It was almost like 2008-2012. We all know Apple never shows up to CES, but they never really had to. There was a time when, no matter what happened at the show, they were still the main story. The show floor would be packed to the gills with iPhone accessories and apps. In the first years of the iPad, when it launched in the late Winter and Spring, it dominated the conversation among the tech press.
Those days have been gone for a while. CES is more about connected gadgets than big ticket items today. Despite the fact that HomeKit has been around for a while, Apple has never gotten past the fringes of that market, so the shadow they used to case over CES has receded the last few years. When you factor in the company’s recent guidance correction and stock price troubles, it seems like any talk of Apple at the show would be negative. But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Apple somehow managed to turn the tables and get the positive side of the spotlight at CES. That didn’t seem possible a week ago, but here we are. First off, we got the news from Samsung and Apple that the former’s new TVs would be able to stream iTunes content and would also have AirPlay 2. Then we found out that many other TVs from Sony, LG and Vizio would be getting AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support, as well.
Apple then had another surprise up its sleeve. Where iPhone and iPad accessories once abounded on the show floor, this year it was HomeKit support added to all kinds of home automation devices. Why is this important? Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home and Assistant have taken turns being the darling of the burgeoning connected home category, and in turn, CES. Despite being the first to market, Apple and HomeKit have always been on the outside looking in. The fact that they are finally generating some interest from third parties is encouraging. This is exactly the kind of thing that will help Apple sell more HomePods, which I’m sure they are very happy about.
I think the biggest surprise for me is that Apple didn’t counter bad iPhone news with iPhone discounts and solutions. Instead, their next move was to show us more of what is coming next. Everyone is asking what Apple will do to replace revenue growth now that iPhone sales are stagnating. Well here it is. Between the news out of CES and Tim Cook’s interview with CNBC’s Jim Cramer, the direction is clear. Apple is moving full speed ahead toward Services, Health and other Connected Devices. The iPhone, iPad and even the Mac aren’t going anywhere. However, they have company and that company is growing faster than the rest of the company.
We saw the the leading edge off the Services news during CES, but Cook teased that more is coming. You can bet that Apple’s video streaming and News product based on Texture are both coming this year. Mr Cook also pointed out that both the Apple Watch and AirPods are now bigger businesses than the iPod was. While the iPhone still dwarfs them, you can see a developing theme here. Apple isn’t going to stop at two wearable devices. It’s just a matter of time before there are more. He also played up their role in Health, a market that they are quickly cornering. There is no shortage of fitness trackers. but Apple is forging ahead into more robust Health tracking faster than their competitors.
Oh, and there there was the sign you see pictured above. Nice touch twisting the good, old privacy knife again, Apple. Way to make a splash doing it.
Some positive announcements and news out of left field are not the end of Apple’s current problems. However, they do start to answer some of the questions that investors have been asking lately. As an Apple fan, I am happy to see them starting to truly embrace new directions, rather than just circling the wagons, digging in and trying to stay with the old ways. It may take a little time, but Apple’s plan to bridge the gap between dependence on the iPhone and whatever comes next is starting to come into sharper focus.