Apple Inc showed it can open up its software and services to devices that compete with its own — but only when absolutely necessary.
The company’s updated TV app, including a new subscription for original movies and TV shows, will launch on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. But it will also be available via gadgets from Amazon.com Inc and Roku Inc, and smart TVs from LG Electronics Inc, Sony Corp, and Samsung Electronics Co.
One company that went unmentioned in the iPhone maker’s two hour presentation: Google, owner of Android, which powers about 85 percent of the latest smartphones.
At first blush, this seems like an injudicious omission by Apple. There’s a lot riding on the company’s new services, and its video subscription in particular. Apple said it plans to launch in more than 100 countries, and in most of those places Android is even more dominant. Not making an Android version of the TV app ignores on hundreds of millions of potential paying viewers, especially outside the US.
On closer inspection, though, Apple is making a calculated bet that it doesn’t need those Android phone users — or has other ways of reaching them that don’t require cozying up to arch rival Google.
Netflix Inc, the video streaming leader, provides a clue to Apple’s approach. Netflix said last year that 70 percent of its subscribers watch the service on a TV. That means consumers are using a smart TV with a Netflix app or plugging in a set-top-box running the Netflix app to get their “Stranger Things” fix. Only 10 percent of users watch Netflix on phones, while PCs get 15 percent and tablets 5 percent, according to the data.
Netflix has a booming business outside the US, so if it can only get 10 percent of viewers from Android, then Apple likely decided it was worth the risk to ignore that distribution channel.
Still, Apple’s push into more digital services is forcing the company to embrace other
devices. Apple already offers iTunes and iCloud storage applications for PCs. There’s even an Apple Music app for Android — because smartphones are the main way people stream music. According to a report from Sensor Tower, Apple Music has already been installed 40 million times on Android devices.
More Android integrations are unlikely. Apple made no mention of its $10-per-month News+ service coming to Android. And the company has resisted opening up services like iMessage and FaceTime to other platforms, key offerings that Apple has likely found helps retain users and sell phones.
After all, Apple is still a hardware company at heart and it is loath to give consumers more reasons to pick an Android phone over an iPhone. Services revenue is still dwarfed by sales from hardware like the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.
Based on Apple’s strategy thus far, the message is clear: Apple will launch its services on non-Apple devices when it benefits the company and doesn’t get in the way of selling its
own hardware. There’s nothing wrong with that, but until then, it’s a services company with a big asterisk.
Apple cancels AirPower wireless charging mat
Apple Inc, in an unprecedented retreat, cancelled its highly anticipated AirPower wireless charging mat and apologised to customers who were waiting for it.
The device, designed to charge an Apple Watch, iPhone and AirPods all at once, was originally announced alongside the iPhone X in September 2017. At the time, Apple said it would go on sale in 2018. While the accessory isn’t as crucial to Apple’s bottom line as an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, the decision to cancel an announced product is an embarrassing and rare move for the Cupertino, California-based technology giant.
“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project,” Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware, said. “We apologise to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward.”
Apple didn’t say why exactly the product was cancelled, but people familiar with its development told Bloomberg News last year that the company faced challenges with the software, overheating and the ability to charge multiple devices on any spot on the mat.
When he announced the product in 2017, Apple senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller said the charging system was “not possible with current standards” but that Apple’s “team knows how to do this.”
The cancellation of a device is the first in Apple’s modern era under CEO Tim Cook, and it represents the second misstep this week for the company’s hardware engineering group.