There was a time when every hotel room had a 30-Pin Dock Connector in it somewhere, but eight or nine months after debut, Lightning — the 30-Pin Dock Connector’s successor — still hasn’t really taken off, outside of a few docks and battery cases. Sure, it’s a new standard, and Apple was famously very slow in issuing MFi deals to accessory makers who wanted to support Lightning… but even so, it seems companies have been slow to pick up the new standard.
Why? Once bitten, twice shy, it appears. In the aftermath of Apple’s Lightning transition, more and more companies are opting to embrace cheap, open wireless standards like Bluetooth instead of Lightning. And that’s probably costing Apple revenue.
In a piece over at the New York Times, there’s an in-depth look on why things like physical connectors are falling out of vogue, and standards like Bluetooth and WiFi are picking up the slack.
Essentially, the reason has to do with the fact that not only are standards like Bluetooth and WiFi cross-compatible across multiple devices — even non-Apple ones, like Android smartphones and tablets — but there aren’t steep licensing fees associated with them. For example, adding AirPlay support to a speaker dock can add $30 to the price; Bluetooth audio, on the other hand, is a little clunkier, but it’s almost free to implement.
In addition, accessory makers feel burned by Apple. “A lot of us were bitten by the connector transition,” Ian Geise, senior vice president for marketing and product development at Voxx Accessories Corporation, told the New York Times. Voxx made accessories sold by companies like RCA and Acoustic Research, and now has totally stopped making anything that requires a proprietary connector from Apple.
MFi licensing is big business for Apple, and companies transitioning away from physical connectors has got to hurt the bottom line. That said, Apple’s wireless standard, AirPlay, is still wholly unique in the industry as a way to effortlessly play video and audio over wireless without pairing. That’s a huge advantage Apple has over the competition… but not an advantage that’s going to last forever.