Apple flipped a switch this week and enabled customers at 254 U.S. Apple Stores to get spammed with micro-location based promotional nagging.
The new system, called iBeacon, is a low cost, low-energy way to achieve actionable “indoor GPS” in which “beacons” use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals to figure out exactly where you are and send messages relevant to that specific location.
But Apple Stores are probably the least-compelling iBeacon scenario I can think of.
Your typical Apple store is a glass box, a single room with a door in the front, a Genius Bar in the back and tables and shelves in the middle. It’s impossible to get lost in a regular Apple Store and trivially easy for customers to find any of the tiny number of products for sale. Also: Apple doesn’t do in-store promotional discounts except for one day a year (Black Friday).
Right now, you participate in the Apple Store iBeacon system by launching the Apple Store app (which I imagine most iPhone owners don’t know exists) and changing your iPhone’s settings to use iBeacon (which most iPhone owners don’t know how to do) and granting permission to get in-store promotions (which most iPhone owners probably have no interest in).
Once all that happens, iBeacon interrupts you to nag you about trading in your old iPhone, and offers help like Microsoft’s Clippy when you’re looking at a specific section of the store: “I see you are looking at iPads? Would you like to know more about the iPad?” (I made up the wording, but the intent of some iBeacon messages is identical to that.)
As a result, iBeacon in Apple Stores mostly annoys. I can think of a hundred scenarios where iBeacon could be incredibly great. But the greatest of these: My house.
In the past three years, Apple has dared to be dull.
During Apple’s best years, between 2007 and 2010, Apple introduced the first iPhone and the first iPad, two world-changing products that now define the company (and bring in most of its revenue). These products, along with their touch interfaces and apps stores, were a shock to the industry.
That’s great, Apple. But what have you done for me lately?
Here’s one theory about how Apple works: The company finds a horrible content consumption experience. They figure out how the experience can be made wonderful. They work on the products until they’re ready, both from product quality and price perspectives. Then they ship it and spend the next few years refining and perfecting the original vision.
If that oversimplification about how Apple works is accurate, then Apple isn’t really in full control of when its groundbreaking new products ship. They have to wait for technology, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), or for various industries to come around to making a critical mass of content deals.
In the past three years, every Apple announcement has been preceded by speculation and rumor that Apple would at long last announce an iWatch, an iTV set and other products that would signal a radical new product category for Apple. And every announcement ended in disappointment. Every announcement was about refinement of old products, rather than bold launches of new products.
Will Apple ever enter new markets again, including the ones perennially rumored?
I say they will. The fact that they haven’t shipped the long-rumored iWatch or iTV, for example, makes perfect sense from a readiness perspective.
In fact, I think the next three years will be twice as awesome as the iPhone-iPad years, in the sense that Apple will break into four new businesses. Why? Because the technology and content deals will fall into place during this time.
Write it off as a smokescreen to cover sliding profit and margins if you want, but Tim Cook’s belief in the culture of Apple came across loud and clear during Monday’s conference call with analysts and reporters.
Speaking about Apple as a “force for good in the world beyond our products” Cook claimed that, “Whether it’s improving working conditions or the environment, standing up for human rights, helping eliminate AIDS, or reinventing education, Apple is making substantial contributions to society.”
According to research consultants Counterpoint Research, Apple captured 34% of the 2.8 million Japanese mobile phone sales this September, marking a sizable increase from the estimated 14% seen in both July and August.
The news is even more impressive when, as Counterpoint director Tom Kang notes, “This is the first time any handset brand has crossed the 30% mark in the last decade in one of the most modern digital handset market in the world, Japan.”
Updates on the French and German versions of Amazon.com suggest a new, replacement Apple TV coming the day after this week’s Apple announcement – just in time for Christmas.
The prospect of a shiny new Apple TV product makes everyone think of a radical new Apple TV box with crazy new user interface options, or an actual Apple TV set, both of which people have been predicting for years.
And then that Scrooge MG Siegler comes along to say he’s hearing that the Big Apple TV Update has been delayed, and that maybe there will be a minor update to the existing product.
Whether something grander has been delayed or not, I think TV will be the most interesting product at the Tuesday announcement — not because of hardware, but because of a new software interface and new deals I think Apple will announce.
For years, home automation has been the exclusive province of the very rich or extremely technical.
Companies you’ve probably never heard of, such as AMX, Control4, Crestron, Elan, HomeLogic, Colorado vNet, Vantage and Zenpanion have provided the platforms and many of the fundamental products, while integrators took care of the installation and service for many people.
Or, very dedicated and technical DIY enthusiasts have cobbled together their own ingenious solutions.
Recently, the major phone carriers have gotten into the act, and rumors suggest Google, Apple, Microsoft and other consumer electronics companies are working on home automation.
The reason everybody’s jumping is that home automation is in the process of making a transition from “hardly anybody” to “pretty much everybody.” So everybody wants a piece of what will definitely be a massive new industry.
In five years, the majority of homes in the United States are likely to have significant home automation happening in their homes — voice-controlled thermostats, Bluetooth-unlocking door locks, lights on self-learning timers, automated pet feeders, doorbells that ring your phone rather than a bell in the house and much more.