Last week Tim Cook made a comment about Apple that “The ecosystem has never been stronger.”
If you are an Apple user you will know what we mean by ‘ecosystem’. Back when PC users were fiddling about with ‘drivers’ and ‘incompatible hardware,’ Apple products, well, they just worked. You may have had to use an ‘Apple’ screen, an ‘Apple’ mouse, an ‘Apple’ keyboard, an ‘Apple’ printer, and ‘Apple’ software, but the plus was that if anything didn’t work you just rang Apple, and they fixed it. That’s the ecosystem.
It may be true that Apple’s ecosystem has never been bigger. (Apple Watch, AirPod, Pencil, HomePod). But stronger? For the first time since the Apple Clone disaster of 1995, Apple are forcing people outside the ecosystem in some areas. This is a very recent trend.
This article describes some weaknesses in the current Apple ecosystem that may give long term users some cause for concern.
1. Apple’s hardware ecosystem is weaker.
Would you buy a car with no wheels? Or a shirt with missing buttons? Yet that’s essentially what is happening with Apple’s current Mac lineup. You now have to go outside the Apple ecosystem for some key items If you buy a Mac Mini or Mac Pro there’s no Apple display to go with it. If you want a second display Apple don’t offer one. And more importantly Apple don’t make a wifi access point anymore!
- Apple don’t make their own display any more. Apple discontinued their last display in 2016. When I first switched to Apple they had their own display connector that forced you to stop you using your 3rd party display with your Mac. Now they are driving you the other way! There are some good offerings out there from other companies, but when you buy a 3rd party monitor you are no longer in the Apple ecosystem. The brightness keys on your laptop don’t work. The image on the display may not be as sharp. When your display breaks you will need to chase up the monitor company, not Apple, to repair it. There may be incompatibility problems. It’s more than just not making a monitor. It’s weakening the ecosystem.
- Apple don’t make an Airport base station anymore. Again, there are some very nice routers out there but u are no longer in the Apple ecosystem. Every Apple wireless device needs a base station to work: the AirPod, HomePod, iPad, Macbook and iWatch. All your data passes through that base station. It’s the largest security risk in your network. It’s the centre piece of the ecosystem. Not to mention that it’s the most complicated part of any computer system to get right. It bamboozles me why Apple have dropped it and it’s even more staggering that Tim Cook can claim the ecosystem is the strongest it’s ever been.
“Too bad. They’ve been awesome. Networking is wayyyy too complicated for the average user — even to advanced users. Apple made networking easy. ”9to5 mac discussion
Apple’s software ecosystem is also weaker.
Here’s 3 examples.
- New versions of Apple Pages cannot open older Pages and Appleworks documents. It’s understandable that an old version of Pages may not be able to open newer Pages document – there’s a solution, an upgrade path, buy the new software! But it’s not cool that when people upgrade to the newer versions of Apple pages they find that they cannot access some of their older existing documents. Apple could have written their software to allow you to import older documents. To have a strong ecosystem you need to be confident that you can stay within the ecosystem and have an upgrade path. It’s one thing to not be able to open a Microsoft Publisher file, that’s the cost of choosing to be within the Apple ecosystem. But it’s a problem when you can’t access documents created within the ecosystem itself!
- Apple have been reducing the features of OSX server to the point where the OS X server manual now suggests that you install ‘3rd party’ apps instead of Apple Server to run your ftp, VPN, web server etc. If you are running a server it is the most critical piece of software in terms of security. It potential opens your computer to cyber attacks. And yet Apple want you to go ‘outside’ the ecosystem here too.
- It appears that Apple have killed Dragon on the Mac. Nuance have recently discontinued the best and only viable speech recognition engine for the Apple computer. From what I have heard a major reason for this is because Apple made it hard if not impossible for Nuance to continue to develop Dragon for OSX. The big problem here is that if you choose to stay in the Apple ecosystem there is currently no working speech recognition software. Dragon was not just an add-on, it was an essential piece of software for many disabled users. Now that Dragon have pulled the pin Apple users have gone backwards 20 years. This is a major blow for the Apple ecosystem.
It’s hard to see what the future will hold but Tim Cook needs to be careful about the claim that Apple’s Ecosystem has never been stronger. Never been bigger, maybe, but the Titanic was big. Let’s hope Apple don’t become too overconfident.