Apple’s Future (without Steve Jobs)

Gosh I knew it. In the mid 90ies I was one of those young but very passioned  kids for whom playing with technology was one of the most exciting things to do. There were days  I thought for myself: “Lord, why does there have to be so many windows machines”. For me even Mac OS 7  felt much more easy and smooth and even more pretty than Windows. Back at those days Apple felt for me like a special company that puts a little extra something into their products (spirit). Unfortunately I somehow was the only one in my  whole neighbourhood who felt that way. No matter who I spoke with, everybody was using Windows, mostly ’95 or ’98. I was a Mac loner.

Today it is completely different. Apple have become the most valuable company of the world (March 2012)  and on every corner I notice people pulling shiny iPhones out of their pockets. That feels really weird to me since I am somehow still used to being quite alone with my Macbook. But that’s just not true any more. Even though in the USA Macs have always had bigger market share, in Germany it seems like everybody just want to have Apple products as well lately. It pisses me a bit off, because some people seem to be brainwashed to me. They do not seem to be trying to find the best mobile phone for themselves. They just hear from all around that iPhones are absolutely fancy and they just function so good. That may actually be true, but HOW DO THEY KNOW? They are just overhearing what people tend to believe. Everybody loves their own product decision. That attitude pisses me off big time.

The Revolution has ended

Let’s try to sum up what Apple’s most important inventions were in the last ~10 years.

  • iPod
  • iTunes (Music) Store
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • App Store

Especially the iPhone and the iPad have been revolutionary products at which most of the press laughed when they were introduced. I never doubted any of those products from the beginning.

What I doubt is the following:

What will Apple be doing in the next 10+ years? I’m really quite sure. They will not get even close to the above products. How do I know that? Because

Steve Jobs is dead.

Steve Jobs was a special figure. That I already realized during the 90ies, even though he was not with Apple during that time. In my opinion Apple’s success was deeply correlated to Jobs being the CEO until 1985 and between 1996 and 2011. But it is of course not only him. Jony Ive for example has also been a reason for me to buy Apple Products since his beautiful designs were just extraordinary and unmatched up until today. In the end without Jobs, Apple is like Argentina without Maradona or the Chicago Bulls without Michael Jordan. They might still be very good, but the most important part is just missing. Without Jobs I really think Apple would not have become what it is today. And without Jobs, Apple will not stay, what it is today. A good example is the new iPad. Firstly, what is with the marketing? Couldn’t they invent a more ambiguous name for me to google? Secondly the new iPad is nothing more than a technological successor.
Jobs will definitely have told Cook where to go, what direction to take and where not to go. But the further Jobs day of death reaches away, the further Apple will leave Jobs very original path.

Prevision

I predict that Apple is going to try to make their Macs much more like iPads. The next Macbook Pros  will be the first without optical drives (after the Macbook Air leading the way). I’m quite sure that in 2013 you will not be able to buy an Apple laptop with an optical drive any more. That will be  just the very first step. Secondly the hardware interfaces will shrink significantly. That I think is one of the most important goals for Apple in hardware engineering. They want their products to become smaller, very badly. This actually depends very much on the success of Thunderbolt. It is able of replacing every existing interface laptops have today (power supply excluded). Here is a list of the interfaces that can be spared through Thunderbolt:

  • VGA / DVI / (Mini-)DP / HDMI
  • USB 2.0 / USB 3.0 / Firewire 400 / Firewire 800
  • Ethernet

Together with a thunderbolt docking bay (which Belkin already introduced) you could also spare Ethernet and audio interfaces. I am really quite sure that Apple will even be trying to replace those over aged audio jacks.  So what will be left? Nothing but a power supply interface and one or maybe two Thunderbolt interfaces. This leads to much smaller devices, because one of the main reasons Laptops are as big as they still are today, is the amount and size of the interfaces. Take a look at Macbook Air’s Motherboard. It’s incredibly small. I am really quite sure that Apple is going to make all their products that way. Unfortunately Thunderbolt is not really a success, even though I think it’s the most important interface since the introduction of USB in the late 90ies. When it comes to universalism, USB is so fucking non-universal  compared to Thunderbolt.

After changing the Hardware fundamentally they will try to change the Operating System in a way it will become more and more bland to professional users. The first OS that went into that direction was Lion (10.7). Instead of offering powerful products it will instead be even more user friendly products. User convenience and professionalism do not tend to blend very well.

That is what I am deeply worried about, since I consider myself a professional user and that’s why I began a transit from OS X to Linux after ages of being an excited Macintosh user. My desktop already runs Xubuntu and when there will be fully functional GPU drivers for mobile PCs, OS X will also vanish from my laptop as well.

Customer Loyalty

That is what Apple always have been good at. Why? Because of the spirit! There’s still the spirit and I do not expect it to disappear any time soon. But there is actually the following problem, what is at the same time one of Apple’s biggest advantages. It’s how all their products interact. They are so tightly teared together that it’s a real pleasure when you use Apple products only. If you really want the whole joy, you better use a Mac, an iPhone, maybe an iPad, an Apple TV and of course iCloud.

That sounds just nice. Where is the problem dude?

The problem actually is that the user tends to feel patronized. That is also one of the main reasons why I did not to choose the Apple way. I do not want my Music, Movies and TV Shows to be spread to all my devices through a flimsy cloud. Even though it means a great deal of user convenience I simply want to preserve full control over where my data is stored and over who is able of accessing or manipulating it.

What I want is open standards. I would like a TV by Samsung, maybe a cellphone by Motorola and a Computer by Dell. My Operating system and the Application I use for managing my (multimedia) files I really want to choose all by myself and individually. When Apple introduced facetime in 2010 they announced it as an open standard. Good Luck finding that pretended open information. Good luck trying to make a video call from your iPhone to an Android device or even a non-Apple computer.