processors, the largest screens, the best screens to do their work. People who have budgets normal people only dream of and use applications that cost thousands of dollars.
And the Macbook Pro fails at that. It is now a middling piece of hardware whose only redemption is that it is the only thing that can run Mac OS.
Every other year it’s been “oh they added this other whatever thing, and now it’s more expensive, but it’s okay it still is useable”, and this year it is “where’s everything we need and why is it taken away when someone else is making super powerful and cool laptops AND a desktop”. People who buy $3000 laptops and $3000 monitors probably don’t care about having a slightly thinner laptop, don’t care about 10% more battery life. Not for an emoji strip.
Other companies bring in new products that reflect the growing trends – awesome AI integration, 3D, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Touch screens (even Microsoft gets this), high end hardware for the serious people, and lower end accessible hardware for normal people.
Of course, Apple will still make a lot of money from the Mac ecosystem – from people who already use a very old mac and need an upgrade, from people who run applications that only work on mac, from people who don’t have time to switch, from people who just want the Apple logo (by the way it no longer lights up), from people who use iPhones, from people who have to make iPhone apps. But someone said it right, it will die, slowly, by programmers who no longer use a mac at home and start making apps for other devices, and slowly the software tide will shift.