an interesting article about the future of OS X

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pagardur
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Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:48 am Post

Note: Moderators, please, move this post to where it belongs and/or erase this phrase.


Apple Goes Semi-Pro (Part Two)

by Bob Cringely (http://www.cringely.com)

Last time we looked at Apple’s conversion from a computer company to a phone company that also makes computers. We considered why Apple doesn’t give a damn about enterprise sales, which explains their embrace of third-party enterprise components like Microsoft’s Exchange Server. Now we’ll look closer still at what plans — if any — Apple even has for personal computers in its future.

With impeccable timing, Mrs. Cringely last week stood in line four hours at the Apple Store to get her new iPhone 4. The line was cheerful, she said, Apple provided umbrellas to protect customers from the sun, bottles of water, and even pizza. I think the bottles of water were key in this case because the only way I have ever seen Charlestonians be willing to stand in line is if the drinks are free.

Her iPhone 4 is significantly faster, the screen is pretty and the unit feels heftier in the hand but we can’t say much else yet. It’s too soon. We can say plenty, however, about how Apple managed to create a publicity frenzy by faking a product shortage that turned out not to really exist.

In retrospect Mrs. Cringely wishes she’d stayed home and bought the phone at her leisure a week later.

An integral part of iPhone 4 mania, of course, is the new operating system — iOS 4. Remember how important it once was for Apple to claim that the iPhone was running OS X? What happened to that? Is iOS 4 a version of OS X or not? And what does this apparent OS bifurcation mean for the non-portable product line? Is OS X going away?

OS X is here for now, I’m told, and iOS 4 is still OS X but specifically for the new A4 chip and others of its family that will shortly appear. We’ll see non-portable A4 products from Apple and they’ll run iOS 4, too, establishing it as a kind of consumer electronic operating system for the company. This bifurcation and differentiation is key to understanding both Apple’s strategy and the philosophy — yes, philosophy — that underlies it.

One of the first non-portable iOS 4 devices we’ll see, I predict, will look a heck of a lot like the new Mac Mini. Steve Jobs, who loves to play language games as long as he controls them, says there are no plans to update the AppleTV. Yet Engadget is all aflutter with talk of an iOS-based AppleTV (essentially an iPad without a screen). I think the new Mac Mini effectively is the next AppleTV. Notice they never did call it the MacTV. With the new Mac Mini already sharing a common form factor with the AppleTV, I can imagine an A4-based version appearing shortly at a $299 price running iOS 4. Expect to link an iPhone or iTouch to this A4-based AppleTV as a remote control device.

And get ready for a big leap of strategic thinking from Cupertino.

The number one game console in the USA is Nintendo’s Wii, primarily because it has a Bluetooth-connected motion-sensing remote control. Well iPhones and iPod Touches have Bluetooth, too — and WiFi, accelerometers, and now even gyroscopes. A Mini-turned-AppleTV controlled by the installed base of tens of millions of iPhones and iPod Touches is a game market waiting to be exploited. Yes, the “console” costs more (for now) but thanks to the App Store the games can cost less, making the total user expenditure the same or less. It’s the old Return-On-Investment (ROI) argument only applied to games.

Video games are the one huge market Apple has yet to touch and the last one where Microsoft can still pretend to contend for technology leadership. A $299 AppleTV that has a serious content strategy, HD-Wii performance, and good games priced from $2.99-$6.99 would kick ass at Christmas. Yes, it is too expensive and the games are too puny for real gamers, but not too expensive or too puny to sell the 2-4 million units Apple likes when entering any new market.

That’s $1 billion in easy Christmas revenue for Apple from what’s essentially a marketing head feint.

Phones, games, TV’s — Apple’s future clearly lies with consumer electronics, not with personal computers as we have long thought of them. With Windows 8 reportedly aiming directly for OS X, Apple needs to be where Windows is not — which is in the home in consumer devices too cheap for an effective OEM strategy.

Apple needs to distinguish itself yet again in a world moving very quickly toward computer ubiquity.

How ordinary.

And so the PC business is no longer of any real interest for Steve Jobs because he sees no future in it. Steve isn’t one for sentimentality, especially when there are competitors to be crushed.

If Apple can no longer show a discernible difference in user experience between OS X and Windows 8, then much of the Apple magic will be gone. So he has to move ahead before he is left behind. There is room for neither sentimentality nor inertia.

The digital kids of today are growing tired of things the way they were. So Apple is using the iPhone and iPad to move information, content creation, and entertainment out of the old world and into a new one. The way Steve prevents the logo on the box syndrome is to leave the box behind. Its both brilliant and inevitable.

Competitors that still think strictly in terms of individual features and form factors won’t grasp the significance of what’s going-on here. Steve is out to make them obsolete. Apple has mothballed the whole notion of vying for computer market share and is instead moving as fast as it can to redefine the whole computing model for consumers using networked mobile devices.

Remember when Ballmer talked through his hat a few years ago about how Microsoft was headed to a model of Windows based primarily on ad revenue? There’s no way in Hell that business model can be sustained for Windows or the PC (or for Macs, either). But make the platform cost $199 and be replaced every 24 months, build-in mobile subscription revenue, MobileMe subscription revenue, content revenue, app revenue and ad revenue, with none of those involving much effort or expense on Apple’s part at all and the future becomes clear.

And Apple plans to own it.

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KB
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Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:15 pm Post

(Moved to "And Now for That Latte" as this has nothing to do with Scrivener.)

More wild speculation with little to back it up. :) I'm not exactly sure how iOS - an interface built entirely around touch technology (indeed, "Cocoa Touch" is the name of the strand of Cocoa used for it) - would transfer to a TV or TV-based games device, unless they are planning on getting everybody to buy touch-TVs ("Damn smudges! I can barely see the blood spurts between Crixus and Spartacus for finger marks!"). Not a single existing iOS game would transfer to the TV (without being rewritten to become traditional computer games using different input devices - and what would be the point of that?), and if Apple really want to separate themselves from Microsoft I'm not sure how entering a market Microsoft already has a big chunk of with the Xbox 360 would be a move they'd be enthusiastic about.

I bet Steve Jobs is having great fun sitting in his Cupertino tower and watching everyone making completely unfounded speculations about the future of his empire, though. As for Windows 8 aiming squarely at Mac OS X - they've been doing that for years. But as Steve Jobs himself said - the trouble with Microsoft is that they have "no taste"; at least not when it comes to computer UIs. Mac OS X still leads the way, and I can't see that changing unless MS headhunts all the Apple UI designers.

Still, it doesn't hurt to speculate I suppose - it's kind of fun. Myself, I think that OS X 10.7 is going to be called "Purple Cow" and will be merged not only with iOS but also with a neural net of Steve's brain, so that every time you go to do something he doesn't like, you'll hear his voice in your head telling you that you actually don't want to do that, you really want to go to the App Store, and this will be followed by the sound of keynote crowds raucously cheering agreement until you find yourself doing the same. I'm also pretty sure it won't just settle for touch technology - I mean, that technology's old now, right? Where's the innovation? - but will include taste technology, in which you will lick the screen, and true gesture support, in which a single frown or shrug from you can be interpreted into passages of breathtaking beauty and depth by Pages-for-Purple Cow (though sadly RTF support will still be basic). You won't need a keyboard at all, and if the words aren't quite what you had in mind, who cares? (Only the whiners, that's who!) The most important thing is that the games and browsing experiences will be direct-to-brain and second to none. I also have a source (okay, I had a conversation with my four year-old) that Purple Cow will only run on a new form of device that looks like a solid glass cube, one inch in diameter (the most portable device there is - only Apple truly does portable!), which has been in development by Ive for months now. (The patents were on MacRumors. Probably. Anyway, just wait until you see Stephen Fry's breathless, world's-smallest unboxing video on YouTube!) User feedback has clearly indicated that no one likes complicated user interfaces any more - you know, where you have to spend half an hour figuring out what stuff does so that you can then actually, you know, do stuff - so the Purple Cow cube has no interface at all. You just touch, lick and frown at it and everything you want done is done for you - and you don't even have to see it! User-effort is finally nil. At last! "Not actually possible according to the laws of physics and yet capable of ending Third World debt" will be the advertising slogan, and within six months of its release, all iPads and desktop computers will begin electrocuting their owners for still using outdated technology.

I'm pretty sure that the Purple Cow Cube is what's going to happen and where it's at, and anyone who thinks that people will still use iPads or laptops once Purple Cow is out is patently short-sighted, doomed to failure, or a dinosaur.

You heard it here first. :)

All the best,
Kay Embee, seer.

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Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:20 pm Post

Sorry, I kind of related it to Scrivener because it remembered me of a long post about Scrivener on the iPad.

Anyway, looking forward to Purple Cow... :D
Last edited by pagardur on Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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KB
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Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:23 pm Post

No need to apologise, it's not always easy finding the right forum location for things. And it's an interesting article, even if I think the speculations are a little off-mark (and even if it did then lead me to having fun wasting time by making up my own wild speculations). And perhaps it would be better in Software by Other Folk, actually... Oh well, I'll leave it here for now rather than moving it again!

And yeah, Purple Cow is going to *rock*.

All the best,
Keith

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Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:55 pm Post

As I have heard, Purple Cow will be the first implementation of what is called an "inverse UI": Once you lick the cube, it's not that what you wish gets fulfilled, but instead your desire for it will vanish - you will simply loose that conviction that what you wished was really worth it it in the first place and after that, you simply forget that you even wished it! That way, everybody will be satisfied as well with far less effort and energy consumption.

:wink: Please ignore this posting. Don't repost. It's just rumour!

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KB
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Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:26 pm Post

Actually, I have heard from another source (okay, my six year-old) that Apple have run into problems with an early prototype. Apparently someone swallowed it. Rumours are that Steve Jobs put out an internal memo stating that they were "licking it wrong".

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Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:26 pm Post

Well first
The number one game console in the USA is Nintendo’s Wii, primarily because it has a Bluetooth-connected motion-sensing remote control.

I laughed when I read this. First the "number one" console is actually the Playstation 2 which is still being sold retail. Its sales numbers actually double the Wii. Second. The Wii is a "fad" device where people buy it, use it for a few months, then it sits and collects dust where as the Xbox360 and Playstation 3 are the two top gaming consoles especially when you look at GAME sells. (where the money is actually made)
(shaking head)


His wife waited 4 hours while getting free pizza, drinks, and an umbrella in case it rained because she is a FAD BUYER, wanting or having to be the "first" to have the new trendy thing that makes her friends go "oooh". Just like the person that just has to see a movie on opening day because they just "have" to see it 12 hours before everyone else.
(shaking head)

AppleTV on iOS4? doubt it. On a screen less iPad? really doubt it. No need when you can make it cheaper off of pc parts, toss in an older processor, big HD and keep it in the same form factor as the mac mini.

I guess the author never realized that the iPad HAS NO HARD DRIVE but rather has very expensive FLASH MEMORY with a 64GB limit. The apple tv with less than 60GB of storage for 1080p movies? This author's grasp on electronics is outstanding!

Why iOS 4? Simple. Everything is based on OSX but now you have a way to identify which os is for computers (10.6 aka leopard), iOS(x) Mobile devices. Apple will face a new marketing strategy once the .6 hits 9. (OS11?)

I always get a kick out of people who actually question Apple when it comes to marketing. Why? Simple. Business is based around profit. Is Apple making a profit? Is Apple still making computers as they have always done? What have they actually done? Broadened their influence from the desktop to the handheld? Anyone remember Newton? Wasn't that the plan all along? Now they are reaching into the home (iMac, mac mini, AppleTV).

So far Apple keeps hitting home runs. After all, Bob's wife stood in line like a moron just so she could be the "first".
The wheel is turning but the hamster is still dead.

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Tue Jun 29, 2010 2:01 pm Post

Exactly. This is why I think the "iOS rebranding for Mac OS X" is just nonsense - and, like the previous rumour of 10.7 having everything go through an App Store, it is notable that the source for this is a single, rather small site, with no evidence of real sources, just talking about something as though they had inside knowledge when they most likely didn't. Because as you point out, Mac OS and iOS make a lot of sense and the names make it clear what they are for: Mac OS = for Mac devices, their computer line; iOS = for i- devices, their mobile line. Unless they are going to rebrand all of their computers a rebranding wouldn't make sense - as someone on, I think, MacRumors pointed out, the "iMac" would have to become the "ii".

And as you also point out, Mac computers are still making a very nice profit. Although Apple are undoubtedly concentrating on i-devices right now, and most likely will be for the foreseeable future to maintain their market lead, the last quarter was the most profitable for Mac computers ever. Computers may not be sexy or new, but they are still being bought in the millions. Steve Jobs may have compared them to trucks, but just there are plenty of automobile manufacturers out there who, despite making most of their money from cars, make trucks too for those that need them.

As for the Wii... Yep, mine has gathered dust. I'm hoping Microsoft's Kinnect (or however you spell it) will do something more interesting. The trouble with the Wii is really, really basic: a lot of people - me included - bought it because it looked like a fun way of doing some exercise. And the people who are desperate enough to buy a computer console, accessories and games in a deluded bid to do some exercise for the most part really hate things like jogging and going to the gym. So here's this cool device that lets you swing the controllers, hold your balance on the board and so on - something that can actually trick you into doing a bit of exercise. And what do they do? All of the bloody exercise games make you exercise while watching a simulation of being at the gym or running around a track! I mean... What? I may hate the gym but I'd rather go to the gym than watch a simulation of one. I can't believe no one has thought of integrating exercises that might do you some good with a big adventure game or... Well, just something more fun. So - that's what I hope MS will do.

And that is completely off-topic - sorry, let's try to keep this about the Purple Cow Cube.

All the best,
Keith

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Tue Jun 29, 2010 2:31 pm Post

AndreasE wrote:As I have heard, Purple Cow will be the first implementation of what is called an "inverse UI": Once you lick the cube, it's not that what you wish gets fulfilled, but instead your desire for it will vanish - you will simply loose that conviction that what you wished was really worth it it in the first place and after that, you simply forget that you even wished it!

This sums up apple's plan in a nutshell.

90% of the i* users don't give a rip about the limitations of the devices. Those that do are ignored. We should start getting used to it.
Jaysen

I have a wife and 2 kids that I can only attribute to a wiggle, a giggle, and the realization that she was out of my league so I might as well be happy with her as a friend. 26 years marriage later, I can't imagine life without her. -Me 10/7/09

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Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:36 pm Post