Apple is seemingly getting out of the router accessory business, ‘disbanding’ the division inside the company according to Bloomberg. This means Apple will no longer develop its $99 AirPort Express, $199 AirPort Extreme or Time Capsule products. The report says Apple is reallocating employees to focus on its core consumer products that generate the vast majority of its revenue.
The newest AirPort devices are more than three years old, so the future of the products has been in doubt for a while. Sales revenue of AirPort products must pale in comparison to Apple’s other lines, which are counted in the tens of billions of dollars.
The AirPort lines have also been seeing discounts in recent weeks, suggesting that they are coming to an end-of-life. Routers are not the only thing Apple has been getting out of recently; it also has exited the standalone external display business.
The pathway for customers of AirPort products is unclear (assuming the report is accurate). Apple may partner with a third-party company to offer recommended replacement routers in the same way it partnered with LG to produce the 4K and 5K USB-C displays for the new MacBook Pro.
As well as being a WiFi router, Apple’s AirPort Express includes a 3.5mm aux jack to turn standard speaker systems into AirPlay receivers for music. As AirPlay is a proprietary technology, discontinuing the AirPort Express would leave a gap in the ecosystem. Perhaps Apple could develop a simpler AirPlay speaker adaptor that didn’t include the WiFi antennas and acted solely as a way to stream music a la Chromecast Audio.
The strategy decision does not appear to mean that people lost their jobs but they have been reassigned to other teams, including the Apple TV group.
As it stands right now, all three Apple AirPort WiFi products are still in stock on Apple’s own store. The report did not suggest a timeframe for when to expect them to be discontinued officially. We’ll wait and see if Apple follows up with an official statement on the future of the lines.