Something strange seems to be going on inside of Apple. The company recently exited the stand-alone monitor business, and now it has quietly killed its wireless router business.
This means that you can say goodbye to the convenience and reliability of Apple’s AirPort Express, Airport Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule devices. While the devices are still available in Apple's online store, it's only a matter of time until they are no longer in stock.
Jeff Gamet reports for the Mac Observer:
There’s a good chance the next time you buy a Wi-Fi basestation for you Mac, iPhone and iPad network it won’t come from Apple. The company reassigned the engineers from its wireless networking team to other projects and doesn’t have plans to continue developing its AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule products.
Dropping out of the wireless router game means at some point macOS and iOS device users will have to turn to other companies for access points to build their networks. For some users, that’s no big deal because they want features Apple doesn’t offer, but losing the easy setup we have today won’t sit well with others.
Apple’s software makes setting up AirPort products simple enough for novices, and once configured they tend to run without any need for maintenance. For the average user, Apple’s AirPort products are essentially appliances: they do their job without any need for interaction.
…it is concerning to see Apple walking away from yet another product. When Apple quietly killed off its stand alone display earlier this year, the future of the Mac Pro and Mac mini is in question, and last week we learned Sal Soghoian—the company’s automation and scripting manager—was let go.
I’ll share my thoughts below, but as you might imagine some of Apple’s customers are very unhappy about the company’s decision to kill its wireless routers, as you can tell from some of the comments in a recent MacRumors forum thread:
ParanoidDroid: “What’s going on? Is Apple deliberately trying to piss off customers? The convenient MagSafe is gone, SD card slot gone, headphone jack gone, optical SPDIF on 4th Apple TV gone.
Next things to kill: OTA Time Capsule backups and AirPlay… oh c’mon Apple. My sympathy is shrinking!
The reason why many loyal customers like(d) Apple was the huge convenience factor and reliability within a smart ecosystem.
Supplementary products such as AirPort Time Capsule, the 3rd gen Apple TV, and the Apple Thunderbolt Display surely didn’t generate a lot of revenue, but completed the unique Apple experience at home and in the office. If you didn’t want to fiddle around with 3rd party support and drivers (like in the PC world), you just bought everything from Apple, and you knew that everything would work smoothly – because it was Apple.
But now things are changing, the convenience factor has been significantly disturbed with the latest #donglelife backlash and ugly LG monitors on top of that. Not to mention the never-the-same Space Gray (gone Jet Black) color-rama-drama.
I beginn to miss a central theme – a leitmotif – across the latest Apple products. The harmony is falling apart. While e.g. Microsoft is currently hard working on just that: unification. Be careful Apple…Nokia was once big too! Don’t let the bean counters kill the company we used to love.”
Jtrenthacker: “So, in a couple more years, Apple will be nothing more than tablets and phones? Timmy needs to hit the road.”
MNJohn: “Resources probably pulled to shore up watch band development.”
Sound214: “Wow, this stinks! I’ve dealt with plenty of router alternatives, and AirPort is by far more superior. And you don’t have to hide them, since they’re beautiful.”
DanTheAppleMan: “Next week: Apple ceases development of Pro Mac lineup. Or is that old news?”
840quadra: “With so many employees, a new campus so they can hire more, they can’t find 50 - 100 people to support this simple product?
This is quite disappointing, considering they were one of the first in the market with affordable consumer WiFi access points.”
Luba: “Does everything Apple makes have to earn a big profit?? What about making a product to service their customers? I like the Time Capsule concept.”
McFreggle: “I understand why they shut down their display business (though I’m not happy with it) because apart from design, they couldn’t really make a difference in the display business.
But the AirPort, and especially the Time Capsule, really made a difference. I’ve never had a backup system that worked more smoothly and without any maintenance at all than my Time Capsule.
Sad day. Again. :(”
Dwaltwhit: “The less frequently consumers “need” to upgrade/replace, the less revenue it generates. Phones are replaced yearly, iPads every 3–4 years, laptops 5–6, routers maybe even longer. I’m disappointed that the airport is shaking this mortal coil-its the best router I’ve ever had-but I guess margin is king. ”
Ehfz: “Part of what makes Apple appealing to consumers is the “it just works” philosophy, and part of what makes “it just works” work is the broad ecosystem of Apple products that support the cash cows, including the Airport lineup.”
I’ll miss the AirPort Time Capsule
I have to admit that I am really irritated by Apple’s decision to kill its wireless router business. I have been using the company’s Airport Time Capsule for years, and it’s been an incredibly reliable and easy to use device.
The AirPort Time Capsule is a wireless router but it also has a hard disk built-in. So I’ve been able to wirelessly use Time Machine to back up my iMac automatically and with incredible ease. Once you set it up, there’s almost no maintenance or configuration that needs to be done.
In other words, it’s become a networking appliance that I’ve come to rely on for years. And now Apple is going to take it away eventually, once my current device expires there won’t be another Airport Time Capsule to purchase as a replacement.
The end result of not being able to buy a new Airport Time Capsule will be that Apple's ecosystem of devices and software will be slightly less sticky. Since I'll have to go outside of Apple's products for a new wireless router eventually, it removes one small hurdle that helped encourage me to stay within the Apple family.
While it might seem like a very small thing, such stickiness adds up to customer loyalty over time. I'm already getting the itch to build a Hackintosh or switch outright to a DIY Windows PC because of the gimped video cards in Apple's desktop computers. And now I'm going to lose my AirPort Time Capsule?
To a certain degree Apple's stickiness and the "sell you the whole widget" web it has woven over the last 15 years is beginning to fray and break, one strand at a time. The company might rue the day it took its users for granted with these ham-handed product decisions.
I’m starting to lose faith in Tim Cook and Apple
I’ve been trying really hard to keep my faith in Apple as a company, but it’s getting more and more difficult with decisions like this. The lack of an updated Mac Pro, no news about new iMacs, and the recent decision to kill the company’s monitor business are making it very hard for me to think that Apple is on the right track.
As one of the commenters noted in the MacRumors forum thread: Is Apple just going to come down to tablets, watches and phones? Is that really all the company is going to eventually offer in terms of computing hardware?
Maybe Apple is cooking up some great things behind the scenes, but the company’s recent moves are making me wonder if Tim Cook has fallen asleep at the wheel. I used to write off all the people in comment threads who were calling for him to be replaced by a new CEO.
Now…I’m not so sure that they are wrong.
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