Amazon's eero buy is the clearest sign yet that Apple should revive the AirPort

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in General Discussion
Amazon's purchase of eero for its Wi-Fi router technology has put the corporation in the position of ultimately being able to see all our web traffic, should they see fit to do so. Apple should plant a flag in the ground for user privacy and return to manufacturing, designing, and securing Wi-Fi networking gear.

Amazon routers could give the company more data about us and our web usage
Amazon routers could give the company more data about us and our web usage


It was a shame when Apple stopped selling the AirPort Wi-Fi router, but suddenly it's much more than that. in case you missed it, Amazon has bought eero, and with it will likely come the ability to watch all of our network traffic to more efficiently sell us things.

You've heard of eero, and based on what we know about you from our forum conversations, you are statistically more likely to have bought its Wi-Fi mesh system than any market segment. This is a case where the company and the technology has stayed rather obscure, even though the way it improves Wi-Fi reception throughout your house and office is exceptionally useful.

An eero product before Amazon bought the company. (Source: eero)
An eero product before Amazon bought the company. (Source: eero)


Amazon buying the company is good for how it surely means more people will learn of it, and more people will benefit from this technology. Maybe that is what motivated Amazon. Perhaps the company wants us all to benefit from this -- but benevolence seems unlikely to us.

You no more believe that it's altruism than you expect Amazon to give away routers for free. And even the joint press announcement that Amazon and eero made tells you that there's much more to this.

"We have a shared vision that the smart home experience can get even easier," said Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices and Services. "And we're committed to continue innovating on behalf of customers."

Amazon's smart home technology revolves around the Echo with its Alexa voice assistant. Alexa can be very good, and very useful, and does many things so here we have two positives. Doubtlessly, more people will get to use eero's hardware and so we'll all be able to have Alexa in more places around the house.

Yet, this is a case of two positives making a huge negative.

If Amazon makes the Wi-Fi router in our house, Amazon has complete access to our entire web traffic. Forget even regular VPNs, everything goes through that router first and so absolutely everything could go to Amazon.

It doesn't have to. There's no technical reason it must. And it may be that Amazon has no intention of collecting this data or in any way using it. If you had to choose who to trust your data with between two enormous corporations whose names begin with A, however, it would not be Amazon you picked.

In truth, we need to be wary of any company, but Apple is the one that has gone to lengths to protect our data in fights with the FBI. And perhaps most significantly of all, it is also the one that has made a big deal of the fact that it treats our data as ours and ours alone.

If Apple now snooped on all of our data and started selling ads targeted by what it finds, that would called the most enormous PR issue. If Amazon did it, that would just be called a day ending with a Y.

It's not all about privacy

Until Amazon's purchase of eero, we didn't especially lament Apple's AirPort all that much because it hadn't really been kept up to date for some time, minus some urgent updates. We'd been told before by our sources inside the company that they would keep AirPort "as safe as possible, for as long as possible," which for now, seems to be the case as it even updated the software to support AirPlay 2 in August 2018. There is a day coming, sooner rather than later, where that line has been crossed, and no more updates will be made available.

Apple's old AirPort Express, now discontinued
Apple's old AirPort Express, now discontinued


Now that privacy implications have put Apple's solutions back in our minds, though, there are other immediate benefits from the company resuming selling Wi-Fi routers. Amazon explicitly talks about how this move will help their smart home plans, but Apple has a few of those itself. We're finally seeing Apple's HomeKit being adopted by more third-party companies, and it's becoming a much more well-used system but it's not the most robust.

Right now, HomeKit can get a bit cranky if your router is a basic low-specification and cheap one, even if you have an Apple TV or HomePod as a HomeKit Hub. An Apple-produced router would not just be guaranteed to work with HomeKit, but could function as that HomeKit Hub with buyers not needing to rely on a HomePod, Apple TV, or an iPad effectively mounted in your house to perform the same tasks.

And, in conjunction with an Apple AirPort base station resurrection, the Apple TV could act as a wired Wi-Fi extender, and the HomePod could act like the AirPort Express used to. The HomePod, and the Apple TV could act as a stealthily inserted mesh Wi-Fi networking system, already installed, and all it needs at its core is that hypothetical new router from Apple. Who better to educate the public on the benefits of mesh Wi-Fi in a home than Apple?

So, Amazon will get the mindshare from eero, and Alexa. And it will prop up the pairing at every chance it gets when somebody needs school supplies from Amazon, makes a Whole Foods order, or even just buys a book online.

If you're not a long time Apple user, if you don't follow technology news, you're going to buy the first router you see, and Amazon will have that in users' faces, all the time. And, it would be so much better for all of us if that were an Apple product instead of an Amazon one.



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patchythepirate
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    Aut of all Apple products - Apple Time Capsule is the one I havn't replaced with the newer version for longest. From one side it proves that it's a great hardware (for me at least). From other - it's not the most profitable one for Apple if the life cycle is so long.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 40
    Forget even regular VPNs, everything goes through that router first and so absolutely everything could go to Amazon.
    Okay I agree a VPN running from the router would be at risk. But my VPN runs on my device and passes through the router. Wouldn't that keep it secure?
    bonobobcoolfactorcharlesatlasnetmagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 40
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,042member
    Finally! Someone at AI is saying the same thing a ton of us are saying. Nobody wants Amazon, Google or Facebook to control anything in their house. Come on Apple get back into network devices. 
    longpathfotoformatMplsPpatchythepiraten2itivguystevenozlolliversteveauwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 40
    I'm not happy about this scenario.    Although I can't prove it I believe a part of the reason Apple dropped its entire Airport line is their ongoing battle with Qualcom.   Following that string I don't see Apple moving forward with their mesh network until those lawsuits are settled.   Jobs entertained a mesh network system from a Brazilian company nearly a decade ago.  Apple has a long history of technology in the space, and of course great engineers and designers - so they could provide exciting and secure systems if they wanted.
    longpathsflocaljcs2305watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 40

    ABSOLUTELY.   Frankly, I was surprised that a company that professed a desire to create a culture or an ecosystem would have imagined that a HUB was not needed.   
    steveauwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 40
    If Apple's future is all about the ecosystem, it's terribly dangerous to be dependent on arch rivals for the glue that holds it all together. I think abandoning routers was one of the greatest errors Apple made and I do hope that fear motivates them to reconsider. They're going to have tough time with HomeKit if every home control system ends up running atop Amazon or Google routers, which I expect will come bundled with Alexa and OK Google devices or functionality.
    longpathmuthuk_vanalingamsteveauinTIMidatorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 40
    payecopayeco Posts: 309member
    bsimpsen said:
    If Apple's future is all about the ecosystem, it's terribly dangerous to be dependent on arch rivals for the glue that holds it all together. I think abandoning routers was one of the greatest errors Apple made and I do hope that fear motivates them to reconsider. They're going to have tough time with HomeKit if every home control system ends up running atop Amazon or Google routers, which I expect will come bundled with Alexa and OK Google devices or functionality.
    You are aware there are other manufacturers of routers besides Google and now Amazon, right?
    StrangeDaysuraharaJonInAtlmaltz
  • Reply 8 of 40
    Why would they bother with that when there are important door-knobs to be made? /s

    Seriously, they need to get a grip back on maintaining and building the ecosystem. 
    patchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 40
    As I believe I speculated here before, Apple may view WiFi access points and mesh systems as products with limited lifetimes, simply because of the adoption of 5G over the next few years. Why have additional infrastructure in the house if devices in the home connect directly over 5G or to a single 5G access point?
    coolfactorlolliver
  • Reply 10 of 40
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,997member
    While not ideal, there's always the option of using a Mac Mini as a router if you have an old one kicking around (though obviously you'll be limited to whatever Wi-Fi speed it supports).  Just connect the Ethernet port to your main internet connection, then turn on Internet Sharing to Wi-Fi.

    edited February 13 StrangeDaysmuthuk_vanalingamn2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 40
    fumifumi Posts: 15member
    I think we'll eventually see another router from Apple. Especially as its Services Division will become so much more important in the coming years.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 40
    While it is disturbing that Amazon now has access to all your wifi data (also disturbing that eero ever collected that), that does not mean Apple should intervene. Apple is not a white knight to protect you from competitors' other products... Just buy something other than eero/Amazon, Ring/Amazon, Nest/Google, etc.. There are alternatives. Vote with your wallets.

    But that still doesn't mean Apple should keep selling wifi routers, which nearly every ISP supplies to normals. Would I like it if they did? Sure, of course. But evidently they feel their focus is not wifi routers. So how big of a business sector are routers anyway? It seems these niche home products are valuable primarily not for hardware revenue, but for their data-mining -- which is not a big part of Apple's business model, but is Google's, Amazon's, etc. 
    edited February 13 dkhaleywatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 40
    NY1822NY1822 Posts: 599member
    come come on Apple...let's start a petition and get millions of people on board!!!

    www.change.org
    edited February 13 watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 40
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,362member
    DAalseth said:
    Forget even regular VPNs, everything goes through that router first and so absolutely everything could go to Amazon.
    Okay I agree a VPN running from the router would be at risk. But my VPN runs on my device and passes through the router. Wouldn't that keep it secure?
    I'm not sure traffic on all VPNs is end to end encrypted. That aside I do think there is a huge leap of faith already, in the all your traffic goes through an ISP, and unless that is end to end encrypted, it is available to them to disposition. I am unaware any do, and there are these "privacy statements" they claim to use, but if only a policy made one safe. 

    My home wifi runs on airports, and fingers crossed I never have to replace them. Although...if Apple did return to the wifi business and offered a VPN service (for a reasonable fee) that ran on them, I'd be pretty interested. 
    tyler82lolliver
  • Reply 15 of 40
    fumi said:
    I think we'll eventually see another router from Apple. Especially as its Services Division will become so much more important in the coming years.
    Er, but hardware sales (a wifi router) are not services revenue. 
  • Reply 16 of 40
    FolioFolio Posts: 566member
    Nice piece. Though I cringe at the ambiguous phrase “more efficiently sell us things.” The amount of mindshare Amazon is amassing is getting creepy. Not just how deeply we read and view, but how by adaptive pricing, and the sequence of ads, product placements, what pushes us to BUY and not always at best prices. I’m a Prime member who is generally happy but also wary from a few bad cases. In a few years if Amazon is not careful, Alexa may be viewed more as an adversary. That’s one reason I’m not a stockholder. So yes, big opportunity for Apple, however clumsy it often seems, to be leading guardian of trust.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 40
    Eero's have ALWAYS been about data collection FIRST and WiFi second. Read their terms and conditions! The only router I ever considered that DEMANDED I provide my name and address as a condition for use, even threatening in the T&C's to brick your WiFi if found to have provided a false name or address. Amazon bought this to get at years of existing data and collect new data in the future. STAY AWAY!!!!
    uraharafotoformattyler82muthuk_vanalingamn2itivguylolliverStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 40
    Amen.  When you combine this with their purchase of Ring; Amazon is a growing international threat to everyone's privacy.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 40
    Yes, Apple should stand for privacy of data.  Who else will?  Small conflict I see is Apple's embrace of cloud back ups.  That has it's place, but if Apple really believes in privacy, they should embrace completely private backups, local.  Airport made that very convenient for many users.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 40
    Apple showed them how to do it. And they took over, and leaped ahead. The space is crowded now. Not much room for Apple to make a difference.
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