Apple gives up on Airport wireless hardware

For the better part of twenty years, Apple used Airport wireless hardware to push the industry forward. I distinctly remember the introduction of the Airport Express wireless plug, which had the craziest form factor at the time of just a tiny plug, and featured an integrated 3.5mm audio jack for wireless audio.

Airport Extreme was the first to introduce lightning-fast 'ac' wireless standard as well, in something that didn't look like an alien spacecraft covered in antennas. It's clear that Apple simply didn't have the time, or interest, anymore as Airport began to languish with almost zero software updates or improvement.

The last update for the Airport line was in 2013, when the 'tower' version of the Airport was introduced (I have one sitting on my desk here). Since then, the industry came back from the dead thanks to mesh technology and a number of startups turning things upside down.

Eero, Amplifi, Google WiFi and others have built out ecosystems with rock-solid speeds, simplified setup and smart features, like home automation, ad-blocking on the router and more. Apple, meanwhile, lost interest in the space and its attention became increasingly fragmented.

The Airport lineup is officially dead, as of today, and Apple says that it'll be selling through its stock and then gone forever. It's the end of an era, in which Apple pushed to innovate in adjacent industries simply because the standard was too low, but it was clear that the end of the road for Airport was nigh.

Meanwhile, the industry moves on. Google Wifi was a surprise hit, even to the company itself, and added modern features, like the ability to pause the internet for kids or add a guest network in a second, ultimately outcompeting with the Airport's aging hardware. 

In a world where Apple has struggled to ship software reliably, more focus is good, not bad. Still, it's sad to see Airport go, because it was clearly a testing ground for big ideas, like wireless audio, but the attention span needed to succeed just wasn't there.

Intel still missing in action

Intel has delayed its next-generation processor technology again to 2019, after delaying it from all the way back in 2015 a number of times.

The company is struggling with the death of Moore's Law, and physics' constraints: it's getting exponentially harder to cram more transistors into less space. The problem: moving from 14 nanometers down to 10 nanometers is really, really difficult, because beyond that, physics starts to break.

If you'd like to nerd out, like I do about this stuff, you can read about why shrinking the transistor size down is so important here. In essence, it's about geometry, and layering transistors into a smaller, more compact space, to gain improved performance, energy and heat efficiencies in the same amount of space over the previous year.

Sure, Intel has record revenues this year, but it's at something of an inflection point: what if it can't keep innovating? We knew this was coming at some point, but Intel has been blocked on this for the better part of four years now, while its competitors are actually having more success at smaller sizes.

The wider industry has already said loud and clear, that transistor sizes are about to completely stop shrinking until we innovate with something entirely new, but until then, the fight to get to the smallest possible silicon will continue. Intel, it seems, may not be the first to get there.

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