The Apple Announcement and the Future of Modesty

on October 17, 2014

Apple’s latest product announcements were improvements to existing iPads and iMacs. This, not surprisingly, caused mild disappointment among those who had no reason to expect more but somehow felt they’d be surprised anyway. The fact is, modesty is the reasonable move to expect from Apple. And that can be fine for Apple’s business.

The latest announcements included thinner iPads, upgraded iMacs, including a new Retina Display model, and the new Yosemite version of OS X unveiled at the World Wide Developers’ Conference in June. A bigger iPad may still be on the way but it wasn’t ready in time.

The new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus may be the last to yield a massive rush of buyers and even there we don’t know how long the rush will continue after the most avid iPhone owners have bought the new one. The year old iPhone 5s and even the two year old iPhone 5 remain quite usable. (I have a 5s and so far I don’t see a rush to get a 6. The 6 Plus is just way too big for me.)

Apple is doing a fine job of maintaining the software of its existing models. iOS 8 is available on models back to iPhone 4s. While new iOS releases have new features that won’t support some old hardware, many users don’t feel disappointed because they lack, say, the fingerprint touch device. The changes on iMacs are even more modest. I’m almost embarrassed to use a 2010 iMac (a bit enhanced) and a 2011 MacBook Air. Unless the upgrade to Yosemite brings real trouble to either of these, and tests suggest it performs fine, I plan to keep them in service for a while. (I wish I could argue that 2012 Windows articles are satisfactory.)

Years ago, this would have been a crisis for Apple. The only way the company could sell most of its Macs was by getting existing customers to upgrade. iPhones and iPads continue to grow, but the expansion is at best flattening out, especially in the U.S. In fact, the dramatic improvement of Android offerings, and its own new Lollipop software version, will made it harder to get customers to jump to the iPhone.

Microsoft’s miserable Windows 8 sent many Windows users to Macs and helped generated a very strong shift. It’s too early to forecast if Windows 10, now out in an early test version, will re-ignite PC enthusiasm of Windows users, many of whom seem happy with Windows 7. But if Windows 10 delivers solid design and features Microsoft has promised, Apple may find it harder to sell Macs.

But this is not a crisis for Apple. For most recent years, Apple has grown from generating massive markets for new products. Today, its markets will depend on slower growth and the product replacements by current customers. It may be unexciting, but it is the future of a maturing, successful company.