The demise of the Apple’s AirPort WiFi Router has been like watching something fade away in slow motion. The AirPort line hasn’t been updated since 2013, which is an eternity in the tech world and Apple actually disbanded the team that worked on these products back in 2016. Based on those facts alone, I’m kind of surprised that Apple let the line linger this long.
So why am I even batting an eye lash at this completely unsurprising news? There are a couple of reasons. First off, on a practical note, the Time Machine was about as easy and no-fuss of a computer backup device as the industry has ever seen. While I understand that cloud services like Dropbox and Apple’s own iCloud can handle a lot of basic backup tasks now, there is still a need for full machine and computer state backups. Because of this need, it’s unfortunate to see a product like the Time Machine go away.
The real reason I am a little mystified that Apple ceased development on the AirPort line is because of their current ambitions. They have been slowly moving into the home for a while now. First there was the Apple TV, then HomeKit, and now we have the HomePod, the most tangible hardware representation of Apple’s ambitions to further embed themselves into the home. However, before ANY of these devices or services existed, there was the AirPort. This device was Apple’s first dedicated appliance for the home, and like many Apple products of its era, it was hands-down best in its class.
Apple’s push into the home has been a little disjointed to be sure, and as with Siri, even though they had a head start, they now find themselves well behind Google and Amazon in home automation and integration. If Apple plans to be competitive in this market, then I find it odd that they would give up on the very gateway to the home- the main Internet interface device.
I can understand why this might be less significant to Amazon, but Google and Apple are both interested in control. They have very different motivations, as one wants their customer’s loyalty and cash, while the other is looking to slurp up every bit of their available data. Again, that all starts at your front door to the Internet, which Google seems to understand. They have responded by delivering a solid mesh WiFi product, while Apple simply chose to abandon and sunset its now old and tired routers. Why they decided to bypass developing a mesh WiFi setup of their own I’ll never know, because it seems like a natural step toward a full ecosystem of home products.
So farewell to the AirPort. It was a great product that was necessary at release, but lost step with the times over the last four years due to neglect. Still, it will be missed and fondly remembered by many who preferred its quality and relative ease of setup. Here’s hoping that Apple will eventually return to the market with a new mesh-enabled AirPort that will help to tie its home products together in the future.