Design Con 2015

Apple enters engineering market, focus on test

-April 01, 2014

In a surprise announcement that has sent Apple watchers reeling, Apple has introduced several products aimed at the engineering market, with a specific focus on electronic test.

Apple Executive Vice President April Furst, also head of Apple’s new Apple Tech division, announced new hardware and software products at the San Francisco Moscone Center.  After a live musical introduction from Thomas Dolby singing “She Blinded Me with Science”, Furst entered the stage to demonstrate the litany of new products to an excited audience.

First to be announced, Apple is expanding its line of desktop and laptop computers to include the “Mac Test”, an engineering workstation in a laptop form factor aimed at test engineers.  The updated laptop, besides USB and LAN, includes several PCI Express ports for interfacing with PXI or AXIe systems, but it’s the software that has everybody talking.   When an engineer transitions from their Windows environment to Mac Test, their current engineering documents and test procedures are converted to an Apple proprietary format, deleted from their current folders, and then loaded into iTunes.

“We wanted to create the exact same iTunes experience,” Furst proclaimed.  ”We have found iTunes to be the perfect test executive and sequencer.  It has playlists for developing test program sets, ways of rating your favorite test procedures, and engineers will really like the random play function.”


With the new Mac Test, all test procedures are redefined as iTunes content, and then manipulated like any playlist.  With Genius mixes, engineers at Apple will make their own suggestions.


Furst, feeling the audience’s excitement, wandered to a simulated lab bench to bring out the next Apple bombshell.  Lifting a pair of spectacles from the desk, she placed them on her face, announcing, “I am proud to introduce Apple’s first wearable technology- the iGlass!”  Thick rimmed with tape on the nose bridge, Furst explained, “Our extensive market research, plus watching endless episodes of Big Bang Theory, has led us to conclude these are the ultimate engineering glasses.  We are developing a new network of downloadable engineering apps focused on the iGlass.”

The first application, iDiagram, includes heads-up displays of electronic measurements, with the ability to emulate older instruments.  “Want to see the results displayed as if from a Hewlett-Packard 8510 network analyzer? We got that. Want to see the results as if from a Tektronix Model 564 analog storage scope? We got that too.  How about a green CRT-like glow with 1s and 0s flying by like the Matrix?  That was a big hit in the focus groups, and yes, we have that as well.”

“And don’t think you’re stuck with thick ugly black horned rim glasses with nose bridge tape either,” Furst continued, ”We’re also introducing them in pink.”


The iGlass is more than a stylish hipster accessory; it is continuous heads up display.  While you may think the wearer is watching and listening to you, he is actually following the readouts of a simulated HP3468A Digital Multimeter.


Furst wasn’t done.  “It’s time for the mouse, touchpad, and keyboard to move over and make way for the next generation of peripheral input devices- the iRule.”  Appearing as a slide rule with a USB interface, Furst declared the iRule, ”the category killer for the emerging mechanically augmented calculating peripheral category.  Even if you’re out of power, you can still multiply, divide, and do logarithms.”  Under intense questioning, Furst admitted that adding and subtracting would have to be done manually.  “But I have a solution for that too!”  Reaching to her ear, Furst withdrew a long yellow object, “The iPencil- our second wearable!”


Here the iRule is shown next to the iPencil. The latter is shown in its charging clip.


With rumors that mainstream Apple product managers are nearly universally opposed to the new products being displayed in Apple stores (See related story “Over my dead body!”), Furst explained the distribution strategy.  “With Radio Shack closing stores all over the country, we thought we’d grab a few and create a separate chain of stores called “Apple Tech”.  We don’t even have to remove the parts bins- that was a big hit at the focus groups too.  Engineers love the ambiance of the old stores.  They have a certain je ne sais quoi,” which Furst’s iGlass translated into “I don’t know squat.

The stores would be functionally similar to Apple retail outlets, with the Genius Bar upgraded to the Einstein Café.  “We found many engineers thought the term “genius bar” as too presumptuous and self serving.  Well, Einstein, this is your turn. You get to be the one to sit behind the bar and give advice.”

Critics say the Apple move was not well thought out. “Look, you can’t watch a few episodes of Big Bang Theory as a substitute for true demographic research” said one Apple insider who wished to remain anonymous, ”And I was there at the focus groups.  They didn’t say testing was the killer app, they said texting.  For crying out loud, is this new group trying to make us look like a bunch of dweebs?”

Furst put the iPencil back on her ear. “You may doubt the strategy.  You may doubt the products.  But this is exactly the type of news you should expect from April Furst.”

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