- Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO, once predicted there will be fewer PC users in the future
- Apple emphasized improvements to its mobile operating system, not its desktop system, at WWDC
- Monday's event showed Apple is a company whose heart beats to mobile
Almost exactly 2 years ago, Steve Jobs outlined his view of personal computing. We used to be an agrarian nation, he explained, and as a result our vehicles were largely trucks. As the country became more urban and suburban, we moved to an era where the highways were dominated by cars, not their lumbering counterparts.
The same thing was happening in the technology world — and, with the iPhone and the iPad, the movement was accelerating. "PCs are going be like trucks," Jobs said at the 2010 All Things D Conference. "They are still going to be around, but only one out of x people will need them." Clearly, he didn't expect x to be a big number.
That vision provided the music for the intricate concert of announcements performed by Jobs' successor Tim Cook and the string of Apple executives in button-down shirts and jeans at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference today. While they ticked off and demoed a dizzying number of innovations and improvements in both the desktop Mountain Lion OS for Mac and the mobile iOS 6, it was striking which OS was ascendant.
Not the one on the desktop. Apple is a company whose heart beats to mobile.
In fact, I don't even recall hearing the word "iMac" even uttered once during the nearly 2-hour presentation. And the word "pro" was not used to describe Apple's high-end and little discussed tower PCs, but its putative heir: the new $2200 MacBook Pro, which is clearly directed at the graphic power users who once had Mac Pro boxes at their feet. (Apparently, Apple's quiet upgrade of the Mac Pro wasn't deemed sufficiently relevant to mention in the keynote.)
To further cement which OS is at the center of the Apple world, check out some of the most significant improvements in Mountain Lion. They are imports from the iOS world.
It's as if Apple has a new unifying principle for improving its laptops: Taking the no-hands solutions that it developed to make possible certain features on phones and tablet, and exporting them to Mountain Lion to make tasks a little easier.
A good example is dictation. On iPhones, the ability to input text by voice seems essential. But Apple has figured out that dictation makes things easier even for those who have their fingers resting inches away from keyboards — and thus it touts newly added, accurate dictation for Macs. (Can Siri for Macs be far behind?)
Another example is Mountain Lion's implementation of the "sharing" protocols used in iOS. Those techniques were developed because it was otherwise frigging complicated for phone users to grab a photo and send it to Facebook or Twitter. It's not as complicated to do it on a laptop — but you can do it a bit quicker. Even more important, you are doing it mobile-style — the 21st century paradigm built for brainy cars, not wheezing trucks.
Yet another striking symbol of this movement is Apple's ditching of iChat on Mountain Lion for iMessage, basically replacing the entire, once beloved category, of computer-based IM with a SMS-like model sprung from the mobile phone world.
Meanwhile, Apple continued its march toward weaning users from the Graphical User Interface to the phone-and-tablet friendly gesture-based interface. (Earlier milestones included introducing the app model to the PC and integrating phone-like controls like swipe, pinch and stretch.) One interesting new touch (so to speak) was the way Apple implemented Notification Center — another innovation springing from iOS — in Mountain Lion.
Users can call up a list of notifications with the unique gesture of a two-finger tap on the right side of the touch pad. Look for an ever-increasing vocabulary of such movements to compensate for the lack of direct contact with the screen itself.
Apple's passionate embrace of the idea that Jobs outlined in 2009 puts it at a distinct advantage over its competition. Google is going through contortions to balance the mobile-desktop dichotomy embodied by its two operating systems, Android and Chrome.
And though Microsoft now understands the vital importance of mobile, its strategy still seems tilted toward desktop primacy — accommodating the future rather than hastening it. Apple, meanwhile, has boldly declared that mobile is the mothership. And those lumbering trucks are roadkill.