What’s New from Apple

Apple just made their always-anticipated September product announcements. Featured this year were the iPad Pro, new iPhones, Apple TV and OS 2.0 for Apple Watch. There are many summaries you can read about the details, including:

The upgrades are interesting, but are not compelling me to purchase the new devices, at least in the short term. I made the following post on Facebook…adding up the cost of all of the new devices and making a comparison to a desktop computer purchased 17 years ago.


Certainly I enjoy the camera technology, and the camera and video technology upgrades look interesting. Apple TV and, specifically, the remote are nice (and overdue) improvements.

Here are my key takeaways:

  • The iPad Pro could become my replacement for my home laptop. Its screen is larger and has a much improved keyboard (compared to third-party devices). Besides, my trusty five-plus-year-old MacBook has been sitting on the floor in my office for at least two months without me turning it on. Why? There isn’t anything I have had to do on it that I couldn’t do with my iPad or an occasional simple task on my work laptop (create a bike route, type something, fill out a longer form or interact with a legacy (non tablet friendly) website). Data is in the cloud. Devices sync wirelessly to the cloud or they don’t need to sync.
  • The iPhone will become a new standard. The camera and 3D Touch, improved glass and additional hardware features are nice.
  • The biggest improvements are iOS9 software-related. In particular, the multiscreen presentation on the iPad and 3D Touch navigation on the iPhone. This creates new possibilities for application developers and increased ease of use in a variety of situations.

But when is good enough good enough? I’m sensing a topic for my next post.

Apple Watch in Action

A friend who doesn’t own an Apple Watch recently asked me how I was enjoying mine. She was trying to figure out how someone might incorporate yet another option into one’s personal array of devices (hers currently includes an iPhone, Kindle, iPad, Fitbit and MacBook Pro).

A fair point is that sometimes in our eagerness to own the latest gadget, we don’t spend enough time exploring its features and using it to its greatest potential. The conversation led to a challenge for me to record, over the course of one day, how I use my Apple Watch. See my log and summary below. Beyond just owning a new bright shiny object, I have been taking advantage of a number of the features—actually a fairly broad array. There is still potential to do more, especially in the realm of fitness tracking. I’m excited to continue to explore the capabilities of my new “executive jewelry.”

The Evolution of Personal Technology

I have always tried to be organized in both my professional and personal life, and have employed many technology devices to support these efforts. I can recall using versions of the Time System planners and Franklin Day Planners early in my career. Going further back, I think I even had a modular address book that I received for high school graduation.

Later, the Outlook-centric work desktop became a corporate standard, with contacts, calendars, and email all in one place. Initially calendars weren’t shared, but it was commonplace to print them out on a weekly basis. Gradually, things migrated to all electronic, all of the time.

Then came the ubiquitous Palm Pilot and other competing personal digital assistants. They synced with the Outlook platform so you could have a current, portable download. They were clunky compared to today’s standards, but were convenient and considered advanced at the time. You were cool in the business world if you were sporting a Palm Pilot.

The next generation was the smartphone. I recall my wife (an extremely dedicated Palm Pilot user) asking, “Why would you ever want your calendar in your phone?” This form factor brought numerous features together. Perhaps the two most important initially were being always synced and having the ability to communicate via email from a small device. I hear there are still some dedicated Blackberry users out there who have not been able to tear themselves away from a physical keyboard, but their ranks are dwindling (from 85 million worldwide in September 2013 to 46 million in September 2014). By comparison, Android has over 1 billion worldwide users. As smartphones continue to add apps and additional functionality, their potential seems unlimited.

watch-756487_640Now, into the marketplace comes the connected watch. Recently, our household gained its first Apple Watch (I’m assuming it won’t be the last). However, it’s not mine – it’s my wife’s. Yes, Donna, the person who couldn’t see the need for her calendar in her phone, has a computer on her wrist. It’s a new category for sure. Fitness tracking, notifications, easy-view messages, weather, and more, both yet-to-be-discovered and yet-to-be-developed.

Today, personal technology devices have allowed our personal and professional lives to become seamless. With data coming in and going out continuously, communication is rich, frequent, and sometimes overwhelming. While I certainly appreciate and take advantage of all of the technology at my disposal, sometimes I get nostalgic for simpler times. Sometimes there is no substitute for paper and pen. Excuse me while I go look in my archives for my Time System.

A New Category of Device

apple watchEarlier this month Apple unveiled the Apple Watch and made several other announcements.  Here are a few tidbits before getting to my thoughts on the watch:

  • Doing good. Apple is opening up a tool called ResearchKit for opensource development that works across platforms. They have realized that medical research could benefit from wider participation and easy (don’t need to enroll in a research project) feedback, unencumbered by the barriers of a research. A lot of feedback can be gathered from an iPhone, such as the performance of motor skills by Parkinson’s disease patients. I’m excited to see where this goes.
  • The all-new MacBook is pretty cool. New screen, new keyboard, new touchpad, new USB Type-C (one cable for everything), new unibody case, new batteries and main processor board. This is an indicator of ultraportable laptops yet to come. There’s still no touch screen, but the operating system requires a revamp first.

Now, the Apple Watch. Prices range from $349 to $17,000 (18K gold). While I’m not going to be standing in line to buy one, I do see the promise of this new category. It’s a new form factor, data tracker, small display and smart user interface all rolled into a fashion accessory. Christy Turlington was on stage to prove that point (and not much else).

Let’s recall the trajectory of the cellular phone. Motorola was on the top of their game with the StarTAC. Then, there were a series of attempts that seemed to smash together a cell phone with a PalmPilot (before the advent of the wireless internet), resulting in various clunky devices. Eventually, with the launch of the iPhone in 2007, the package of features that we now recognize as a smartphone began to come together.

There is likely to be a similar evolution with smartwatches. Who remembers the Casio models from the 1980s? Wearables have also been around a long time for athletes, and are just now coming into the mainstream. Products like Pebble Time integrate notifications with your phone and other smartphone based applications. The Apple Watch takes it to a whole new level. It’s a multifunction, multi-sensory, customizable, touch and voice enabled, interconnected, watch-to-watch and watch-to-phone device. Plus it has its own app store.

Like all new technology, it’s not going to be about the hardware (although it is pretty spiffy)—it’s going to be about how it impacts our behaviors. I believe the package of functionality and variety of different uses will be pretty compelling.

Is it like a new iPod (another escalation of an entire category brought on by Apple)? After all, who remembers the Zune or Rio portable media players? Or is it destined to go the way of Apple’s MessagePad that ran on a Newton OS platform? Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t bet against Apple on this one.