If the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software in them is their soul.
Steve Jobs – From WWDC June 6th, 2011
Since I have struggled to find a single geeks take on Apple’s Lion OS1, iOS 52 and iCloud ((Your music, pictures, documents in the cloud for your Mac and iOS devices.)) announcements, I thought that I would step up to the plate and lead the charge… I don’t often write about tech news and specific announcements, but I thought I would take a week away from Techie Scheky to touch on where I think Apple is really heading with their latest round of improvements. Especially for those who aren’t geeks (like me) or Apple fanatics (like me).
Your Device vs. Your Content
While I could talk for days on end about the differences between a Mac and a PC, the crux has always been that a PC focuses on “what it does” compared to “what you can do” with it on a Mac. While there is functionality that contradicts this on both devices, I’ve always felt like Apple wants to get out of my way so I can create and do, while Microsoft wants to remind me how many options I have and just how powerful a system it can be. With this latest release Apple takes this even further by saying that it is the content (Music, Photos, Documents, Tasks) that really matters, with the device playing the role of the bastard stepchild. I used to care so much about the device, about the specs, about how powerful it could be, but now, I love seeing how much output I can get from something far simpler. I love that it’s gotten to the point that a geek like me couldn’t even tell you the exact specs of his machine without looking.
The Move to Multi-Platforming
As an owner of a Macbook Air, an iPhone and an iPad3, I am constantly jumping between devices, working on the same projects, conceptualizing, writing and tweaking posts for this site or tackling projects for work. Discovering the ability to start a document during my commute on my phone in Simplenote and have it seamlessly appear when I sit down at my desk in Notational Velocity has fundamentally changed the way I work and create. At night, I can capture an idea on my phone, only to flesh it out on either the iPad or Mac in the morning with no extra effort. I can only begin to imagine what could happen when you strip away the knowhow a geek like me possesses, making this workflow easily available to all. I believe Apple has done this with their latest update.
Your Things At The Center
Currently, your device (or your “stuff”) is at the center of your universe. This is a shift towards making your content (or “things”) the centerpiece of your digital world. Sure, you probably back up whatever devices or computers you own (if you don’t I will smack you), but things can get lost. If the final iCloud execution is what it seems to be, you will no longer lose your “things,” when you lose your “stuff”4. The things that really matter will always be with you now, wherever you are. While it is always an emotional experience to lose one of your devices5, it will be interesting to see the impact once you know that your information is safe.
One disconcerting thing that Apple seems to be doing with their latest update is taking features from popular apps and incorporating them into their own offerings. Many iCloud (and even their new Airdrop) features sound a lot like Dropbox. The Reading List sounds a lot like Instapaper. Their Task List feels sound a lot like… well, actually there are essentially a million tasks apps that this sounds like. Much of the power of iOS is the apps, it is what keeps me locked in and I just hope that Apple knows what they are doing when it comes to offering products that are competitive with what many amazing Mac developers that made me fall in love with the platform in the first place. These niche products are more robust, but it is difficult to beat free. We need people like Marco Arment developing for this platform, so please Apple, tread lightly. I understand the need to make these features native, but at the same time, I’d hate to see the people who made these features essential in the first place get cut out of the process.
As things get easier, they become more useful; this is something that Apple has always understood. You see it in every aspect of their products. Even as they create some of the most beautiful hardware on the market, it’s the software that truly sets their devices apart. Apple knows how to get out of the way and empower even the uncreative amongst us to make something. They are about to offer a better operating system that will help the unproductive amongst us6 to get more done. I can’t wait to get my hands on the latest updates and look forward to seeing what the less geeky amongst you think of Apple’s ambitious new improvements.
- For non-geeks: The operating system your Mac runs on. [↩]
- The operating system your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch run on. [↩]
- as well as several devices that my wife owns or that my 3-year-old has overtaken. [↩]
- That’s your data and your device for those keeping score. [↩]
- Laugh all you want, but it is [↩]
- Read: Me. [↩]