What are we even doing anymore?
JANUARY 14TH, 2016 — POST 010
For anyone interested in tech, the first weeks of each year are spent rubbernecking around news outlets for the best of the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. Because the future is yet to happen, this avid reader came down with what amounts to whiplash in pouring over every company’s own vision of what’s next. Even as someone who’s never attended CES, and who’s engagement with the tech industry is heavily mediated through news, this year’s felt to me like a button on what tech had become in 2015.
As far as the tech titans go, 2015 can be summed up in one word: meh. Google released two solid entrants into the Nexus line, Microsoft released an improvement to its Surface line as well as adding a new product category with the Surface Book. Apple launched two new product categories with the Apple Watch and iPad Pro, and half-lauched a third with the MacBook. Whilst it might still be a little early to tell, it wouldn’t seem that any of these have made any impact.
Whether its cockiness or laziness, I get the sense that none of these companies feel its their duty to make the case for why these products are needed. Sundar Pichai can wax poetic about the Surface Book as a “digital clipboard” but that doesn’t even get me halfway there. He’d first have to tell me why I’d want a clipboard to begin with.
The Apple Watch was just a wasted opportunity for Apple and, if you believe the theory about the new battery case being released to disguise their Watch sales in total “Accessories” sales, it seems they’re aware of it. The line that was consistently touted was that “developers will figure it out.” The implication that Apple provides platforms more than they do products is not inherently the problem. But if a platform is to become valuable, the company providing it should ensure the product containing it is as desirable as possible.
What this all comes down to is that none of these products can claim to convincingly answer
“What problem are we solving?”
A month or so ago, when the iPad Pro was released, the Microsoft Store opened in Sydney to be the showcase for the Surface Book. I left both stores that day with similar feelings. After squeezing past a guy on the iPad Pro asking the Apple guy if split-screen on iOS ran across dual monitors, I was struck with the thought that the best thing in the whole store, the thing that would serve me the best is a product I already own several of: one or another incarnation of the decade-old MacBook line. Leaving the Microsoft store with my free glass bottle of Aqua Panna, I tried to put my finger on the best product in the store. It’s the Elite Controller for Xbox One. In both cases, the products either company was championing for the holiday period and beyond are really products for no one.
I don’t know why the Surface Book detaches. I don’t know why the iPad Pro doesn’t run OS X. What I do know is that a device with a detachable screen or a mobile OS wouldn’t be my tool of choice for doing any of the things either company believes their product best for.
I get naïve and wonder if maybe tech has solved all the problems. But if tech’s already solved all the problems, and everything new isn’t solving anything, then why is everyone so unsatisfied with what they’ve got?