business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  Bloomberg reports that "Apple Inc. is working on a subscription service for the iPhone and other hardware products, a move that could make device ownership similar to paying a monthly app fee, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

"The service would be Apple’s biggest push yet into automatically recurring sales, allowing users to subscribe to hardware for the first time -- rather than just digital services. But the project is still in development, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the initiative hasn’t been announced."

Bloomberg writes that "adopting hardware subscriptions, akin to an auto-leasing program, would be a major strategy shift for a company that has generally sold devices at full cost outright, sometimes through installments or with carrier subsidies. It could help Apple generate more revenue and make it easier for consumers to stomach spending thousands of dollars on new devices."

Two thoughts on this.

First, there is a lot to be said for subscription models, which can create enduring loyalty and spending habits, whether we're talking about computers or toilet paper.  Amazon has made an enormous business out of it with Subscribe & Save, and I think we're going to see a lot more of it going forward in a variety of categories.

Second, in some ways it sort of exists - I'm on my second MacBook Pro leased through Apple's business program.  My Apple loyalty never has been in question - I, in fact, have never worked in Windows - but my tendency always was to use laptops until they were worn out and on the precipice of obsolescence.  Now, I lease the laptop as if it were a car … it is pretty much the same cost as buying one, though it is a) spread out over three years, and b) I don't keep it at the end of the lease.  But, I am assured that I'll have up to date equipment, which is important since I am completely reliant on my MacBook Pro.

I think this would be very smart of Apple on a variety of levels.

•  From the New York Times this morning:

"Uber’s plan to lure more taxis onto its platform in the next several years could soon take another big step.

The company is close to completing an agreement with a San Francisco partner, Flywheel Technologies, to allow Uber passengers in the city to call a taxi through the Uber app, according to four people familiar with the matter and a video presentation by the city’s transportation agency that was viewed by the New York Times.

The next step is for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors to approve tweaks to a pilot program at its April 5 meeting. The city’s director of transportation would then need to authorize it, paving the way for Uber and Flywheel, which operates an app used by hundreds of taxi drivers in San Francisco across several taxi companies to accept rides.

"The agreement, after a similar partnership between Uber and taxi companies in New York City was announced last week, would mark an abrupt departure from the years of fierce fighting between the two groups. If approved by regulators, the partnership in San Francisco could begin as soon as May."

Forget watching the roads.  I'd be watching the skies, because any moment we're likely to see pigs flying.