The shift to the cloud has hurt Apple’s “stickiness.”
If Apple is giving up on making Wi-Fi routers, as Bloomberg reported on Monday, it isn’t exactly a shocker.
Apple hasn’t updated the AirPort line in years and the market is being well served by others.
Many people get their Wi-Fi router from their cable or internet service provider, and startups like Eero and Luma have a new generation of products for those who want top performance or have trouble spreading a signal throughout their home.
Apple didn’t confirm Bloomberg’s report, which says that it has reassigned the workers that had been building its AirPort products.
But having a line of networking gear is not that strategic to Apple. At its peak, the AirPort line offered Apple a high-margin product and a way to ensure that people using its Macs got the best wireless service they could.
Although most Apple router sales were to Mac owners, having an Apple router didn’t make one likely to buy future Apple gear. It’s a similar story with the gorgeous-but-pricey monitors that Apple used to sell to professionals and rich consumers. Such products offered Apple customers a way to have all-Apple gear and gave Apple some nice extra profits.
The problem for Apple isn’t that it needs to make routers or monitors. Where Apple is hurting is in the number of factors that really do lock one into its ecosystem.
Not too long ago, Mac and iPhone owners had huge investments in music and movies that were difficult and pricey to replace. These days, lots of people get their movies from Netflix and Amazon and their music from Spotify. Even Apple’s music service works on non-Apple devices.
As Verge editor Nilay Patel noted on Twitter, media isn’t the only thing moving to the cloud. Lots of things that Apple used to solve in hardware have moved to the cloud, too, including backup and storage.
@pkafka A bunch of Apple It Just Works local things — AirPlay, Time Capsule, printer sharing, etc — are now cloud things. Easier to switch.
— nilay patel (@reckless) November 21, 2016
That’s a big problem for Apple. The cloud isn’t exactly where Apple shines.
Sure, Apple has moved to store documents and photos in iCloud, along with other media. But Apple’s cloud is often pricier and less capable than rival services from Google and Microsoft.
So, if Apple has better uses for the engineers that were working on routers, it should put them there. All the better if some of those uses are for hardware that really does produce stickiness in this cloud-centric era.