Apple Everywhere, Where Next?

I follow Apple closely every day. I own multiple Macs, an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2. The biggest chunk of my income comes from building software and custom systems with FileMaker Pro – also owned by Apple. I was pretty thrilled last July when FileMaker announced FileMaker Go for iPhone and iPad. The latest upgrade to my Studio Manager product supports iPhone and iPad access.

The second biggest chunk of income comes from advising and consulting with my Mac clients on technology decisions. Apple is my home team. I’ve been writing about Apple since System 7 came out in the early nineties. Here’s what’s going on now:

1. iPad 2. The iPad 2 and enormous success of the first iPad last year is the biggest thing. The iPad is the third big industry-changing new device after the iPod and iPhone. This triple play puts Apple in the catbird seat in the technology scene. They are making truckloads of revenues and profits and their biggest problem is figuring out what to do with all the cash they are accumulating.

I love the iPad and and am on cloud 9 with the new thinner, lighter and faster iPad 2. The iPad is such an easy device to use. iPhone delivered the wonders of multi-touch in an exquisite little package. iPad raises the ante by expanding the screen to handle most digital documents at full size and doesn’t do half bad with video. There’s plenty of room for controls and content.

Apple is building for the future though. Things we are used to like USB and the Finder aren’t in iOS. Apple views the iPad as a game changer. They are reinventing the PC and are very serious about it. Expect to see better replacements for these standards as they get completed to the satisfaction of Steve Jobs. Apple made a judgement call on how far they could get us to stretch into new territory with the iPhone (no copy and paste?) and now with the iPad. They gave us all sorts of inducements to make the missing pieces worth waiting for. See more on this in yesterday’s post Have iPad, Will Travel on my Independent Knowledge Professional blog.

You may want to get an iPad just so you can start the new multi-touch *pad* learning curve. Gestures are in and they are being phased in over time. It helps to get on board so that you don’t have to learn 15 gestures all at once 2 years from now. There are rumors of a possible, more cloud-based iPad 3 this Fall. I’m so happy with iPad 2 that I don’t care one way or the other. But, of course, you would probably find me waiting in line then too. Apple hasn’t disappointed me for quite a few years now.

2. iPhone 4 and 5. Apple finally delivered a Verizon iPhone in February. The iPhone 4 is a killer device with its absolutely gorgeous 960 x 640 pixel screen. The early hubbub about the antenna had little to no negative impact on this juggernaut. However, the iPhone 5 may not be released in June. In fact, it seems pretty clear that an Autumn release is the earliest we can expect. I guess Apple isn’t done yet with whatever they are cooking up. So far we are hearing more cloud-based, a very powerful voice control component based on Apple’s acquisition of Siri. Apparently Apple wants to keep ahead of the pack so expect more on this next iPhone. By the way, the iPod touch should continue to gain iPhone features as time goes on and be an incredible wi-fi-only device. As free wi-fi spreads further, which it has been doing quite nicely lately at places like Starbucks, Peet’s and even MacDonalds, the iPod touch increases its value.

3. OS X Lion is nearing completion. We’ve already seen a preview and it will be morphing closer to iOS, taking on various inventions there. More gesture-based. An app store already out. A bunch of little icons on the home screen too. And more. The Mac and OS X look to be in a great position to continue their long upward climb in marketshare. It’s getting to the point where some people are starting to think that adopting the Mac platform is a step on the way to the future rather than a step off the path onto a niche OS. Many are saying Microsoft’s days in the sun are numbered. I think OS X and Mac will continue to grow. That’s all that matters from my perspective. If the PC platform is plateauing and Mobile and Cloud are ascending, it may not matter too much which way that goes.

All these three initiatives are selling like hotcakes. Apple’s massive multi-billion dollar server farm facility in North Carolina may be completed this Spring. Rumors of a new, much-improved MobileMe are afoot. Rumors of iPhones and iPads that depend more and integrate with an Apple Cloud are gaining traction.

There used to be a solitary Macintosh platform that worked pretty well with Windows. Now we have a different ball game with the two new iOS offerings on iPhone and iPad. I think it is clear there is room between the Mac and iPhone and that spot is being forged with great promise with the iPad and now the iPad 2. You need to be thinking in terms of all three working together. Apps need to be purchased in that context in many cases. Prefer the App that can interoperate all else being equal.

I didn’t mention the continuing success of Apple stores. The 4 in China have proven exceptional. It seems that retail presence is one of Apple’s strategic advantages vis a vis Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

And what about the livingroom and Apple TV? That’s still a hobby as Steve calls it. Apple is probably going to find a way there as well. The latest moves look like they may hold promise. Things like Apple TV 2.0, iPad 2 mirroring to HDTV, home sharing and streaming between iDevices, Macs and Apple TV 2 look good. There are serious obstacles on this front. Google TV ran straight into them in the Fall. Sooner or later things will open up here or a mitigation of differences will be struck between Cable and Digital. Don’t hold your breath but keep an eye out.

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