I’m not going to link to any of the eighty-seven million stories — do your own research, nerds! — but my close, personal friend Steve Jobs just announced his resignation as CEO of Apple. He’ll be stepping down, effective immediately, and will become the Chairman of the Board. Tim Cook is the new CEO.
I’d make a Frank Sinatra joke here, but shut up.
I know Steve’s a visionary, and all that, and he really did help reshape the computing world, and aspects of the world at large. He understands that people who want to use computers are like people who drive cars; they don’t want to worry how the goddamn thing works, they just want to use it. Who goddamn cares what kind of transmission it is? I need to go to the store!
There are changes underway in the Apple ecosystem, many of which I’ve talked about recently, which I’ll be totally proven right about, but those are tweaks, rather than innovations. Making the Mac an iOS device isn’t innovation, it’s a course adjustment. Making iOS, and the iPad it was built for, that was the innovation. That was Steve’s innovation, and it was, by many accounts, the computer Steve’s always wanted to make.
Think about that for a moment: Steve spent something like 30 years building computers he didn’t want before he was able to make the one computer he wanted to: the iPad. Apple exists to make this computer, and when you think about it, that makes Steve a one-trick Pony. I mean, that makes Steve a phenomenally successful one-trick pony, and I’ve made jokes about him revolutionizing industries by accident — these jokes are actually true, so shut up — but he really only had the one idea.
People make fun of Google for being a one-trick pony because of their dependence on search, but Steve, in the long-view, was even more narrowly focused.
The shame of him stepping down, aside from his health concerns, is that we’ll never see if Steve had an idea to follow up the iPad with. The main idea seems to be to make all of their computers like it, but as I say above, that’s not innovation. That’s exploitation of another, tremendously successful idea.
I don’t say that to attack Steve. I’m deeply in love with him, and have sent him lists, on many occasions, explaining why he should have my babies. They were all good, convincing lists. I say that because I would’ve liked to see if he had a second idea.
Now we’ll never know.
My money — by which I mean I’ve used the things for months, so yeah, sure, I’ll be on it — is on a multitouch enabled iMac-ish device with a swivel screen, that slides down to go over your keyboard when you want to interact directly, then goes to its normal position when you need to type. You’ve seen rollup desks, right? The cool wood sheet that covers the desk area? It’ll be like that, but with a touch screen you want to have sex with. (You *can* have sex with it, but there’s minimal app support at the moment)
This new iMac-ish line will represent the next step in the iOS-ification of the Mac, AND the impending closing of the platform.
Just to keep you all from getting your panties in a twist, when I say “closing,” I mean that Apple’s going to lock the Mac down to only allow Mac App Store downloads. Because it’s what people are used to with the iOS devices, and also it’s more secure, and Apple will make even more money. This will either come in the next version of the OS, or a point release. If point release, it’ll be first quarter 2012. Believe that shit, you bastards!
Anyway, the swivel Mac: Apple’s goddamn comfortable having monitors that move around freely, and this is like an evolution of that idea, but with sexy multitouch. This just makes sense, in the same way it made sense for me to pour honey all over myself when I was waiting for the light to change, despite what those goddamn prudish cops had to say about it.
Forget the iCloud Phone, and all that other crap; I’ve got the goods on Apple’s next move. I have it from a trusted source* that, contrary to really idiotic reports that Apple’s working on a “cheap” phone that will simply cost less upfront, with no change in the monthly costs, Apple will be unveiling what can only be referred to as a feature phone.
What, exactly, will it be?
This new iPhone — which I’ll refer to as the iPhone Nano, for sake of convenience — won’t simply be a smaller or less memory-laden version of an existing iPhone, because that would be idiotic and wouldn’t meet the goals of “cheaper.” No. No! It will be something completely different. It will be a whole new product, for a whole new market.
The iPhone Nano will be physically smaller, in line with the Candybar iPod Nano. It will have a less powerful processor than the iPhone 4, and probably even than the 3GS, but that’s okay, because it won’t run custom apps. It will be Apple’s response to a feature phone. Remember when the iPhone 1 came out, and it was just the core apps? Remember how my close, personal friend Steve Jobs called making phone calls the killer app? It’s exactly that. It’s the iPhone 1 without a web browser.
The thing is, the majority of humanity that uses a phone only wants to make phone calls with it and send texts. That’s is. The iPhone Nano will offer that functionality, plus the ability to listen to music, and pretty much nothing else.
Why, exactly, will it be?
You’re probably wondering why Apple would release an iPhone with a hobbled version of iOS. You’re probably wondering this because you like all of the features Apple’s added over the years, and you wonder why anyone would buy an iPhone without apps and internet access. You’re definitely wondering this because you’ve got you’re head up your butt, and are the wrong market. There are two excellent reasons why this phone will happen:
First, there’s the price. The thing is, when the tech pundits talk about Apple making a cheap phone, they keep confusing what “cheap” means, or what it should mean. Pundits — and lots of folks in the first world, folks who can afford smartphones — keep saying that an iPhone at $49 or $0 would sweep the market and lay to waste all those who would DARE to stand against it, but that argument is stupid, for several reasons.
One: The 3GS is already $49. And when the next iPhone gets announced, the iPhone 4 will probably be sold at $49 while the 3GS won’t be sold at all.
Two: The upfront cost is the smallest chunk of change involved in buying a smartphone. The major cost for a smartphone is the monthly service plan, and when people talk about making a phone cheaper, they need to start thinking about that. Now, presumably Apple wouldn’t be able to convince every carrier in the world to offer data plans at a 90% discount — if they did manage that somewhat miraculous goddamn feat, everyone would want it for every phone everywhere, which would negate the need for a special iPhone with a cheaper data plan. No, the way to go here is to take the data plan out of the equation.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter how much you knock down the initial purchase price of a smartphone if, say, your income is only a couple grand a month, or, say, $100 if you’re in the third world. You need to make it a device that anyone can use without an expensive plan. Apple needs to make the phone cheap to buy unsubsidized, and they need to make it cheap to operate.
Second, there’s the marketshare. The market for smartphone users continues to grow, and even though Android is currently eclipsing Apple in terms of sales, Apple’s doing pretty well, and selling their iPhones hand-over-goddamn-fist. Despite that, the market for smartphones is only so big, and beyond that is the much, much larger market of cell phone users who either aren’t interested in or able to buy a smartphone.
We head-up-our-assers tend to forget it, but those users are the norm.
The majority of the phone using market doesn’t use smartphones, and the majority of featurephones are pretty old-school, in terms of styling. How wonderful would it be if Apple, the only company to design beautiful products, made a stylish, beautiful featurephone?
Not only would it be something magical for people who could afford a smartphone but don’t want to, it would also be wonderful for the majority of the market that simply can’t afford one.
To put it another way: Apple’s already destroyed Nokia’s smartphone market, it’s time for them to destroy Nokia’s dumbphone market.
In case you think this is a silly notion, consider Tim Cook’s recent statement on an earnings call that Apple doesn’t want the iPhone just to be for rich people. They’re going to make them palatable for poor people, which is, in some ways, where the money is.
In case you think the idea of Apple making a version of the operating system which would, essentially, only look like iOS, but wouldn’t offer much of the core functionality, consider the current iPod Nano: it features a simple operating system that looks like iOS, offering a consistency of user experience, without the overhead, or need to support all those features. Apple’s already doing what I say they will do to their new phone. It’s just a matter of time — probably a couple months — before they do this.
The iPhone Nano is coming. It will be a massive success, despite the fact that for the first time, Apple will be exclusively targeting a product at the unwashed masses. You won’t like it, or need one (but you’ll buy several, because you’re like that), but Apple won’t care, because they’re selling it to someone else.
*The trusted source is me, okay? Yes, this is just speculation, but my track record of Apple speculation is pretty good: I called the iPhone OS name change, and my prediction about Apple turning its Macs into glorified iOS devices is moving right on track.
Also, I know that this was speculated about over at AllThingsD a while ago, but I was unaware of this until just now, so that makes it my idea, goddamn it.
Right now, the amazingly sweet and just-released Final Cut Pro X, Apple’s flagship video editing program, has got 13 ratings in the Mac App store, and is currently averaging 3 stars. One of the reviews, which gave it 2 stars, called it “Shockingly deficient.” Is this just the response to someone who isn’t paying attention, or is it a sign of things to come?
Over at patentlyapple.com, there’s talk of a new patent Apple has applied for what the site calls a “Breakthrough Platform Independent Word Processor,” one that could operate in the browser. This is the problem Apple wants to solve:
The recent proliferation of web browsers and computer networks has made it easy to display the same document on different computing platforms. However, inconsistencies in the way fonts are rendered across different computing platforms could cause the same document to be rendered differently for users of different computing platforms. More specifically, for a given font, the way in which metrics for various font features are interpreted, such as character height, width, leading and white space, can differ between computing platforms. These differences in interpretation could cause individual characters in a document to be rendered at different locations, which could ultimately cause the words in a document to be positioned differently between lines and pages on different computing platforms.
This inconsistent rendering could be a problem for people who are collaborating on a document. For example, if one collaborator points out an error on a specific line of a specific page, another collaborator viewing the same document on a different computing platform may have to first locate the error on a different line of a different page.
Hence, what is needed is a technique for providing consistent rendering for documents across different computer systems and computing platforms.
This is the solution:
Some embodiments presented in Apple’s patent application describe a system that typesets and renders a document in a platform-independent manner. During operation, the system first obtains the document, wherein the document includes text content and associated style information including one or more fonts. The system also generates platform-independent font metrics for the one or more fonts, wherein the platform-independent font metrics include information that could be used to determine the positions of individual characters in a rendering of the document. Next, the system uses the platform-independent font metrics to determine how the document is divided into line fragments and pages. Finally, the system uses the determined division while rendering the document, so that the division of the document into line fragments and pages is the same across different computing platforms.
Now, call me senile, but a consistent cross-platform experience is something that seems right up Flash’s alley. A swf on PC looks the same on a Mac, or Linux. They’ve been doing this for over a decade. But you’re probably thinking wait, Walt, you senile old bastard — I’m in your head — a consistent cross-browser experience that’s already built and already used by 99% of everyone online isn’t a word processor. True, it isn’t, but aside from the fact that Adobe purchased a product called Buzzword — a Flash-based wordprocessor — years ago and integrated it into Acrobat.com, there was also Virtual Ubiquity, which doesn’t seem to exist anymore, but did.
So, you know, prior art, and all that.
I love how moist Patently Apple is getting at the idea of this, talking about how Apple, if they put out a cross-platform word processor, will change the landscape again. Look, I’m no Apple hater, but they’re clearly trying to patent something that’s existed for several years.
Is Patently Apple going to get all excited at Apple’s upcoming plans to replace the horse and buggy with an automated, mechanical machine? I hear it’s going to be goddamn huge.