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Apple’s services event laid the groundwork for a long and difficult transition away from the iPhone

As it turns out, it’s not time to play the music or light the lights. It’s not time to put on makeup or dress up right. It’s not actually “show time” at all.

Apple unveiled several services at its star-studded event Monday, and they all have one thing on common: They’re not ready yet. The only service that’s available to try out this month is Apple News+, and a quick scan of the titles available reveals that the majority of them haven’t been formatted to take advantage of the Apple News Format, so you’re basically getting PDFs. As far as the other services Apple announced, you’re going to have to wait:

  • Apple TV Channels: May
  • Apple TV+: Fall
  • Apple Arcade: Fall
  • Apple Card: Summer

So what was the point of holding an event in March when most of the announcements are months away from release? To start a major transition. Apple’s event felt underwhelming and confusing because it’s a dramatic new direction for the company. Selling pretty hardware is easy, but getting people to subscribe to a service each month requires a different kind of commitment and focus. Just like the Mac’s Intel transition long ago, or the iPhone and iPod transitions, investors, fans, and anyone else who follows Apple is going to need time to adjust to what is a massive policy shift for the company.

Services with a smile

It didn’t take long to realize that Monday’s Apple event was very different than its usual spring keynote. Right off the bat, Tim Cook told the audience that the show would be “different,” focusing solely on Apple services, a term he defined as “the action of helping or doing work for someone.”

apple hardwareApple

Apple’s hardware didn’t get much stage time yesterday.

But more importantly they make money. Potentially lots of money. While Apple has gradually growing the Services section of its balance sheet with iCloud, Apple Music, and the cut it takes from developers through the App Store, it’s only scratched the surface of what it can become with the right mix of content, delivery, and experience.

But it remains to be seen if Apple can bring all that. While the event was heavy on pomp and circumstance, it was remarkably light on specifics, and the list of things we don’t know is way longer than what we do. Most notably, we have no idea what these upcoming services will cost. But those details will come. For now, Apple is content to tease us with big names and let the industry know that it’s no longer happy with its 30-percent revenue cut. It wants it all.

Time for a new shift

Apple is no stranger to transition. There was the the move from Macs into handheld devices like the iPod, iPhone, and Macs. The switch from OS 9 to OS X. And the biggest of all, the Intel transition.

apple arcade multiple gamesApple

Apple’s services are a transition away from hardware.

It doesn’t seem like much now, but the move from PowerPC to x86 processors was a huge deal for Apple. At the time of its announcement in June 2003, Macs were still Apple’s primary product, and the transition meant apps had to be re-written or run in a virtual environment called Rosetta. Older Macs suddenly had a definite expiration date, and a whole cottage industry of FireWire accessories was thrown into doubt. In short, everything was changing.

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