Apple took bold new steps into the digital subscription era with the announcement on Monday March 25th of new television streaming, news, and credit card services.
As the anticipated “It’s Showtime” streamed event kicked off at Apple's California headquarters, CEO Tim Cook reflected on how the tech giant's success at creating innovative hardware and software for products like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad have led it to establish a burgeoning number of related services. These include the Apple iTunes Store, the iOS App Store, iPhoto sharing and Apple Maps, among others.
At one point, Cook presented a slide that showed three coloured, equally-sized circles labelled with Apple's three main areas of production: hardware, software, and services. "The seamless integration of hardware, software and services...this is something that Apple does better than anyone else," Cook said.
An expansion of services represents a major shift in Apple’s strategy as it responds to the slowing growth of its iPhone and other hardware business.
The flagship announcement of the day was Apple's new $9.99/month video streaming service, Apple TV+. Well-known Hollywood personalities including JJ Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell appeared on stage or in videos highlighting the collection of original TV series that Apple will debut on the service later this year.
"This is my first time at Apple," said Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg, who will be directing a new Apple TV+ series called “Amazing Stories” inspired by the former magazine by that name.
The Apple stage was even graced by an appearance by Sesame Street's Big Bird, who announced a partnership between Apple and Sesame Workshop to create kid-friendly content.
While the company's new original programming will be available as an ad-free subscription, the Apple TV app is also being revamped as a central portal for other streamed content providers. Called Apple TV Channels, the feature will have access to HBO, Nickelodeon, Starz, Showtime, CBS All Access, and more on a pay-per-channel basis. Apple TV Channels will launch in the Apple TV app’s May 2019 update, and access to Apple TV will be expanded from a current 10 countries to over 100.
The Apple TV is also coming to smart TVs for the first time. Televisions made by Samsung will receive the app in Spring and LG, Sony, and Vizio smart TVs will receive it later this year. The app will also be made available on MacOS, Roku and Amazon Fire TV players.
Apple also announced a subscription-based premium news service that will be available from the current Apple News app. Cook proudly reported the current app is the world's "number 1 news app.” Apple News+, the new subscription service, will cost $9.99 per month and provide access to more than 300 magazines like Time, National Geographic, Vogue, GQ, and Popular Science, as well as top newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, and Billboard.
New built-for-iOS features will include mobile-ready animated covers, infographics, and featured issues. True to Apple's privacy-first values, the company announced that it will block advertisers from tracking users. "What you read in Apple News will not follow you across the web," said Roger Rosner, Apple Vice President of Applications.
The paid Apple News+ service will be made available immediately in the US and Canada on iOS and MacOS with a promotional free first month via the Apple News app. Europe and Australia will receive the service later in 2019.
Apple Credit Card
Apple also announced a new digital credit card service that will be launched in partnership with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard. Available across iOS and Mac devices, the new credit cards will offer between 1-3% cashback (what Apple calls "Daily Cash") on purchases and an optional number-free and expiration-date free physical card. A new Apple Card app will help users track spending with tracking by category as well as location, using Apple Maps to pinpoint when and where purchases happened.
Apple highlighted its generous fee scheme, or perhaps, its lack of a scheme at all. Apple Card will not have late fees, annual fees, over-limit fees, or international fees. Interest rates will be "low," and no penalty interest rates will be applied if users miss payments.
As with Apple News, the firm is prioritising customer privacy. Details about purchases will be stored on the device and not on Apple's servers, and Goldman Sachs has committed to never share or sell customer data for marketing.