Apple’s Bruised Brand?

Product line gets skeptical greeting

When Apple speaks, people listen. Only now they also snicker.

The big Apple news event this week unveiled a series of upgrades to existing Apple products. Company CEO Tim Cook spoke pure Apple-speak, those grandiose tones meant to capture the company’s ability to mesmerize our consumer culture and make tech geeks line up all at once.

So what did Cook unveil? Some iPhone upgrades, a refurbished Apple TV and a pencil. A pencil?

Is it any wonder Apple stocks took a hit moments after the unveiling? Apple shares were down 1.9 percent shortly after the company’s big event in Cupertino, Calif., on Wednesday. Apple typically enjoys a stock bump in the days prior to any big company announcement, but that didn’t happen, either. Instead, shares fell 6.2 percent before Cook hit the stage, according to USA Today.

The news proved better early Thursday as Apple shares bounced back, gaining 2.08 percent, according to TheStreet.com. But still, doubts are emerging on whether Apple, always the innovator, can continue to lead. In some ways, this week’s event showed the tech giant follows others who have beaten it to the punch.

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Here were the major Apple announcements:

  • The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus: The phones offer more color choices in a tougher aluminum housing. The 3D touch screen system lets users press harder or softer (dubbed “force touch”) to tell the phone exactly what they want to achieve. The in-house camera offers more pixels (12-megapixel, up from 8) for a sharper picture, plus a “live photos” option that records a tiny amount of video both before and after the shutter snaps.
  • Apple TV, Reborn: Roku has had Apple’s number when it comes to streaming content into our homes. The new Apple TV set-top box arrives with more apps and better use of Apple’s in-house “Siri” program. That means the kind of voice-search functionality you might imagine in a science fiction film. Searching across iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and Showtime for your favorite shows just got easier. The 32GB version of the new, improved Apple TV will cost $150, up from $70.
  • WatchOS 2: The upgraded Apple Watch offers more aesthetic tweaks by the introduction of third-party apps to make the product more robust.
  • The iPad Pro: It’s bigger, no doubt. The 12.9 inch screen is impressive, as is the 10-hour battery life and sleek thin style. It’ll run consumers $799, far more than most laptop computers.
  • The Apple Pencil: Yes, the late Steve Jobs once declared, “who wants a stylus?” which led some social media observers to mock Wednesday’s Apple announcement. The Pencil product was designed to go with the iPad Pro, giving users a new tool with a great range of sensitivity to spark one’s creative nature. It’s clearly aimed at serious designers and creative types, not the casual computer user. Price tag? $99.

Setting aside the hype and Apple’s business prospects, will these products impact consumers in a meaningful way? Michael Sitarzewski, CEO of the data company Epic Playground and a Dallas Startup Community Evangelist, says the event didn’t offer any revolutionary products or surprises. What it still did was introduce features that may exist on competing tech gadgets to Apple’s hungry, faithful fan base.

Sitarzewski cited the Apple TV news as the biggest advance. The device got plenty of ink after Jobs’ death in 2011, but it never captured the public’s imagination as the iPhone and iPad did before it. What it can do that Roku and its ilk can’t match is move all your Apple-related content and goodies to one place.

Apple shares were down 1.9 percent following the news.

“Bringing the same exact content to the TV as hundreds of millions of consumers already have on their tablets and phones will prove to be quite interesting in the market,” Sitarzewski says.

The other consumer-friendly advantage comes with the new Apple Watch. The public may not be universally sold on the product yet, but allowing for apps like AirStrip may change that.

Sitarzewski says the watch’s ability to have doctors keep tabs on a pregnant woman’s health remotely, sending live data that is HIPAA compliant in the process, will give users true peace of mind.

That’s not a snazzy tech gimmick. It’s something Apple technology can offer that goes beyond buzz.

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