Apple unplugs its home LAN biz, allegedly

AirPort taken behind shed, shot heard

Apple has pencilled in the end-of-life date for its 17-year-old AirPort product line.

The news comes courtesy of Bloomberg, which probably got it right even if it does describe routers as "access points that connect laptops, iPhones and other devices to the web without a cable."

The report notes that wireless networking isn't a big enough market to get its own line item in Apple's accounts, and the range hasn't had a refresh since 802.11ac versions landed in 2013.

The newswire reckons the AirPort engineers have been progressively shifted to other projects, including Apple TV, and notes that the US$99 to $299 price tags on AirPort mean they're not the kind of high-margin units Cupertino loves.

An exit would also be a recognition that Wi-Fi kit has changed a lot since 1999, when AirPort was launched. Apple reshaped the Wi-Fi market – and consumer expectations – by making WiFi routers simple.

That made AirPort a strategic play, by helping keep Apple's customers in the fold and by making it easier to consider Ethernet-free products like the MacBook Air and iPad.

That's no longer the case: Apple doesn't even name-check AirPort in the $2.37 billion (Q4 2016) "other products" segment [PDF]. Apple Watch, TV, Beats and iPods dominate that line item, so AirPort's "sticky customer" value is minimal.

Compared to the tens of millions of iPhones Apple ships each quarter, a million or two AirPort units each year is now not worth the effort, when consumers no longer depend on Apple designers to make networking plug-and-play.

Earlier this year, Cupertino decided to stop packaging monitors, instead showcasing LG displays at its October launch. We think: Apple wouldn't let us in to make sure with our very own eyes. ®

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