Apple’s Announcement Left Us With 6 Unsolved Mysteries

Apple’s Announcement Left Us With 6 Unsolved Mysteries

We get nearly all our official information about Apple and its products through occasional announcements or developers conferences, such as the big announcement this week in San Francisco.

As we approach each event, there are things we know, things we don’t know.

During the event, there’s a reshuffling. Some questions are answered during the announcement. And some questions emerge from the announcement itself that remain unanswered.

Here are the 6 biggest questions that were either unanswered in the event, or which emerged from the event. 

1. Why won’t Apple add NFC? The benefits of near field communication (NFC) are myriad and overwhelming. It’s not expensive or space-consuming to include. Apple could use it to speed up the digital wallet revolution (right now I’ve got Starbucks awkwardly scanning a QR code on my iPhone screen when I buy caffeinated beverages.

It seems like a no-brainer. Apple already has our credit cards, mailing addresses and all the rest. Why not just add NFC and enable mobile payments?

I’m sure they have a good reason. It’s just that nobody has any idea what that reason is!

2. Why did Apple kill the Nano wristwatch? Two years ago, Steve Jobs announced a new, tiny iPod Nano with a screen, apps, the works. Jobs intimated that it was so compact, it could even be used as a wristwatch.

It launched a micro-industry of watchbands made for the Nano, some of which are even available from Apple.

Then, last year, Apple rolled out a series of watch faces, such as a Mickey Mouse watch.

It became obvious where this was going: The Nano is a wristwatch. The expectation was that Apple would make it thinner and lighter and smoother, and possibly add Bluetooth and other features that would make it an even better wristwatch, and an awesome companion to the iPhone.

Then, in one of the few surprises at the announcement this week, Apple announced that a new Nano that could not possibly be used as a wristwatch.

They appeared to be walking away from a market with huge potential. Why?

One possibility is that they’ll roll out an actual wristwatch, possibly at the October event.

But at this point, Apple’s termination of using a Nano as a wristwatch is something of a mystery.

3. Why won’t Apple ship a TV? Apple’s “hobby,” the Apple TV box, is getting old. To the best of anybody’s knowledge, there are no technical reasons why Apple could ship a big TV with Apple TV built in.

The limitations appear to be bound to the politics of Hollywood studios and cable company licensing deals.

So why not ship a TV anyway, and start iterating. The existence of such a product would probably help Apple strongarm the powers that be into agreeing to Internet-delivered live TV.

Nobody knows what Apple is waiting for.

4. Why does Apple work so hard to advertise a beta feature? I’m pretty sure that more money has been spent marketing Siri than any other “beta” product in history.

It’s not just that Apple labels Siri “beta” with an orange beta graphic on its web site. The feature is clearly rough and unfinished. Response times are slow. Words are often unrecognized. Even when Siri correctly recognizes the words, it responds with the wrong thing.

Fine. Nothing wrong with beta services. But Apple is spending unknown millions of dollars, often building entire prime-time TV campaigns around Siri as the sole selling point for the iPhone.

Why does Apple work so hard to build up consumer expectations about an unfinished, rough-around-the-edges beta product?

5. Why did Adam Cheyer leave Apple? Cheyer is the main guy behind Siri, and joined Apple when his company was acquired.

Whenever high-visibility people leave a company, whether they quit or were fired, they always say it’s for “personal reasons” or to “spend more time with my family.” Cheyer went with “personal reasons,” which tells us exactly nothing.

What we don’t know is if Siri’s founding team don’t like the direction Apple is taking Siri. We also don’t know if people like Cheyer think they can do better with a non-Apple alternative.

6. Why didn’t Apple announce the new aspect ratio at the developer’s conference? There were very few things about the iPhone 5 we didn’t already know months before the event. One of them, was a consensus that the new iPhone would be taller, with an extra row of icons, and a very sensible aspect ratio of 16:9 — the same as HD movies.

As a result of this change, hundreds of thousands of apps will appear bogusly centered on the screen until developers get around the upgrading them.

Why didn’t apple just go ahead and announce the new aspect ratio, roll out the required developer materials and let the process of upgrading begin three months ago?

(Image courtesy of Ipevo)

Related
  • iHKDesign

    1. They did respond: http://allthingsd.com/20120912/interview-phil-schiller-on-why-the-iphone-5-has-a-new-connector-but-not-nfc-or-wireless-charging/
    2. Don’t know
    3. Because Apple feels like it is not a compelling product over $99? There are not a ton of features on it yet that warrant a separate TV.
    4. Because that was the main feature of the 4S.
    5. Usually after acquisitions and after the features have been implemented, the leaders leave the companies. This appears to be because they are not allowed to be as controlling as before and/or want to do something different (happened with LaLa as well: http://www.fastcompany.com/1784823/bill-nguyen-boy-bubble)
    6. Because Apple likes keeping secrets. Even though it was leaked, Apple does not confirm rumors. That would have confirmed the screen resolution. Also, they may not have known for sure at the time.

  • mr_bee

    Hmm.. the only one of the lot that’s really even a question is number 2 and it’s kind of overstated. I don’t think anyone knows the answer to the question, but the question should be more like “wither the wristwatch nano,” than talking about them “killing” it.

    It’s not really fair to say they killed it because it makes it sound like it was intentional and you don’t actually know that. You also can’t really say they’ve killed it until (a) it’s actually dead and (b) some time has passed. I think the nano wristwatch will live on with enthusiasts and that we haven’t seen the last of it.

  • John S. Wilson

    1) NFC isn’t needed for mobile payments. I hate how writers don’t mention that. Bluetooth 4.0 can be used just as well if not better. Additionally there really is no infrastructure for NFC yet. It’s too early and Apple rarely jumps in until it’s ready.

    3) The Apple TV isn’t getting old, silly speculation about a real tv is getting old. Apple has yet to open the SDK for the Apple TV so devs can make apps. Once that happens the floodgates will open and we’ll see apps, games, and great functionality. Also Apple woudn’t make a real tv until the Apple TV is perfect and full of apps. It’s the tune up for the real thing.

    5) oh please. These founders leave all the time. Nothing to see here.

    6) Because Apple didn’t want to out the 4 inch iPhone. That’s obvious. But if devs paid any attention at all they would have been able to read the tea leaves and gleam from John Gruber, Marco Arment, and others that the resolution would change. All those guys along with WSJ, Reuters, and Rene Ritchie called it in May.

  • technochick

    The only legit question is the last one.

    As for the rat, the answers are rather easy to sort out. If Mike had bothered to think for even a minute he could have come up with very Apple answers.

    1. NFC is not standardized even in the US much less the world. Plus there are major security issues to be researched, particularly if Apple had any desire to turn themselves into some kind of wide scale banking system, which they likely dont.

    2. The sales numbers might have sucked.

    3. High and complex licensing costs for the tuner tech not to mention that Apple is more likely to want to position their store as the best source etc. which they can do with the black box. So there is no reason to make a tv. More options in their displays and adding hdmi sure, but not a ‘real tv’. Improve quality, timing and pricing in the store instead.

    4. Voice systems require millions of samples to ‘learn’ from. There was no way Apple could get those without it leaking out.

    5. He was likely leaving from day one. It’s not his project anymore and he may have wanted to stay for the transition and that’s all. It’s really his private business so the bloggers can bugger off. Neither Adam nor Apple owes you an answer.

  • TalkinMac

    I liked the wristwatch sized nano with clip. It was great for workouts and was much more robust than the shuffle. I wish that Apple had given us a little notice that this was going the way of the dodo bird. I would have bought a spare.

  • Mike Elgan

    TalkinMac: Yeah, I agree. There’s still hope, though! I’m holding out for an actual wristwatch with the October announcement.

  • flitzy

    I’m so sick of the NFC argument – it’s about as useful as QR codes. A phone is not a credit card/debit card.

    And offering an actual Apple Television is stupid, given that every Apple TV set can hook up to any display already and it’s cheaper to replace a set top box then it is an entire television, which means that people will be more apt to upgrade when a newer model comes out – $99 vs. $500-$1000+ is a big difference.

    Lots of people leave a company after an acquisition, it doesn’t mean anything. Besides, how long are Google products constantly in beta yet you never hear the tech community scold them.

    Apple is always pushing Siri because it is an amazing tool.

  • caruso81

    These questions are rhetorical, right? If you’re smart enough to know the answers to these questions…

    1. NFC is not widely adopted. Let other companies screw it up and then swoop in and fix it.

    2. You already answered the question (see, I knew you could) – MICRO INDUSTRY. In the context of a trillion dollar company, who cares about a bulky watch that requires two hands to read? (yes, I own one).

    3. Really? They are huge and bulky, there’s no profit, and even you can understand the Apple knows they aren’t going to sell a $3000 TV to more than 9 people. Apple never does anything unless they can do it better and differently. A TV is a TV.

    4. Siri. Apple only grows if they convert new customers. Siri, no matter how rough, is still cool if you’re on a Blackberry or a five year old RAZR. They don’t build their phones for you. They build them for the middle of the bell curve.

    5. People leave jobs. Maybe it’s none of your business? Besides, what would you “pundit” about if the told you stuff.

    6. Apple is the most secretive company on the planet. You’re a guy complaining about them and trying to convince the world they should buy a phone the size of a waffle iron. Exactly what is their motivation to tell you things?

    Once again, another pundit assumes Apple’s mission is to fulfill all the bloviating writer’s proprietary assumptions about how Apple should run its company. Seems to me that if the pundits were right, they’d be working at Apple instead of being wrong about why Apple does what they do.

  • Whodakat

    1. Never gonna have it. What is more awkward about using QR scanner? Especially with Passbook, swipe and scan. Oh yeah, you don’t have to wait until a retailer buys new hardware. Seems like a more Apple-esque solution anyway, and you’ll see way more adoption by retailers.
    2. Skipping for now :)
    3. You heard it here first folks, Apple won’t ship a TV until its Retina and 4K. They are obviously having issues with the 27″ iMac, so clearly bigger isn’t simpler. Samsung makes beautiful TVs, and Apple won’t enter the market until it can offer something better. I also think content is another hold up.
    4. Um, cause she is awesome? I’m not one of the folks that have real issues with Siri. Every now and again, she’s slow or doens’t know an answer, or jumbles what I say (although in truth, I’m usually the one jumbling) but 85% of the time she is there for me. I think the Beta tag speaks to the future of Siri and her potential to be incredible. That and they know she isn’t perfect so they don’t want to advertise her as being so. And just because they run an add with a cool feature, certainly doesn’t make it the sole selling point. Think in context please.
    5. Because main guys, like being main guys.
    6. Duh, cause they didn’t want to confirm the new screen. Think much?
    2. Ok back to my favorite. As soon as they announced the new Nano, I had my fingers crossed for an, “oh yeah, one more thing” from Tim. First allow me a sidebar, Tim needs an awesome one more thing to be able to stand up to Steve’s shadow. Its not like Steve was this incredible public speaker. He was passionate and we loved him and his products, so he attained this legendary status in the faithfuls mind (mine included). I’m constantly hearing how Tim isn’t the showman that Steve was. I think a one more thing where an iWatch type product was announced out of the blue, would help elevate him to where we all want him to be. Now, back to the iWatch. If they would have announced it, they would have sold as many of them as they sold iPhone 5s. It would be crazy. The nano watch was cool, and did breed a mini industry of watch bands. Apples inclusion of watch faces and steve talking about it as a watch shows Apple sees what is going on. And I agree with the author that changing the nano the way they did, effectively killed it as a watch. And Apple doesn’t do anything accidentally. I know they see the massive support Pebble got in kickstarter and I know they see the massive potential for the product. Some won’t but some thought the earth was flat too, so whatever. Apple effectively killed the watch industry with the iphone. And with this product they could revive it as well. The potential boggles my mind. My ringer is always on vibrate, I am not one of those that like to hear their phone ring. Other peoples ringing bugs the crap out of me, hey you’re in public! (but I digress). I miss phone calls because of it. I miss reminders, and blah blah blah. With the watch you’d never miss another one. I love the idea of caller id on my wrist. No pulling the phone out of my pocket when I’m driving. Sure, how hard is it to pull the phone out of your pocket, but it could be so much more seamless. Control your music (and other functions) while you run or workout or whatever keeps your hands full. I love the idea of waking up at the proper point in your sleep cycle, and not to blaring music. We’ll be living in the future when an iWatch includes FaceTime. Siri integration would be incredible! Control every aspect of your phone without even touching it. An iWatch could usher in the post-smartphone era! It could control your TV, your lights, your alarm system, the temperature in your house. Offload the processing and all the hard stuff to the incredible phone in your pocket via bluetooth 4.0 and you are seriously living in a movie of the future. Ok, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but the possibilities are endless! Mark my word, we will see an iWatch, its just a matter of when.

  • CharilaosMulder

    I believe that most devs will update their apps between now and the release, if they still see potential in their apps. When the iPhone 4 came out, about 90% of the apps I had were updated within a month.

  • Drmstix303

    Dear Mr. Mike Elgan, I would love to know why the most successful company in the world NEVER does anything good enough for you. All of your articles are so negative!

  • Bob Smogango

    1. I think Apple might have another way around NFC.
    2. Don’t know. Don’t really care either, since I don’t own one or are considering buying one.
    3. Apple released the Apple TV last March, it hasn’t been a year since the latest version has been released. in terms of what holds for the future? They have three different ways to approach that market and in ANY combination. Maybe what they WANT to do requires some negotiations with a variety of the cable companies, and that takes time. Apple never said they were going to refresh the Apple TV later this year, we have to wait until next year is my guess.
    4. Who knows, Marketing is not always the most brilliant in what/how they do things.
    5. Maybe he was only there for a contractual period of time and maybe they don’t need him anymore and he wants to do something else. During the time when they bought Siri, there is probably a large amount of transfer of knowledge and maybe they have other people that know how to make it work better. Just because someone is the original designer doesn’t mean they can make it work for Apple’s needs. Maybe they got someone in house that knows how to make it better.
    6. Because they have to get XCode up to speed before releasing it to the masses. Maybe there’s plenty of time between the day the product gets announced to the day that the product gets shipped for the mass developers can do their upgrading. Sometimes keeping things secrets helps and hurts, so it’s one of those double edged swords. If you were around during the days of Osborne Computers, the founder actually leaked out information on a new product that eventually led to the company going out of business because people opted for waiting for the new product and ended up canceling orders for the current model. It’s a tough call on what to leak out. Obviously, people don’t usually like buying a product that will be obsolete. That’s one reason why Apple gets to much pent up demand and immediate sales upon product announcements.

  • concentrateddon

    NFC does not automatically equal Apple-based payments. For NFC to be useful, it needs to be supported at merchants by a terminal device. Today’s NFC-enabled terminals are designed to connect to traditional credit cards – not iTunes. So presumably, NFC combined with an app from Chase (or whoever) could be used to process payments to your normal Visa/MC. How is that a win for Apple? The merchant isn’t going to give up any more of a percentage than they’re already paying the bank. Chase (or any other bank) isn’t going to give Apple a cut of the sale just for enabling communications. Yes, it’d be convenient for customers to not have to carry a plastic card… but frankly, very few people even use the existing RFID/NFC “tap to pay” cards that the banks issue. Only Pure Geeks would probably bother paying with their phone. And there’s zero financial gain to Apple.

    It’s more likely that they’ll use Passbook as a foot in the door. Get us all using it for our existing loyalty cards, boarding passes, tickets, and other stuff that already support barcode-based identification. Once we’re all using it, Apple can start strong-arming merchants a bit more, getting them to support payment via iTunes. Then, NFC (or BT4, or whatever) makes sense.

    But you guys in the blogosphere gotta stop promoting NFC as the cure for all ills. It’s an imperfect technology, not widely implemented, and supported by very low actual consumer demand.

  • bdkennedy

    I’m not going to spend $1200 on a TV and hope that Apple adds content later.

  • dbwie

    I will only comment on one of the 6: I think Apple will wait to release a full television when they can make something that leapfrogs current internet enabled TVs. For example, a retina display TV would be amazing, but then we would need content to take advantage of it. I would love to AirPlay my computer screen to a big retina display television. I will keep dreaming! :) Building a cable box or releasing an SDK for AppleTV are stopgap solutions. I use my 2nd generation AppleTV quite a bit and love it, especially Airplay.

  • dbwie

    I think passbook offers retailers a way to connect with consumers, pushing out coupons and special offers right to the phone, including location based coupons and deals. I would love to use passbook to have a list of coupons send to my phone from my designated supermarket, and then I could select the ones I want to use when I’m in the store. Or get location and aisle based coupons sent to my screen when I’m there. I think passbook can head this way. It can be used for purchasing, carrying plane tickets, some advertising… quite versatile as compared to just a mobile payment system.

  • nthnm

    I don’t think Apple will make anything more than there Apple TV box with regards to a TV. This is one place where I’m sure they’d love to as they like to keep complete control over all components of a set up, but I don’t think they’d come ahead in that. It’s likely a much better decision from a business standpoint to stick with just the Apple TV box.

  • theobserving

    These aren’t mysteries. They’re called “business decisions.” There’s a difference, the main one being business decisions have a reason, but they’re not obligated to tell you the reason.

    You might as well write a seventh “mystery”: Why hasn’t Apple developed a matter transportation device, and if they do, will it have a 9 pin Lightning connector?

    That would just as relevant to ask.

  • trrosen

    1 NFC has to be supported by more then hardware. Visa, MasterCard and the rest need to put in the support to make it into what people want. Apple is not a credit card company they can’t do this. If you have a CC that supports it apple could ad nothing that you couldn’t get by sticking your card to your iPhone.
    2 Not a market by itself. ( personally I think the should have just kept making the old one like the touch)
    3 nothing that Apple could add to the equation you can’t get by hooking an apple tv to any tv made.
    4 it’s cool.
    5 people that get 200 million dollars aren’t that motivated to work 60 hrs a week anymore.
    6 Osborne effect.

  • Dimitri Theofilopoulos

    its just amazing, people not only buying every single garbage product apple makes, they are begging for more useless overpriced shit…

  • Moritz Edschmid

    NFC is working very well in Japan, and its getting popular. But in the US and Europe there is no trend for NFC.

  • lowtolerance

    This is the dumbest editorial I’ve ever seen on this site.

    1. NFS is hardly “overwhelming” beneficial, and it’s borderline useless until virtually all major retailers are on board. Until I don’t have to carry a wallet, NFC is no more convenient than a debit card.

    2. Keyword: “micro-industry”. Apple doesn’t piddle around with nonsense like that. The 6G Nano didn’t usher in a revolution, end of story.

    3. Apple has more to gain from getting lots of people to buy their set top box than they do from getting a few people who don’t value their money to buy a TV that will be obsolete in six months time.

    4. Siri is beta because of the nature of the technology. They need absolutely massive amounts of data to train the system to recognize the myriad dialects, speech impediments, colloquialisms that are a part of natural speech patterns. Siri isn’t a complete product, and it can’t be a complete product without voice profiles from millions of users from every corner of the planet. Apple is heavily invested in marketing Siri for the same reason that it’s still in beta — it’s a product that won’t see it’s full potential for some time to come, but which absolutely needs to maintain a certain level of public interest in the meantime.

    5. Why does anyone leave any job? Moreover, who the hell cares? It isn’t going to stop Apple.

    6. Because it’s not particularly interesting.

  • ddevito

    These are some of the long list of reasons why I wonder the Apple fanboy Community is so large

  • RobertMessi5

    what Bernard replied I’m surprised that some one can profit $5479 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you read this link (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/7dWWu

  • RobertGe

    Nice watches on the photo, are they apple?

  • dporter15

    I liked the wristwatch sized nano with clip. It was great for workouts and was much more robust than the shuffle. I wish that Apple had given us a little notice that this was going the way of the dodo bird. I would have bought a spare.

    Not as good but you can always save a little money and order a refurbished one.

  • JoachimArt

    How about 7. Where the heck are the New Desktop Computers??? It´s been 2 iphones since the last update of an iMac and Mac Pro is beyond old with the most expensive hardware in the world.

  • AnthonyOMeally

    NFC can be utilized for much more than digital payments. Come on people, we’re talking about APPL here. If APPL gave us everything we wanted this year, then what would they sell us next year? In 2013, APPL will announce the iPhone 5S with NFC and in 2014 they will finally release the iPhone 6 with everything the previous models had plus inductive wireless charging.

  • Daibidh

    I hope Apple runs with the Dick Tracy watch! Would love it if they added bluetooth connectivity to an iPhone. I would much rather talk to my watch with a discrete earpod than have to keep reaching for my phone and wear one of those ridiculous bluetooth headsets!

  • Andrew Newsome

    I’m surprised about people who say that hardly any places have NFC payments. Here in Melbourne, Australia, 80% of places have paypass/paywave. It’s really easy and i always use it when it’s available.

    The bigger stores have it built into the EFT device, so you can just tap the card on the screen and it does the work. Adoption would be really great, but Apple usually sticks to the minimalist approach, so it doesn’t surprise me about this exclusion.

  • HerryMurray

    like Ricky implied I cannot believe that some people able to profit $5482 in a few weeks on the internet. did you see this web link (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/CjrLT

  • Nico

    Watch them unveil an iWatch (iTime?) at the iPad Mini event. (No I’m not serious but what if I guess?)

  • HerbalEd

    Apple will never come out with a TV. Why would they?? They will, of course, eventually (soon?) offer a greatly upgraded, super-smart Apple TV (and services) that’ll inter-communicate with smart TVs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, iCloud, iTunes, etc. … and in so doing will revolutionize the TV/movie-world as we know it, just like they’ve done with music.

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Mike ElganMike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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