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Thoughts on the iPad 2 [Mar. 2nd, 2011|03:23 pm]

Apple announced their iPad 2 today. A third thinner than the old one. A new dual core processor and revamped graphics that make it more than twice as fast. Front and rear cameras. New covers. Universal HDMI video out, that allows you to still charge. Airplay that plays from your computer’s iTunes. iMovie and Garageband.

And part of me sees this as the beginning of the end for the Macintosh.  For a -very- long time, Jobs has wanted to move to a closed software ecosystem, for several reasons: to improve the user experience, to reduce or eliminate security issues and bugs, to exert greater control overall, and (most importantly?), to take a cut of every financial transaction involved.

When the iPod came out, this was not a problem. It was an appliance device, not a computer. Eventually it gained the ability to play videos as well as music. No big issue there, because you could always load up your own material. Provided you did it through iTunes.  Then it got the ability to install small games, but you could only purchase them through apple’s iTunes.

Then, the iPhone came out.  And everything went through Apple.  There weren’t a lot of smartphones out there, and most of them had no application ecosystem. So there was no real culture of purchasing software at a big box store or online, and loading it on your phone. So it wasn’t a big fight for Apple to make itself the only source for that. Secretly, the smartphone was a small computer, and the next step had been taken.

The Apple TV 2 made the jump from a modified OS X to iOS, but that was only a media device, so no one made much noise over it.

And now the iPad is out. Even Apple refers to it as a tablet -computer-. Even though it is built and operates the same way as the iPhone, there is tacit acknowledgement that it is a computer.  And it makes big inroads into schools and offices, and is treated as a serious device, where as the iPhone is still treated like a phone first, a computing device second.

Enter the iPad 2 and the ability to do universal HDMI video out.  Suddenly, it becomes possible to replace your old desktop or laptop with an iOS decice easily. Hook it up to a HDMI capable tv/monitor, pair up a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and you have a functioning system that will run office applications, games, and with the new iMovie and Garageband, media production applications. And it has the horsepower to do it (It might even outperform my first iteration MBP at times). Steve Jobs even used the line “this is no toy, this is something you can use for real work”.

The only thing it doesn’t have is large backend storage for media and backups. But two things have also come up reacently in Appleland. First, it appears that Mac OS X Server edition is going away, as has the Xserve. Instead, Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) may just include all of the server pieces. So this says to me that Apple is making a shift towards home servers. Second, Apple is nearly finished building a giant new data center in North Carolina. Some rumor sites have already speculated that this will be combined with the recent purchase of Lala to give iTunes users cloud storage and access to their music/media.

And speaking of Lion, the Mac OS itself is moving in the direction of iOS, with a new App Store, and the magic trackpad and touch gestures. Lion itself is apparently built with these gestures in mind, even inverting the touch device’s classic scroll order to be ‘up-to-go-down’ as it is in iOS.

All of this leads me to think that Apple is moving more and more towards making the iPad, or some other iOS device, the primary computing platform for its users, and eventually eliminating the Macintosh line.  Jobs said in today’s event that the overwhelming amount of revenue for the company comes from the iOS side of the house, and with Apple being the tollbooth for everything I’m not surprised. It would be in the best interest of Apple’s bottom line and stockholders if they could eliminate the open software and media system of the Mac, and force all developers to go through them.  They have a large enough piece of the smartphone and tablet market to throw some weight around, and with something like a ‘dockable’ iPad, they could move consumers off of traditional computers and into the new hardware, software, and business model form factors. Changes like those made to OS 10.7 make that sort of transition easier.

Will Apple do something like that? Kill the Mac to push more people through the tollbooth? ‘Signs point to yes’.

I could be wrong, and the Mac might stick around. But maybe as a server system to feed your primary iPad devices. Or it will move to being a Professional’s level item, with higher prices and higher priced software and accessories keeping it confined to a small portion of the Apple market.

But if I’m not wrong, I predict we see this change in 2 to 3 years. 10.7 may be the last consumer level version of OS X. And it’s a shame, because I really like my Mac.

Mirrored from The Black Horse of the Blog World.


[User Picture]From: roguesylph
2011-03-02 08:40 pm (UTC)
Or it will move to being a Professional’s level item, with higher prices and higher priced software and accessories keeping it confined to a small portion of the Apple market.

I think I see this as more likely. Or maybe I'm just hopeful.

The reality is, MOST of the people I know don't need 1/10 of what their PowerBook or iMac does. I know many people who would be just fine with just an iPad. (If I didn't do a huge amount of photo editing, I'd say I would even fall into that category outside of work...where my office buys me a professional grade machine anyway.) While geeks bemoan the loss, and lord knows I love my Mac...I'm not sure that the greater population would bemoan leaving behind machines that are big, clunky, and confusing to them for something small and simple that "just works" in ways that even the Mac can't parallel.
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[User Picture]From: taellosse
2011-03-05 04:37 am (UTC)
I dunno. I think Apple is now a big enough company that they don't necessarily feel the need to over-focus like you're proposing. They still make iPod Classics, Mac Minis, and Apple TVs, all of which are decidedly niche devices with a limited audience. And while, admittedly, the total market share for Macs is still relatively small, it has also been steadily growing for more than 10 years. Discontinuing a profitable line of products, even if it isn't making as much as some others, doesn't really make sense. Trust me, there are plenty of people like you and me, who will continue to own a real computer regardless. We'd rather make it a Mac, but if, for some inane reason, Apple stopped making them, we wouldn't throw up our hands and say "oh well, I guess a limited, closed system device that requires internet connectivity to do anything memory intensive will do." No, we'll go back to PCs. With regret, but we'll still do it. We may or may not ALSO get an iPad-type thing (I, for one, am insufficiently compelled by what it does do, and remain annoyed at what it does NOT do, and will not be getting one until that changes), but it won't mean we give up proper computers just yet.

Personally, I'll continue to own a PC of some kind for at least as long as there are games I'm interested in playing on the platform that are unavailable on consoles--the App Store may have plenty of games on it, but they're almost all little time-wasters, not AAA titles. And as long as it takes until you can do serious artwork on a portable device like an iPad--no pressure-sensitive stylus means an iPad is good for little more than doodling in that arena.
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