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  • Apple and Products for the Future

    April 10th, 2015

    In yesterday’s column, I summarized some of the initial reviews of Apple Watch. In large part, they concluded that it’s beautiful to behold, offers a wide range of useful features, but suffers from buggy, slow-launching apps among other things. It’s a version 1.0 product, with loads of potential, but there were soft spots that, in part, one hopes will be fixed with a software update. It also takes a little while to master some of the new operational procedures, such as Force Touch.

    To be perfectly fair, Apple seeded these Apple Watches to selected members of the tech media at the beginning of April, more than three weeks before the gear is scheduled to ship. So there may be time for a software update to address the worst performance issues.

    Regardless, it’s important to realize that the first of anything from Apple is by its nature incomplete and perhaps somewhat buggy. It’s hard to believe, for example, that the very underpowered 1998 iMac evolved into the 2014 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display.

    In 2001, the first iPod was released with the promise of “1,000 songs in your pocket,” which may have seemed impressive to some at the time, unless you had a large music library. It took several years before capacity increased to accommodate the needs of most people. The iPod also got a spiffier interface, and became Windows compatible. Suddenly Apple owned the digital music player market, although you may not have suspected such a long range plan with the very first release.

    When the iPhone arrived in 2007, Steve Jobs announced that he’d be pleased as punch, in so many words, if market share exceeded 1% of the world market by the end of 2008; they did even better. The very first version didn’t support 3G wireless networking, nor was there an app ecosystem. In fact, Jobs touted web apps, but reportedly succumbed to the potential of having developers produce native apps for the platform that later became iOS.

    While it does appear Apple had modest expectations for its first venture into building smartphones, it’s very possible that some executives may have expected it to become the company’s biggest product in a few years.

    It is said that Apple was working on a tablet before it decided to adapt the technology in a smaller gadget, a smartphone. It may also be that the iPad was released without an expectation of its full potential, though the fact that developers quickly optimized apps for the larger display is an indication that it was a good idea. But over 200 million units later, sales are flagging, and some wonder just what Apple has in store for the iPad’s second act.

    But did Apple know in 2010 where the iPad would be five years later, or that there would be speed bumps along the way?

    Certainly there’s little doubt that the Apple Watch may be in the same position as the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad when they were first launched. Apple isn’t investing a huge sum in designing, building and marketing Apple Watch without a long-range plan. The Apple Watch of 2019 will be quite different from the 2015 model, though its lineage would be clear.

    By then there may even be an Apple Car, though I’m not guessing. But the version 5.0 Apple Watch is apt to be thinner, and certainly far more powerful, perhaps close in performance to an iPhone of somewhat older vintage. No doubt it would be free of dependence on an iPhone or other gadget for most functions, though some degree of sharing may be convenient. Battery life is apt to be weeks rather than days, depending on how power efficiencies improve, and battery life is extended.

    The ultra slim MacBook is the 2015 equivalent of the 2008 MacBook Air. It reveals the potential of a future where note-books will seldom need to be tethered to cables, but the only recognition of that potential is having a single USB-C peripheral port and a headphone jack. It may be that Apple, for now at least, expects third party peripheral makers to supply the extra ports, except for their own limited expansion cables. Expect someone to release a full-blown dock that would be reminiscent in some respects to the PowerBook Duo of the 1990s. You bring the note-book with you, taking advantage of its lightness, and when you need to plug peripherals in at home or at the office, you use the accessory dock.

    That dock, however, assuming it will exist, will be nothing more than a bandage to cover a perceived open wound. In time, there will be no need to have a physical connection to anything, even the charger. Apple clearly has the future in its sites. They basically said so at the MacBook’s introduction, and thus you can expect the MacBook to expand towards that goal in the next few years.

    CPU power? Well, the 2015 MacBook is roughly equivalent in raw processing power to a 2011 MacBook Air. It doesn’t sound like much, but that old MacBook Air was capable of handling most chores, except for heavy-duty rendering, graphics and gaming. Most people did fine with it.

    And, by the way, the MacBook is only slightly faster in overall benchmarks than the iPad Air 2. Does Apple’s A-series processor ever catch up to Intel hardware?

    The long and short of it is that Apple is showing us the future of wearables and personal computing. But it’ll take a while for the rest of us to catch up.



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