Reports of Apple’s demise, have been, as usual, overstated. “It just works,” I keep saying, because Apple has continued to invest in a modular, interoperable infrastructure, all the way from Quicktime to cloud computing.
Steve Jobs’s return to the stage yesterday at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference focused on software. Hardware provides Apple’s brains and sinew, he told us, while software is its soul.
Though there were three chapters to the story he spun, the narrative was coherent. Apple was staking its claim in the great Operating System wars in the second decade of this century. Passing through the flak smoke of competitive visions — from Google and Microsoft, natch — Jobs was like a deft bombardier tweaking the flight path before releasing his payload, the Apple Way of modern computing.
(Excuse the horn-blowing, but this pretty much conforms to the outline of the near feature in myWired cover story that came on the heels of the original iPad announcement in early 2010. Consider this blog post as an update.)
Chapter one is Lion, the latest version of OS X. The mane point (sorry) of this chapter is that the Macintosh is adopting more traits of its iOS cousins. Lion supports more multi-touch gestures. Lion has the app store built in. And so on.
Chapter two is the iOS 5, the system upgrade for iPad, iPhone and the iPod Touch. The features Apple unveiled yesterday imbue these devices with capabilities previously available only on PC’s. With iOS 5, you can edit photos, create more complex mail documents, etc. This accelerates the trend of amazingly powerful apps (Garage Band being the best example) on the iPad.
So while the Mac is morphing into the iPad, the iPad is stepping up to perform tasks that you once reserved for your Mac or PC.
Chapter three is the new iCloud. In this initial rev, iCloud is focused less on full-scale “cloud computing” (moving the performance of the apps themselves to the Web) than on synching a number of devices with one’s personal corpus of data — which resides in Apple’s data center. Apple, he claimed, would achieve success in this model where others have failed. (The most striking example is Microsoft’s Live Mesh system, which you probably never heard of. In that light, a lot of iCloud’s concepts look straight outta Redmond.) Why will Apple triumph? Because, says Mr. Jobs, “it just works.