Apple rolled out a comprehensive refresh of its iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV product lines yesterday at a two-hour event that could be summed up as “the same only more so.” That might seem like faint praise, but building off its already substantial base, more of the same adds up to a lot for Apple and its legions of customers.
In fact, Apple took careful aim at several different market segments simultaneously. The company played to its broad consumer base (both domestically and internationally, with a close eye toward the Chinese market) with the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. It winked again at the luxury goods market with the revamped Apple Watch, including version two of the watchOS and a partnership with Hermès. It brought its entertainment offerings up to par with the latest version of Apple TV, featuring the new iOS-based tvOS (although with the all the talk of screens at the event, there was still no actual TV set in the offing). As always, Apple emphasized that the upgrades will make its devices smarter, faster, and more efficient.
Finally, Apple set its sights on the enterprise with the new, larger iPad Pro, complete with a dedicated line of accessories that included the first Apple-manufactured external keyboard for the iPad and the Apple Pencil stylus. Both of these accessories, long-time Apple watchers will note, are anathema to Steve Jobs’ original vision for the iPad. But Tim Cook’s Apple is a different company, less concerned with orthodoxy and more preoccupied with growth and market share, and willing to slay sacred cows to achieve these goals.
Greater interactivity was a unifying theme of the product enhancements. Improvements to Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, which seems better than before at both listening to and processing requests, suggest users of the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and now Apple TV will be talking more to all of their devices.
Thanks to the introduction of “3D Touch” for the new iPhones, a feature that supports multiple levels of pressure on the phone screen and which can be incorporated into third-party apps (WeChat, Facebook, and Instagram were highlighted during the event), users look to have greater control over how they manage their communication and commerce activities. And if Apple has a say in it, the app-centric model that has come to dominate smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches will extend to TV as well.
In keeping with the theme of “the same only more so,” the latest round of improvements are designed to make Apple’s suite of devices both more integral to and more integrated in the flow of daily life, whether at home, work, or in between. Hardware and software upgrades often look incremental at product demos, but then have a habit of becoming essentials that leave users wondering how they ever lived without them.
If there is a specifically local business implication to the new products and services, it lies in this deeper level of integration with a more mobile world, where the nimbleness of apps (think computing lite) gives everyone the ability to customize and communicate on the fly. Moving at the speed of business is no longer sufficient; businesses need to move at the speed of consumers, who seem perpetually a step ahead. More integrated communications – of the sort Apple introduced yesterday – will help them do that.
Noah Elkin is Street Fight’s managing editor.