Apple says Wi-Fi isn’t interesting anymore

Is AirPort being rebranded for the new Apple Home product range?

Apple, AirPort, iBook, WiFi

If you’ve been waiting for a replacement 802.11ac AirPort Express or hoped for some improvements in Time Machine, then stop hoping on strength of claims Apple has ceased development of its AirPort range of products.

What is being claimed?

Bloomberg claims just that former AirPort engineers are now working on other teams “including Apple TV development.” The news comes months after Apple pulled its AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule products from its stores. The removal of the latter product underlines quite how much Apple wants to get you hooked on iCloud for all of your back up needs, as long as you have the fare.

End of an era

As has been remarked by everyone, AirPort has always been an iconic product for Apple. That’s not because Apple invented Wi-Fi, but because it helped build one of the best standards the company ever managed to evangelize. I can still recall the sense of wonder I felt when I saw Steve Jobs pass a tangerine iBook through a hula-hoop to demonstrate what this amazing wireless Internet technology could do. AirPort became a defining competitive feature for the company. Apple stole a march on rivals with the launch of the AirPort router and while it remains one of the best designed such products on the market, there are many competing products that cost less.

Strike three

The news follows Apple’s recent decision to quit its monitor business, ceding the Mac focused display industry to LG, which now offers jointly developed 4K and 5K displays for the new MacBook. It also follows the recent special Mac launch event, at which many Mac users complained at the lack of focus on desktop Macs. While hope remains the company will introduce desktop improvements in 2017, the direction of travel is becoming increasingly focused on the appliances vision that has haunted the company for the last decade or so.

What’s that echo?

While the report seems to say the company has no plans to extend its AirPort range it stops short of saying we shouldn’t expect other wireless products from the company. Those members of its team involved in AirPort development have instead been shunted to work with different teams (including the Apple TV). This could end up being significant if Apple does indeed introduce some form of Siri-powered Amazon Echo competitor.

In the event Apple were to introduce such products it seems logical it will want to brand these as companion devices for HomeKit and the Apple TV, in which case the historic association of the AirPort name with routers may confuse the identity of its new range of product(s). We recently learned development of such solutions has reached prototype stage and that Apple engineers have secretly begun testing these early models at home. Will these new products be part of a range of some kind? Apple Home? Siri@Home? Wait and see...

I can’t help but hope Apple continues to provide some kind of router, even if only as a component of whatever it is it is working on. Failure to do so will leave the space clear for mesh-based solutions like Google WiFi. Meanwhile there are a few minor discounts on Apple’s existing range to be found on Amazon.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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