Apple TV+ Will Define the Company
The iPod changed the music industry. It had some help from iTunes.
Apple wasn’t the first to market with a music player based on a hard drive. People were also downloading music files (albeit, largely illegally) before iTunes hit the market. However, Apple’s cultural influence and its rock solid hardware changed the landscape.
The iPhone took over the smartphone market.
Blackberry came out swinging, but that company is a shell of what it used to be thanks to Apple. And while Samsung has given the iPhone a run for its money, Apple seems to be the company everyone chasing.
Now, Apple is taking on content creation through streaming after watching other tech giants enter the ring. And it is here where Apple will recapture the magic that made it the most revered company on the planet.
First Look at Apple TV+
Note: there are no spoilers in this article
The Morning Show is Apple TV+’s jewel, featuring A-list talent such as Steve Carrel, Jennifer Aniston, and Reece Witherspoon. While these actors still have the power to command attention from the likes of The Academy and other prestigious award bodies, they don’t have the box office sizzle they once did. That’s okay — TV is perhaps the best place for their supreme talent to be utilized, unless they’re willing to jump into the superhero craze that’s dominated the box office over the last several years. And, from a production value standpoint, The Morning Show looks and feels more like cinema.
It’s not necessarily the talent that makes The Morning Show intriguing, it’s the subject matter. Tackling the #metoo movement, which the show takes head on, could doom any network if the show falters—not to mention a streaming platform with very little content in comparison to its competitors. But for Apple, this turns out to be a win. The writing is smart, and they do an incredible job of exploring not only the perpetrators and the victims in the least bias way that would be acceptable. They show the struggle with complicity and just how complicated the sudden reckoning has on a workplace and society. Not only do we get an in-depth look at at the topic with the lead characters, the supporting characters are careful aligned to properly tell this story. Content like this needs top-notch talent, which is likely why the supporting casts boasts the likes of Mark Duplass and Billy Crudrup.
Apple appears to be willing to take risks with their content. The series See, starring Jason Momoa, has a premise worth exploring, set in a dystopian future where humans no longer have sight. At first I found this show uncomfortable. I was constantly questioning the dialogue given that English would be radically different without the sight, and the fact that everything looks so damn cool (from matching outfits to great looking sets). But after sticking with the show I found that it does (at least a few episodes in) demonstrate just how important our senses our and makes you question if we’re currently missing one that would allow us to experience the world in a different manner.
There are some shows that don’t hold the same production value of the above. Truth Be Told, starring Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul, tackles racism and redemption through a murder investigation plot, however, the script is campy and the talent seems wasted. The plot line is twisted up enough for me to at least give the season a shot, but I’ll likely tackle other content first.
For All Mankind appears worth checking out. It takes place in an alternate universe where the Russians beat the Americans to the moon. As with all sci-fi, there’s a lot of exposition in the first episode and I haven’t revisited the show since watching it. It has the feel of The Man in the High Castle which is distributed by Amazon, so perhaps it’s fair to say that it’s not a completely bold endeavour by Apple.
And to round out some of the other interesting programming choices is M. Night Shymalan’s The Servant. Anyone willing to give M. Night Shyamalan a chance at creative control is taking a risk. I do enjoy The Servant, and I’m hoping whatever twist coming down the pipeline (a signature Shyamalan move) does not disappoint. It’s also worth mentioning that Hala looks promising, which is a show covering a young female’s life in Pakistan (can we name another North American production that goes there?).
So, getting back to the main point of this article… Where’s Apple going?
I would never consider Apple to be a company that takes major risks. They usually let a particular market figure itself out before jumping into it. And while some might argue that they’ve done just that with streaming, original content creation is a completely different game than licensing agreements with shows that already have a home. Netflix hasn’t quite figured it out yet on a consistent basis, at least from a critic’s standpoint. Amazon does have some decent original content, but Amazon doesn’t strive to be the best at anything, they just strive to be involved in everything, from cloud storage, to online shopping, selling hardware, and yes, creating content.
And while one might think that Apple is looking to hook users to the Apple TV+ subscription, their Apple TV software platform doesn’t even really highlight its own in house content — it pools all the other (willing) platforms to its app (from Disney Plus to Amazon Prime) seemingly wanting to become your new TV guide. For anyone using Apple TV over the years, one would think that was the platform’s home page responsibility. Instead, users get an overview of all available content through the Apple TV app, only to hit a paywall. I gather that Apple takes a cut from in-app subscription purchases, but that begs the question as to why they got into the content making game at all.
Maybe, just maybe, Apple is going back to Steve Jobs slogan, “Think Different,” which debuted upon his return in 1997.
If we take a look at what’s happened over the last decade with Apple, a clue as to how Apple is moving forward emerges.
Apple in the home
Once home computing was normalized, let’s say during the early parts of this millennium, Mac computers were still a bit of a niche product. Having an Apple product set you apart from others.
Then iPods came into the fold. Everyone had one, which drew more attention to Apple, and in turn back to Mac computers. By the end of the first decade, an apartment with 20 something year olds occupying it likely could have had a few Apple devices in the living room, from a Macbook, to an iPod, iPhone, or for the super Mac geek, and Apple TV.
Entering the second decade of the millennium, having an iPhone practically became standard. People also began to replace aging computer towers with affordable iMacs. Apple TV, which was really just a self-declared Apple hobby, started to define the term Smart TV.
Then came the competition. Samsung came at iPhones with fury, attacking them head on in ads. Google started making phones and their cloud service became a favourite of many. Apple flirted with expanding their product mix, offering more affordable (aka cheaper) products like the iPhone 5c, and an odd-ball 12 inch Macbook, along with a Macbook Air, and a 13 inch Macbook Pro low-end model, with no clear winner in specs and performance in terms of value. On top of that, their jump from Final Cut 7 to Final Cut X infuriated video editors, who were just coming around to using Final Cut in a professional manner, and they further dismissed their pro user crowd with their trash can inspired Mac Pro. The second decade had a bit of a messy patch, and of course, this came shortly after the passing of Steve Jobs.
The end of 2019 saw the launch of the new Mac Pro, a behemoth of a computer that allows the purchaser to configure a Mac like no other Mac before it. It’s big, powerful, expensive, and its accessories includes a ridiculously priced monitor with an equally ridiculously priced monitor stand. The configurability of the Mac Pro would no doubt draw the ire of Steve Jobs, but this is the Mac Pro power users have been waiting for.
They’ve also corrected themselves on their Macbook Pro lineup. Actually, they’ve corrected the whole Macbook lineup, dropping the out of place non-pro Macbook and replacing it with an updated Air, going to a 16″ monitor at the top of the line, and a less powerful option at 13″. There doesn’t seem to be any waste in this product mix.
The same could be said for the iMac, which ranges from a functional day to day desktop to a creative powerhouse as you work your way up to the iMac Pro. While there’s more options than the Macbook, I’d argue that each model serves a different type of user quite well.
The iPad could use a shakeup, and the iPhone could as well. There’s way too many products here. But, again, Apple seems to be the one every company compares itself to in terms of mobile devices.
As a Mac user, I feel like my next purchase will be worth the money — a feeling I haven’t had since 2012. Mac is synonymous with quality, power, and ease of use. I feel like Apple learned a lesson here — it wasn’t broke, yet they attempted to fix it. Now, they’ve seemed to fix that.
Software and Services
There were times over the last five years where I pondered going away from Mac. Having dozens of Final Cut Pro (video editing) projects along with Logic (music) projects deterred me from doing so. The products are incredibly valuable given that other options include subscriptions that cost quite a bit, or software that’s much more expensive. They also offer a decent free office suite, that does creativity better than its Microsoft and Google counterparts (which includes Pages, Numbers, and Keynote). Even Apple Notes is a commendable note taking app, and iMovie and Garageband pack a ton of value compared to similar software. And again, those apps come with the purchase of a Mac.
They’ve also upped their game with iCloud. It syncs better than in previous years, works better with Photos than alternate services, and accessing files from other devices is a lot easier than before. The online versions of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers leaves something to be desired, however, everyone in the cloud game, from Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, and Amazon, leave something to be desired.
I can’t speak personally on other services, Arcade doesn’t appeal to me and I’m not itching for a News+ subscription — yet.
While there’s always room for improvement in software and services the company has improved in this department as the 2010s come to a close.
Where is Apple Now?
Apple keeps finding a way to introduce new products into my life, and I’m assuming (especially given the rise in the company’s stock price) plenty of other users as well. I’m now hooked into Apple Music. I have an iCloud subscription because, despite my best efforts, trying to back up my Photos library through Google One became more work than it was worth. I’m likely going to give Apple TV+ six bucks a month once my trial period ends. A year from now, I wouldn’t be surprised to be forking out $30 a month to Apple, along with having a new phone, a new Mac, and probably AirPods or Beats. The Apple infiltration into the consumers home keeps expanding.
So Where Does Apple Go From Here?
I’m confident they’ve solidified their Mac lineup. Their phones will continue to dominate. More will purchase iCloud services and they might just prove themselves to be decent content creators.
But the most important thing about Apple isn’t the product itself — it’s how the company is viewed.
Apple has once again pushed itself to the elitist category. They seemingly once viewed this as a weakness, but in fact, its their strength. When they push out a product consumers can expect that it works in a superior way in comparison to the competition — and you get what you pay for.
Apple isn’t going to be the first one to the market, they’re going to sit back and let things play out a little bit. They’re going to learn from others mistakes and figure out how they can incorporate what they do best into that market before striking. Will they continue to dabble in projects now and then as they figure things out? Sure — iCloud came from the (remember .Me cloud services?) and the Apple TV hardware and Jobs’ flirtation with creating an actual television set never materialized, but great products came from this experiment. Just don’t expect these sort of projects to be central to major company events and announcements.
As Apple steps into the next decade, going backwards will be their best way forward. And by that I refer again to their slogan that rescued them from near annihilation in the 90s. Think Differently.
Think Differently than the competition. Make a better phone or laptop than others because you know what consumers want. Think Differently as a consumer. You can do more and be more creative with an Apple product in comparison to the competition. Think Differently creating content. Address topics others are too scared to touch, do it right, and tell stories that causes society to Think Differently.
All Rights Reserved for Andrew George