Apple’s Version of March Madness – Better Not Bigger

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Editor’s NoteContributing editor Tim Bajarin, one of the leading Apple analysts, was on hand for the latest slew of Apple announcements, including new hardware and a big step forward in the company’s commitment to health care.

I attended Apple’s spring product launch, where the company showed off the new iPhone SE and a 9.7 inch iPad Pro. I see both of these products as strategic for Apple’s future.

new ipad proThe new 9.7-inch iPad Pro joins its 13 inch big brother as a powerful new tablet that should get a lot of interest from the business market. When this new iPad Pro was launched, however, Apple’s Sr VP of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, made a major point of saying that there are 600 million PC’s in the market more than 5 years old and that Apple is targeting these users with these two iPad Pros.

Apple is acknowledging that Microsoft’s Surface (and clones from Lenovo, HP, and others) has become a viable mobile computing form factor and that the iPad Pros are Apple’s answer to the Surface challenge. This is new thinking from Apple and reflects its stronger interest in gaining market share from the PC makers who want PC users to upgrade. Apple plans to aggressively court these potential customers as well.

iphone seThe intro of the iPhone SE is also strategic for Apple as it is the most powerful iPhone in a 4-inch package and has a relatively low price of $399 for the 16 GB phone. There are a lot of iPhone users around the world who are not interested in 5” and 5.5” iPhones and this phone would meet the needs of those folks who may want to upgrade their current models. However, I see the iPhone SE as the first product Apple could use to aggressively expand its presence in emerging markets, especially India.

$399 is still way over-priced for India and most emerging markets, but it does deliver a psychological breakthrough in people’s thinking in these markets. This new price brings it into the realm of serious aspirational interest. Apple’s brand is highly prized in emerging markets, but the higher priced models make an iPhone an unobtainable prize.

With arrival of the iPhone SE, people in emerging markets can start believing that they could someday own a coveted Apple product, specifically the iPhone. The people in these markets are smart enough to know that, while this new iPhone is still too expensive, Apple can ride the supply chain down and perhaps drop it another $100 within a year. This would make it even more affordable in emerging markets. I see India as Apple’s new China. Apple’s growth in mature markets is steady. In China there is still room to grow market share, but India is a greenfield for it that was untouchable with current higher priced iPhone models.

Apple’s CareKit – A great new program for monitoring health.

health kit 1But out of all the March 21st announcements, I was most taken by what Apple calls CareKit. This is a new software framework designed to help developers enable people to actively manage their own medical conditions. iPhone apps using CareKit will make it easier for individuals to keep track of care plans and monitor symptoms and medication, providing insights that help people better understand their own health. With the ability to share information with doctors, nurses, or family members, CareKit apps help people take a more active role in monitoring their health. For our older generation, this type of program tied to health apps will be quite important. It gives us another serious mobile tool that we can use to stay healthier as we age.

CareKit will be released as an open source framework in April, allowing the developer community to continue building on the first four modules designed by Apple, that include: 

  • Care Card – This function helps people to track their individual care plans and action items, such as taking medication or completing physical therapy exercises. Activities can automatically be tracked and entered using sensors in Apple Watch or iPhone.
  • Symptom and Measurement Tracker – Users can easily record their symptoms and how they’re feeling, like monitoring temperature for possible infections or measuring pain or fatigue. Progress updates could include simple surveys, photos that capture the progression of a wound, or activities calculated by using the iPhone’s accelerometer and gyroscope, like quantifying range of motion.
  • Insight Dashboard – Maps symptoms against the action items in the Care Card to easily show how treatments are working.
  • Connect – Makes it easy for people to share information and communicate with doctors, care teams, or family members about their health and any change in condition.

Of course for this to work, app developers, along with care providers, need to work together to tie these apps to a more specific set of actions and confidential reporting systems. Somewhere along the line, the info created through CareKit needs to be seen by a health professional so that it can be used to help fine-tune a person’s healthcare program. With the success of Apple’s ResearchKit, I have no doubt that the healthcare industry will embrace CareKit. I suspect health care providers as well as app developers tied to the health system will begin creating apps and linked services shortly. Apple most likely will add more details about this program at their early June developers conference and we could see the first round of CareKit apps and services launched this fall.

Apple’s next big event will be its developer conference in San Francisco. Although Apple has not yet announced the date, it normally comes in early June. This will be a very important event for Apple. The company is still doing well with its hardware. I expect Apple to be able to grow the iPhone market, especially if it starts targeting India. But it is the innovation in apps and services that really drives Apple’s ecosystem and is highly important to their future. Should Apple’s iPhone sales see slower growth, it still has many ways to monetize apps and services and use this to extend its profitability. Still more innovation in this area could prompt more people to switch from their current phones to an iPhone, a game plan that Apple has executed very successfully in the past.