iPhones have Wi-Fi. iPads have Wi-Fi. MacBooks. iMacs. Mac Pros. Apple TV. Apple Watch! Has Wi-Fi. 6 product tabs on Apple.com… like 5 of ‘em have Wi-Fi. And yet Apple does not sell a Wi-Fi router. Not any more. Not since they murder death killed the AirPort Express and AirPort Extreme line ups back in 2016. Not even when Google launched their router, and bought Nest, when Samsung bought SmartThings, and Amazon bought Eero. No, they left arguably one of the most important connections customers ever make, between our Apple gear and the internet… just all shades of naked and afraid. Like this channel if you don’t Shinku Hadoken that subscribe button so we can build the best community in tech, together.
So, what do you do? Well, if you’re Apple. Maybe, just maybe, you do what you just did with displays and bring the routers back. Or… no… scratch that… You create something new. Something… more. An ecosystem, of mesh routers, HomePods, Apple TVs, and other gear that can do what every product Apple makes has to do in order to survive — offer unique differentiation — a combination of hardware, software, and services — that only Apple can do.
That’s how Apple brought back displays after canceling them for being little more than bead blasted aluminum commodity panels. After essentially out-sourcing them to LG, which just never lived up to expectations. They added an A13 Bionic chipset, the same chipset as the iPhone 11 and iPad 9, and that gave them way more functionality — iMac-style functionality — with TrueTone, SmartHDR, currently buggy, spatial audio, noise canceling mics, voice activated Siri, and more. That made them Mac-centric display that very literally only Apple could make.
Since Apple canceled AirPorts for the same reason — being little more than iPod plastic commodity routers, and efforts to outsource them to other companies, even helping them with HomeKit Secure Router tech, hasn’t really lived up to expectations either, why not bring them back in the same way?
And - real quick, while I’m mentioning it — can we please, pretty please, rename HomeKit to Apple Home already? HomeKit was good, it was fine, when it really was just a framework. But now that smart accessories are mainstream, it just banshee blasts some assembly required, which is the exact opposite of Apple’s brand promise.
Start with the basic routers. AirPort mini and AirPort Pro. Maybe the mini has a dual-core Apple S6 system-in-package, which is based on the A13 bionic’s Thunder efficiency cores. And maybe the Pro has an A12 like the Apple TV. It’ll really depend on the exact capabilities Apple needs to deliver.
But make ‘em Wi-Fi 6E, because, like Enterprise-E, it’s just best in class. They set up super easily, yeah, with barely any inconvenience. One-tap pair like AirPods, and then propagate to all your iCloud and Family Sharing devices, so it’s close to zero setup. And you can use the mini by itself if you just have small area you want to cover, like a studio apartment or dorm room, but you can also use them as mesh nodes for an AirPort Pro to cover everything from your old, chock-full of interference house, to your fancy valley mansion. But also, next generation HomePods and Apple TVs, maybe even desktop Macs. Basically, any mostly stationary Apple gear with an antenna in it not only uses the mesh network but boosts and propagates it, so you only actually need to buy minis… if you actually need to buy more minis.
And while those minis really only have basic I/O, like ethernet in and a couple out, the Pro is stacked. Multiple ethernet and a Thunderbolt for storage, Time Machine style. And, yeah, sure, Pro Max with 10 Gb Ethernet and dual Thunderbolt, because a Mac nerd can dream.
The software lets you do everything you need to do to manage the network, device access and sharing, and maybe it even ties into Screen Time for some parental control action. And all the HomeKit secure router functionality, you know, so those kids across town can’t make your lights flash red white and blue every night at 3am just for the lulz.
Then the services. If you have storage attached, it could near-line iCloud for you. Both to keep your most recent and frequently accessed files immediately available on the local network, and to keep files that maybe you just don’t want on the Internet but do want integrated into all your iCloud-aware apps. Also to stage software updates, downloaded at night or whenever there’s no other activity to slow down, and then ready for you to install whenever you want, over the local network, with zero congestion or lost connections.
But wait, there’s more. iCloud Private Relay on the network, so if you have some devices in your home that can’t run it locally, whether they’re other phones, computers, or gaming systems, they still get that protection against carrier and social network snooping.
And then, if and when Apple rolls out new hardware, like a TheaterPod or HomeTheater or whatever, and the long-anticipated VR headset, maybe there’ll be new and even more interesting features for this mesh system as well, like if everything has a U1 ultra wide band, spatial positioning chip, you could drop in additional HomePods into your TV room, and it would just know where they are and auto-magically use them to increase the size and quality of the virtual sound stage. Or if you have multiple headsets, the nodes could help make local co-op gameplay incredibly robust and low-latency. And if Apple ever gets it’s Handoff for Media act together, whatever you’re watching or listening to or playing on one device could be immediately available, at the exact same place, on any other device you want to switch to. Drop your phone, pick up your TV controller, slap on your headset, then grab your iPad and head to bed. Whatever. Whenever.
These are all just my undoubtedly super dumb creator ideas, and anything you’re not personally responsible for implementing, shipping, and supporting is by definition incredibly easy… according to the internet. Especially when you’re virtually spending all Tim Cook’s money.
But looking over at the Studio Display, seeing a modern Apple display, an only Apple display, just really makes me want to see an AirPort, a modern Apple mess networking… never mind system, ecosystem, beside it… In an only Apple way.