Apple and Amazon have different visions of the future.  Neither one is completely right

Apple and Amazon have different visions of the future. Neither one is completely right

Image: Getty Images/Studio Yagi

We are already well into the tech product launch season, which will continue for the next few weeks as major vendors define the products they want us to buy this holiday season and into next year.

But something that has changed recently is that many big vendors don’t want to sell you a single product.

Instead, they want to sell you their big picture – a whole way of life that could be yours. Naturally, it’s a way of life that’s only enabled by their gadgets – and the subscription services they hope to sell to you, too.

Recently, we’ve seen two of the biggest tech giants, Apple and Amazon, try to do just that.

These competing visions also speak volumes about the strengths and weaknesses of these companies — and how they see the tech world changing in the coming years.

The first was Apple, with its new iPhone 14 and Apple Watches. For Apple, there’s no doubt that the iPhone continues to be the center of its personal tech world, even as the Watch and AirPods become increasingly useful wearables.

The smartphone in Apple’s vision is not only a useful tool but an indispensable companion. It’s the one that can now even help you if you’re in a car accident or lost in the mountains.

You could say that these new features that will only be useful in fairly obscure scenarios are a clear sign that smartphone innovation is running out of niches to fill. But regardless of that, Apple’s position is that having the device in your pocket or maybe on your wrist, or in your ear (and maybe on your eyes) is the way to go.

Instead, Amazon bases its pitch very heavily on ambient computing.

Its products – most obviously the Echo speakers (the new versions of the Echo Dot and the Echo Dot with clock arrived last week) but also its Astro robot, the Halo Rise sleep monitoring clock and more – are not things you wear or carry but are appliances in the house around you.

Amazon’s vision seems to be one where intelligence is built into things that can learn about you, figure out what you want to do – and then do it for you.

None of these visions of the future is complete.

Apple sees the iPhone as the center of the tech world because that’s where its success lies and where its revenue comes from. It might dominate smartphones, but so far Apple hasn’t made big smart home hits. Amazon has of course dominated the smart home thanks to its Echo and Alexa ecosystem. He built his own smartphone, but the project was a costly failure, which is why ambient computing in the form of a huge range of cloud-connected devices is where he sees the future.

There are other big differences between the two. Apple sees personal data as something its customers now want to share with big tech, while many of Amazon’s services are based on user learning to provide more personalized services. Neither really tells the full story of the future of tech: a smartphone or watch isn’t the answer in every scenario, but again, there’s still a long way to go. to go before ambient computing can provide the same level of utility as being able to glance at a screen on a smartphone or on your wrist.

These views are not mutually exclusive; indeed, many users probably live in both worlds at once, using both Apple and Amazon products. But it is difficult to see how they can be reconciled. Maybe at some point another tech company will figure out how to combine the two different worldviews, but until then expect these competing visions to co-exist, however difficult.


ZDNet’s Monday Open is our first tech release of the week, written by members of our editorial team.


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