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Apple as a Service: What Apple One could mean for the biggest company in tech

Combining News+, Music, TV+ and iCloud could be good for all those services, and scary for competitors.

Apple as a Service: What Apple One could mean for the biggest company in tech

There's one possible path for Apple One that eventually includes almost everything the company makes.

Image: Apple

Apple has always understood the appeal of a bundle. It bundles hardware and software; sells millions of songs in a single subscription; charges credit cards only periodically to save on fees. Even Apple's retail stores are a bundle, if you squint a little.

With Apple One, Apple's getting even deeper into all things bundle. For individuals, it's $14.95 a month and includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and iCloud storage. The Family plan costs $19.95 a month and includes more users and more iCloud storage. For $29.95 a month in some countries, there's also the Premier package, which includes the new Fitness+ service and Apple News+, both of which cost $9.99 a month on their own.

Apple framed Apple One as both a cost-saving mechanism and a way for people to discover new services. Apple Music has 60 million paid customers, for instance, and for only a small extra charge, Apple can now try to get those people playing games in Arcade and using iCloud instead of Dropbox. And for less than the price of a monthly Peloton membership, users can get Fitness+ plus all of Apple's other services.

There's one possible path for Apple One that eventually includes almost everything the company makes. For one monthly price, users would get occasionally updated iPhones, iPads, Watches and Macs; subscriptions to Apple Music, TV+, News+, Arcade and more; iCloud storage; and an Apple Card for purchasing everything else. The bundle, investors and analysts argue, would keep people locked into their subscriptions — and thus Apple's ecosystem — for even longer, and help expose them to Apple's new services.

This is not an outlandish future. As Cook pointed out on a 2019 earnings call, Apple's upgrade programs already accomplish some of the same goal. "In terms of hardware as a service or as a bundle, if you will, there are customers today that essentially view the hardware like that because they're on upgrade plans and so forth," he said. "So to some degree that exists today. My perspective is that will grow in the future to larger numbers. It will grow disproportionately." Apple Card owners can already pay for their Apple gear in installments, too, which is not far off from hardware as a service already.

Bundling is also a bit of a trend in Big Tech. The best-case bundle scenario comes from Amazon, which has turned Prime from a free-shipping subscription to a way to get music, movies, books, groceries and photo prints. More than 100 million people in the U.S. now use Prime. Meanwhile, Microsoft is building Microsoft 365 into a similar bundle, with Windows and Office but also services from Adobe, Headspace and others. Google also launched Google One, "one membership to get more out of Google," though that hasn't yet expanded beyond storage and customer service.

Of course, the more Apple bundles the more those bundles are likely to come under antitrust scrutiny. The more deeply it locks people into its ecosystem, the more it upsells users into more-expensive and expansive bundles, the more the competitors left on the outside will complain, and the more powerful Apple's walled garden will look. Spotify said as much in a statement on Tuesday: "Once again, Apple is using its dominant position and unfair practices to disadvantage competitors and deprive consumers by favoring its own services."

There's no doubt that Apple One is a key part of how Apple understands its future. The question, as ever, will be which — if any — of Apple's services are enticing enough to get people into the bundle in the first place. So far, Music is the most obvious success, but as more shows come to TV+ and more people get started with Fitness+, those could grow, too. And offering the equivalent of Spotify and Netflix (and more), for roughly the cost of one of those services, is likely to be a compelling sell. It gives Apple more recurring revenue, locks customers even deeper into its hardware, and pushes Apple ever closer to being the one bill people need to pay every month to get everything they need. And if Apple can get there, it'll be nearly unbeatable.

Power

Google wants to help you get a life

Digital car windows, curved AR glasses, automatic presentations and other patents from Big Tech.

A new patent from Google offers a few suggestions.

Image: USPTO

Another week has come to pass, meaning it's time again for Big Tech patents! You've hopefully been busy reading all the new Manual Series stories that have come out this week and are now looking forward to hearing what comes after what comes next. Google wants to get rid of your double-chin selfie videos and find things for you as you sit bored at home; Apple wants to bring translucent displays to car windows; and Microsoft is exploring how much you can stress out a virtual assistant.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Sponsored Content

The future of computing at the edge: an interview with Intel’s Tom Lantzsch

An interview with Tom Lantzsch, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Group at Intel

An interview with Tom Lantzsch

Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corporation

Edge computing had been on the rise in the last 18 months – and accelerated amid the need for new applications to solve challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom Lantzsch, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corp., thinks there are more innovations to come – and wants technology leaders to think equally about data and the algorithms as critical differentiators.

In his role at Intel, Lantzsch leads the worldwide group of solutions architects across IoT market segments, including retail, banking, hospitality, education, industrial, transportation, smart cities and healthcare. And he's seen first-hand how artificial intelligence run at the edge can have a big impact on customers' success.

Protocol sat down with Lantzsch to talk about the challenges faced by companies seeking to move from the cloud to the edge; some of the surprising ways that Intel has found to help customers and the next big breakthrough in this space.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing with edge computing and IoT?

A few years ago, there was a notion that the edge was going to be a simplistic model, where we were going to have everything connected up into the cloud and all the compute was going to happen in the cloud. At Intel, we had a bit of a contrarian view. We thought much of the interesting compute was going to happen closer to where data was created. And we believed, at that time, that camera technology was going to be the driving force – that just the sheer amount of content that was created would be overwhelming to ship to the cloud – so we'd have to do compute at the edge. A few years later – that hypothesis is in action and we're seeing edge compute happen in a big way.

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Saul Hudson
Saul Hudson has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, especially in understanding and targeting messages in cutting-edge technologies. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, in helping companies to build passionate audiences and accelerate their growth. Hudson has reported from more than 30 countries, from war zones to boardrooms to presidential palaces. He has led multinational, multi-lingual teams and managed operations for hundreds of journalists. Hudson is a Managing Partner at Angle42, a strategic communications consultancy.
Power

Viewers like you: How PBS is adapting to the streaming age

The public broadcaster has had considerable success on YouTube and other digital platforms. Now, it is looking to revamp pledging.

PBS has begun to talk to ad-supported video services, including some that distribute programming via free 24/7 channels, to help it compete in the streaming age.

Image: PBS

If there were a playbook for the streaming wars, it might read something like this: Take your most valuable assets, slap a plus behind your most recognizable brand name, and start counting the money.

For PBS, things aren't quite that easy. While the public broadcaster has made some inroads in streaming, it has been slower to embrace digital business models than some of its commercial competitors. But that could change in the coming months. PBS is in discussions to bring its app to additional platforms, including a new crop of ad-supported video services, and has plans to turn smart TVs into donation machines that could ultimately make the old-fashioned pledge drive obsolete.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Transforming 2021

Blockchain, QR codes and your phone: the race to build vaccine passports

Digital verification systems could give people the freedom to work and travel. Here's how they could actually happen.

One day, you might not need to carry that physical passport around, either.

Photo: CommonPass

There will come a time, hopefully in the near future, when you'll feel comfortable getting on a plane again. You might even stop at the lounge at the airport, head to the regional office when you land and maybe even see a concert that evening. This seemingly distant reality will depend upon vaccine rollouts continuing on schedule, an open-sourced digital verification system and, amazingly, the blockchain.

Several countries around the world have begun to prepare for what comes after vaccinations. Swaths of the population will be vaccinated before others, but that hasn't stopped industries decimated by the pandemic from pioneering ways to get some people back to work and play. One of the most promising efforts is the idea of a "vaccine passport," which would allow individuals to show proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 in a way that could be verified by businesses to allow them to travel, work or relax in public without a great fear of spreading the virus.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

People

How Chess.com built a streaming empire

Twitch users watched 18.3 million hours of chess content in January, nearly as much as they consumed throughout 2019. Last week, chess even surpassed League of Legends, Fortnite and Valorant as the most-watched gaming category.

To date, Chess.com has over 57 million members.

Photo: William West/Getty Images

There's something inherently perverse in calling chess "open source." It's a bit like saying France "pivoted" from monarchy to republic, or that indoor plumbing was a "10x idea."

Nevertheless, it's true: Anyone has free rein to make a chess game.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.
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