State of the Apple 2012

A lot has happened in the world of Apple this last year. Apple has released new Macs including powerful MacBook Airs, OSX Lion, iCloud, the iPhone 4S with iOS 5 and just announced a strong OSX Mountain Lion release coming for Summer.

Along the way, Steve Jobs died – on October 5. A tragic loss to millions around the world. Even so, Apple is on a roll of immense proportions and is showing no signs of slowing down. Its stock valuation is larger than any other corporation in the world, but you know that already.

If you’ve been here before, you know that Apple is a passion of mine. I bought my first Mac in 1986 (the Mac Plus). That was a big commitment at the time. Back then, I was an up and coming computer professional just starting my own business. The question was do I go with my strong attraction to the Mac or go with the already dominant and rapidly growing IBM PC? I went Mac then and have stayed the course. At the time it looked like the innovative and easier to use Graphical User Interface of Macintosh would overtake the PC, but that didn’t happen. Even now, Mac represents only 10% of the Desktop PC market.

What has happened for several years now is that Mac is growing at 25-30% per year and PC sales are flat. The reason for Apple’s success has not been the Mac, but the introduction and massive success of the iPod, then the iPhone in 2007 and now the iPad. We live in a world swimming in mobile devices with people bumping into each other as they pay much more attention to their phones than their whereabouts. Mobile has begun to dominate the market and looks hell bent to take us all into a Post PC world where the PC is more of an after thought (actually, the PC as we know it may become part of the scenery literally as walls and glasses become screens). Just last week it was revealed that Apple sold 155 million iOS devices in 2011 which exceeds the total number Macs sold in its 28 year history (122m).

Even though Apple lost the battle between Mac and PC, they drove the computer industry forward, even in the Eighties and Nineties. Bill Gates could see that Apple’s Macintosh technology and graphical user interface was the wave of the future. So Microsoft created Windows using the Mac as a point of reference. Microsoft’s dominance systematically drained Apple and by the mid-nineties Apple’s future was in doubt. Steve Jobs returned to Apple after a hiatus of over ten years and revived Apple and led it to where we are today.

I’ve been doing blog posts here on the state of Apple for several years now. I’ve predicted Apple’s success, but no one could have predicted the current situation. Apple has been moving computers forward by leaps and bounds and taken computer tech far beyond the graphical interface, desktop/laptop into whole other categories. With Apple’s rise, the computer and associated technology industries have exploded into uncharted territory. We’ve gone from a computer on every desk to a computer in every pocket.

So, where is Apple with Tim Cook at the helm, without Steve Jobs to drive it forward? So far so good. Apple has not stopped innovating but I don’t think anyone expected it would. Apparently Steve Jobs worked with Jony Ive and other Apple executives on at least a four year product timeline. I’m hoping those four years will march like clockwork to not only improve the Mac, the iOS platform and devices, but create whole other platforms and initiatives. We know from the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson that Apple is working on major initiatives in education (iBooks Author) and the Living Room (Apple TV). From the looks of Mountain Lion and iCloud, lots more is in store.

As a technology professional, my job is to invest my time (R&D) and efforts (software development, consulting and writing) in the right places so I can, through early adoption, R&D and experimentation, stay ahead of this unfolding curve. I have acquired Apple’s latest technologies early including the first iPod, the first iPhone and iPod touch. The first iPad. I’ve since upgraded first thing as advances in these tools were made. I don’t buy every model, but have purchased every iPhone model on its first day, the Nov 2008, Nov 2010 and July 2011 MacBook Airs. I’m on the case and study the iPhone and iPad apps as they pertain to my target users: designers and the broader group of professional knowledge workers like myself (see my Independent Knowledge Professional blog that evolved from my Tech Ronin blog started in 2003).

The Mac, iPhone and iPad are #1 in their categories (the latter 2 are number 1 in sales, while Mac is agreed as the better desktop/laptop machine for those who have a choice. They are going gangbusters and I see no reason to doubt that will continue for the foreseeable future. Of course, nothing is forever, so Apple will have to find it’s way on its own (without Steve Jobs) to continue its success as time goes on. It’s not easy to do what they’ve done and it won’t be a slam dunk to continue it. IBM has done pretty well. Microsoft has seen better days, but I wouldn’t count them out by any means.

With Apple’s size now, they have to make big markets. I have no doubt that iBooks Author will succeed (and have written a recent blog post about it over at my Independent Knowledge Professional blog). Same for Apple TV. Who can do it better? They have all the money in the world ($100 billion at last count). They have Jony Ive as head of design which is a central, defining role at Apple. They have the ultimate Operations guy in Tim Cook. This should be fun to watch — and participate in.

My bread and butter work is the development of custom FileMaker Pro database applications for businesses – I call them decision support systems. I’ve built a FileMaker-based software product called Studio Manager for the creative services industry so do most of my consulting there, but I do a certain percentage of my work with a variety of other businesses from solopreneurs to corporate work groups.

Technology consulting comes along with the territory. I advise on what hardware and software to buy as part of my help in developing solutions to business challenges. I’ve had a web presence since 1995, so do a little consulting re blogging and social media. I’m a big Twitter fan (I’m @tokerud) but could live without Facebook. I love the Kindle and have recently acquired a Kindle Fire. It’s pretty good. Amazon is the other A company I believe in.

My generic advice to you without a personal consultation? Get a MacBook Air if you don’t already have one as your main computer (it’s OK to have a larger desktop machine when needed but such a machine is rarely versatile and mobile enough to be your primary machine). Get an iPad 3. Use an iPhone. Right now these are your best bets for hardware/software technologies to use in your knowledge work. Use them for staying current, managing, creating content, communicating, thinking.

You need to place bets with your hardware and software investments, and most importantly with your time. Every minute spent with these devices is know-how acquired – progress along key learning curves. Technology investments elsewhere will have smaller returns. Obsolescence and the avoidance thereof is a reality any knowledge worker must take seriously and manage him or herself to.

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