At its World Wide Developers Conference yesterday, Apple showed off it’s newest operating systems for the desktop and mobile. I’m not going to go into the details of features or benefits of anything like that. There are plenty of tech blogs where you can read about those things. I want to talk about the two different stories being told by these two OS’s.
OSX – Apple extends it’s lead in desktop OS’s
Apple has always been strong on the desktop. Mac OSX has been a quality operating system for years and has consistently gotten better with each release. The release today of OSX – Mavericks was very strong and the OS has some truly great new features. Microsoft, by comparison, suffers from every other release syndrome wherein every other release of Windows is either terrible or good. Windows Vista was horrible but was followed by the fine Windows 7. Now, Windows 8 has been another disaster. This inconsistency of Windows has damaged the brand over time and Microsoft itself is hardly the powerhouse it once was. Google has tried to break into the desktop OS game with the Chrome OS, but so far has gone nowhere.
iOS 7 – Apple plays catchup
It’s a different story altogether with iOS. When the iPhone came out it was a revolution. From the hardware to the software, nobody had seen anything like it. Over the years, Apple has improved iOS, but the Android OS from Google has quickly caught up and in some respects passed iOS in functionality. iOS 6 was looking pretty long in the tooth and Apple needed to do something dramatic. iOS 7 is the first iOS with visual design by the venerable Jony Ive and does take a big step away from the so called skeuomorphic design of iOS 6. There are also some functional improvements as well but interestingly these are mostly features that have been in Android for awhile now. We always think of Apple as the grand design company, pushing forward in directions no one else dares to go. Once Apple popularizes a design, everyone else races to catch up. But the new “flat” design in iOS 7 really had it’s start at Microsoft and it’s often maligned Metro user interface. Metro is the bold UI statement from Microsoft first introduced in Windows 8 and while it makes sense on a tablet, it’s terribly out of place on the desktop. However, the square and flat design of Metro has been an inspiration to many and everyone from Google and now Apple are taking design cues from it. Imagine, Microsoft is now setting the trend for software design. Now that’s something nobody would have ever thought possible.
iOS 7 is a big step forward for Apple and keeps it in the game on the mobile side but it does little to push things forward. It’s not a revolution in any way. It’s strange to see Apple just keeping pace rather than out in front but I think that’s the current state of things in mobile.
MacPro – Still A Few Tricks Left
Apple also announced a new MacPro desktop and here Apple shows it still has plenty of design inspiration left. This new high end professional desktop computer is incredible. It features a design that looks like part jet engine and part R2D2. It’s stunning and brilliant from a design and functional standard. As much as I do like OSX, this new MacPro does show Apple’s best design is always with the hardware.
The Future Is Mobile
So Apple is solid as ever on the desktop but playing catch up in mobile. Here’s the rub, the future is mobile. Desktop computers have been shrinking in market share as laptops and tablets increase. Within the next few years, tablets may even outsell laptops as the world become ever more mobile. This is the real risk for Apple. The fastest growing part of the market is where they are most vulnerable. iOS 7 keeps them in the game, but Apple is going to have to find a way to strike back out in front or keep playing second fiddle to Google and Android.
Wearable Computing – The Final Frontier
We are on the precipice of wearable computing and here I think Apple has an advantage which is funny to say because they haven’t announced a thing yet. But I have much more confidence in an iWatch with a flexible display than I do in Google Glass. We also know how good Apple is with hardware design, and I have this feeling the wearable hardware Apple comes up with will be spectacular. I expect this is the place where Apple breaks back into the lead in mobile. Either way, as consumers, we’re in for an exciting future.