For a while now, there's been talk of Apple's plans to launch its own streaming video service -- to rival, perhaps, the likes of Hulu and Netflix.
There's also been talk of its potential unveiling of a subscription news service -- one where content from a number of outlets would be available in a central place, rousing the wrath of some publishers when it was revealed that Apple would keep a cut of 30% of all subscription revenue for itself.
Then, event invites went out. The big day would be March 25 -- when, according to the invitation's copy, it would be "show time."
Today, that event took place. And while it did confirm the future launch of the aforementioned services -- and others -- it left out several details, often raising more questions than it did answers.
Here are a few of the services announced at today's Apple Event -- and some of the remaining questions around them.
Apple for Financial Services
Apple announced today several new finance-related services development to augment and complement its existing Apple Pay service -- which allows iPhone users to pay "on the go" with their devices at accepting retailers, rather than using cash or cards.
One such service: Apple Pay transit, in which users can purchase, renew, and use public transportation passes, like monthly unlimited ride tickets.
The service will first launch in New York City, Portland, OR, and Chicago later in 2019 -- but noticeably absent from the list were Bay Area transit services Muni, BART, and Caltrain, which service the geographical region around Apple's HQ in Cupertino, CA.
But what was perhaps the most salient financial services announcement was the soon-to-be Apple Card: a credit card manufactured by Apple, in partnership with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard.
Among the features is the "zero wait time" to receive the card, as users can simply apply and begin using it on the Apple Wallet app on their iOS devices immediately (presumably, if they're approved). Users in the U.S. and Canada can apply today, and the card is accepted anywhere Apple Pay is -- which, according to today's presentation, has a 70% prevalence among retailers in the U.S.
A physical card made of titanium will also be available to utilize in places where Apple Pay and Apple Card aren't accepted -- and it comes without a CVV code of an expiration date. It also offers fewer rewards, like Apple's "Daily Cash" cash back program.
When the device version of the Apple Card is used, customers will receive 2% daily cash on all purchases made, and 3% when those payments are made directly to Apple. The physical card will only yield 1% in daily cash -- though the company says that there's no limit to how much Daily Cash users can accrue.
Finally, Apple says "there are no fees associated with Apple Card: no annual, late, international or over-the-limit fees."
Would you enroll in an Apple credit card? #AppleEvent— Amanda Zantal-Wiener (@Amanda_ZW) March 25, 2019
Confirming much of the talk leading up to today's event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the launch of Apple News+: A news subscription service where users can subscribe to their choice of more than 300 magazines and newspapers for $9.99/month in the U.S. (or $12.99 in Canada).
But absent from the list of publishers are the New York Times and Washington Post, pointing to the grievances aired by many outlets with Apple's "cut" of subscription revenue, which is rumored to be as high as 50%.
For the content that is available, there's a personalization element, where recommendations for various publications, magazine issues, or stand-alone articles will be listed for users, based on topics that their browsing and reading behavior indicates might interest them.
But here's where Apple implies that this setup is good for publishers. These recommendations, it seems, may introduce a segment of Apple News+ users to publications of which they might not have been previously aware, or with which they may not have otherwise engaged. Where subscription revenue for these publishers may be lacking, it seems, there's compensation in the form of audience growth.
With both Apple's new financial services and the News+ platform, the company has placed an emphasis on privacy.
On the former, for instance, Goldman Sachs won't sell user purchasing data to third parties for marketing purposes, nor will Apple "know" what users bought, where, or how much they spent.
For the latter, Apple officially states that "both editorial curation and personalized suggestions [will] maintain user privacy," though it doesn't go into detail as to how.
Streaming, by Apple
Premium Content Aggregation
Again confirming (some) rumors, Apple unveiled its new Apple TV channels service, which serves as a unique type of TV and film content aggregation platform.
Combining programs from traditional television networks (like NBC in the U.S.), premium cable networks (e.g., HBO), and other streaming services (including Amazon Prime), Apple TV channels is being positioned as a singular destination for all premium content viewing -- "no more app-to-app switching" required.
That is, unless, a user would like to view Netflix.
Despite the somewhat comprehensive viewer offerings available on Apple TV channels, there's one highly recognizable -- and highly used -- streaming service missing: Netflix.
Not only has Netflix barred its inclusion in the Apple TV channels service -- which Edmund Lee of the New York Times elaborates upon -- but also, what some say is the "mother" of all streaming services recently cut off the ability for users to sign up for memberships through the Apple store.
Apple TV channels will be available in 2019.
Original Premium Content on Display
But where Apple is somewhat latently entering the premium content race is with the unveiling of its own TV programming lineup -- featuring original work with or by such big names as Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Jennifer Aniston, and Oprah Winfrey -- all of whom were present at today's event.
Included in the lineup is programming for children, as well, with famed Sesame Street characters Big Bird and his puppet-sidekick Cody announcing a new show, "Helpsters." Among the lessons taught on "Helpsters": how to code.
And while the last 30 minutes of the Apple event was a star-studded dedication to big names waxing creative on the importance of storytelling, little else was revealed about the nature of the original content that will be available on the newly-dubbed Apple TV+: the name assigned to the company's premium streaming service.
Small tidbits about the overall plot lines were teased alongside jokes by the celebrities speaking at today's event, but other than that, viewers weren't given much information about what, should they sign up for the service, they would be paying for -- nor were they told how much they would have to pay for it.
Similarly shrouded in mystery was one of the partnerships announced by Oprah, which is the development of her famed book club for Apple.
But it's unclear what the format of that book club will be -- and whether it will take the form of original written content, an e-book download platform (perhaps to rival Amazon's kindle service), a new social network or community built around the book club, or all of the above.
All we know, it seems, is what Oprah told us: that it promises to be "building the biggest, most vibrant, most stimulating book club on the planet."
The Future of Content Is Premium
During the recent SXSW festival, a reverberating message was observed: "Premium content rules."
"Premium content" is defined by Techopedia as "a type of digital content that may be accessed for a fee, and is usually of higher quality or more desirable than free content." As previously mentioned: At SXSW, it was on full display.
Streaming video platforms Amazon Prime and Netflix both sponsored brand activations and events to promote its latest original series, as did premium cable network Showtime. Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman spoke in an hourlong interview to Quibi: a yet-to-be-launched streaming video service that will specialize in mobile, short-form premium content. (Quibi, for context, is short for "quick bites.")
Now, Apple has entered the market -- one becoming so saturated that Netflix CEO has responded to the overflowing entrance of new players with, "The game is on," and has 47% of users saying that they have "subscription fatigue."
Which raises the question: How successful will Apple's premium content play be, especially when so little information about it has been revealed?
On the one hand, some argue that the indicators of Apple's potential success are rooted in its history of building thriving marketplaces: "marketplace of music, then apps, now media," tweeted Consumer Market Analyst Ben Bajaran.
What gets overlooked is the potential for Apple to do what they are good at with with services. Which is create marketplaces.— Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin) March 21, 2019
First the marketplace of music, then apps, now media. https://t.co/ivtWMDWt8j
On the other hand, Apple is somewhat late to join a market that is already saturated -- recalling memories of its rushed release of the HomePod smart speaker, which was not exactly well-received. With that context, could history be repeating itself, and could Apple's newly minted service pale in comparison to the legacy models that already exist?
If nothing else -- Apple could be promoting greater competition in the streaming and premium content sector, which has the potential to benefit end consumers.
"Cable companies used to dominate this area of entertainment, because aside from the movie theater, the only place to watch anything good was on TV. But that doesn’t exist anymore, because you can subscribe to whatever services you want," says HubSpot Senior Creative Director Dmitry Shamis. "There are just more and more options -- and almost everyone already has a device to watch them on."