Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:
Apple Inc. has disbanded its division that develops wireless routers, another move to try to sharpen the company’s focus on consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue, according to people familiar with the matter.
Apple hasn’t refreshed its routers since 2013 following years of frequent updates to match new standards from the wireless industry. The decision to disband the team indicates the company isn’t currently pushing forward with new versions of its routers. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the company’s plans.
The writing has been on the wall for the AirPort lineup for a while now, so you shouldn’t be too surprised by this news. Also don’t be shocked if, in the near future, they kill off other products with a much higher public profile.
But it’s kind of annoying, too. Back when Apple did the iPhone, it was partially because all cellphones sucked; now, all cellphones work similarly to iPhones. I’d like to think that they kept supporting their AirPort models for as long as they did because routers still suck. Look at the routers recommended by the Wirecutter: their picks have antennas sticking out and pointing everywhere, and really crappy web-based control panels. I’m not looking forward to the day that I need to replace my AirPort Extreme.
Update: This paragraph has been rattling around my brain since I read Gurman’s article:
Exiting the router business could make Apple’s product ecosystem less sticky. Some features of the AirPort routers, including wireless music playback, require an Apple device like an iPhone or Mac computer. If the company no longer sells wireless routers, some may have a reason to use other phones and PCs.
Practically speaking, I’m not sure Apple will make one fewer Mac or iOS device sale after the AirPort Express becomes unavailable. While it was really cool that AirPlay was built into the Express, I doubt very many people bought them because of that.
But you know what else has AirPlay built in and tends to sit in the same place, probably near a stereo system? The Apple TV. If there’s any way that Apple might continue to sell a WiFi router of some kind, I bet it’s built into the Apple TV.