The smartest insight and analysis, from all perspectives, rounded up from around the web:
The world's most valuable company is beginning to show its age, said Bob O'Donnell at Recode. As Apple marked its 40th birthday on April 1, there were plenty of milestones to celebrate, not least the fact that more than 1 billion of its devices are now in active use around the globe. "But there are signs that the company's youthful vigor is starting to fade." Last month, Apple held an uncharacteristically short and subdued launch event to unveil its new 4-inch iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro. These smaller, cheaper versions of existing Apple devices look like "solid products," but no one will mistake them "for major innovations." Instead, both devices look like the result of careful corporate planning and analysis — built to fill very specific market niches. And while that's not what we're accustomed to expect from the inventor of the iPod and iPhone, it's "exactly what you'd expect from an 'adult' company."
When did Apple become so boring? asked Mike Murphy at Quartz. Once upon a time, "we could count on Apple to announce some Big New Thing at a slick press event every year." But apart from the Apple Watch, the company's first entirely new product in five years, Apple's recent innovations have been derivative — "Apple products in every size and shape you can think of." The devices add incremental improvements like better battery life and camera quality — but not much else. Consider that sometime in the next year or so, Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 7, Apple Watch 2, MacBook 2, and iPad Pro 2. Like a Hollywood studio endlessly cranking out superhero movies, Apple appears "locked in an unending cycle of sequels and spin-offs."
There was one big surprise at Apple's launch event, said Don Reisinger at Fortune: the $399 price tag for the iPhone SE, "a bargain by Apple standards." The company clearly hopes the cheaper device will be popular among consumers in developing countries, who have gravitated toward cheaper phones running the Google Android operating system. A hit device overseas could help reverse slumping iPhone sales, which are expected to decline this year for the first time since the device debuted in 2007. The future, however, probably belongs to a tech giant that can move past the smartphone era, said Eric Auchard at Reuters. Many experts believe we've already reached the "practical limits" of what we can squeeze inside of the devices. What's coming is more smartphone-like technology, including Siri-like personal assistants, being embedded in everything "from cars to fridges to watches and jewelry."
Cut Apple some slack, said Christina Warren at Mashable. The company has had a lot more on its mind lately than new products. CEO Tim Cook used last month's event to address weightier matters — first and foremost, Apple's battle with the FBI over encryption. That fight may be over now, but the debate will rage on "long after the public forgets about the newest features in the 4-inch iPhone." Privacy, security, and public policy may not be the most exciting fodder for Apple geeks, but "it almost seemed as if the company were saying, 'There are things more important than new gadgets.'" So no, the products Apple launched last month "weren't that interesting. But the circumstances in which they were launched sure were."