With the recent releases of new iPhones, iPads and the Mac Pro, Apple has continued the annual refresh cycle of its product ranges. But is there still enough evolution and invention from the tech powerhouse to keep consumers interested? Matthew Jarvis asks industry figures what they think…
Some observers have seen Apple’s launches this year as proof of a strategy, and a sign that the powerhouse firm isn’t about to lose market share yet.
“Apple are constantly surprising me at present – I was in the ‘Apple without direction after Jobs’ camp until I saw iOS 7, Mavericks and the Mac Pro,” Robert Peckham of MacTechnology told PCR, referring to the latest iterations of Apple’s operating systems and the high-end desktop PC set for release this month.
“More new portable products and updates to OS X were serving as a distraction from the appearance that Apple weren’t concentrating on developing any new Macs."
“But then the new Mac Pro was announced. It’s obvious this design has taken longer to bring to market than Apple had predicted, but it shows what’s yet to come from the company."
“I actually reckon they’re set to be going ahead stronger than ever.”
Brian Trevaskiss of More Computers reflected that while some may criticise seemingly minor annual updates, Apple is still strong at its core.
“Apple have launched some truly innovative products, but it’s unrealistic to expect new innovations every year,” he told PCR.
“The iPhone and iPad are tough acts to follow.”
Trevaskiss added that the announcement of the new Mac Pro was a particularly strong move by Apple.
“This market will always need powerful desktops, and it’s an area Apple has always targeted – so it makes perfect sense for it to continue,” he explained.
Ben Wood, director of devices at market tracker CCS Insight, stated that Apple is also successfully fending off increased competition from lower-priced tablets, saying: “Whilst Apple is set to maintain its dominance of the premium tablet market and stranglehold of value share, its entry-level iPad Mini offerings are coming under pressure from increasing competition from players such as Amazon and Google, alongside new launches from Tesco and Nokia.”
Wood added that Apple is making the right moves in order to convince consumers that its premium prices are worthwhile, by offering software and services for free.
“Arguably the most important announcements the company made are related to software,” he said.
“Offering its iWorks suite [of productivity software] free with new Mac and iOS devices and offering existing customers free upgrades is a clear effort to disrupt Microsoft’s established business model.”
“This signals to customers that they can buy an Apple product with confidence and get major updates at no additional charge. This will accelerate consumer adoption of future iOS and OS X software releases and give Apple a platform from which it can accelerate new service roll outs and adoption.”
With Apple’s product updates seeming increasingly trivial for many people, some have predicted that the company may begin to put off consumers by attempting to market pricey, but pointless, upgrades.
Robert Peckham of MacTechnology added to his praise of the company that the growing market success of new products from Microsoft could begin to threaten the firm.
“I’ve never been anywhere other than on Apple’s side, but I’ll be the first to admit I believe Microsoft have scored some victories since Steve [Job]’s passing,” Peckham explained.
“Windows 8 is the closest they’ve come to an OS that challenges Mac, and Surface is a great piece of hardware. I suspect they think they can challenge iPhone with their takeover of Nokia too.”
Other observers in the industry agree that Apple’s market share is becoming vulnerable – with some feeling that Apple has lost its edge in being able to offer new technology that excites consumers.
“There are so many times that you can release a new product that is slimmer or slightly more powerful before people start to question where the spark went,” commented Gareth Jordan, director of Retail?Advantage.
“The iPhone 5C and 5S both distinctly lack the ‘wow’ factor,” agreed Daniel Shaw, CEO of Triarom Computers.
“The same goes for the iPad Air and Retina Mini – there doesn’t seem to be any facets of either that would make you give up your current iPad.”
Shaw went on to criticise the company for its lack of support for smaller retailers, suggesting that ignoring the independent sector may contribute to an eventual loss of market share.
“Apple is determined to ignore the independent retailers,” he explained.
“Independent retailers make up a huge amount of the sales in the UK and any company that invests time, money and people in them always reaps the rewards. Apple would see huge service benefits from the independent sector – the sort of service that it has been losing in recent times.”
Gilles Bonvarlet, founder of Very Good Service, suggested that Apple’s future success depends on its ability to offer reasons to upgrade annually: “Offering a superior customer service is becoming one of the key battlegrounds for Apple,” he told PCR.
“One of the other key challenges for Apple is that for many products they are moving to a renewal market.”
“If they accompany and guide their customers by offering a great service, transparency and upgrade incentives, they will secure the market. If not, many customers will want to try a different brand, having been exposed to the fact that their Apple product, in the same way as their old PC, is not infallible.”