Something interesting and perhaps fortuitous occurred the moment I got my hands on an iPhone almost three years ago.
Because I travel often, my MacBook Pro has been my trusted personal companion. I started to use my MacBook Pro less and less each month. Somewhere in the past year my iPhone overtook my Mac in mobile usage. My barely two week old iPad has increased the decrease in my daily Mac usage. What does that say about the Mac’s future?
If Touch Is King, What Of The Mac
Two things should be obvious. First, touch rules on mobile devices, whether iPhone or iPad. It’s quick, natural, easy, and removes the computer from computing. Second, touch will not become the interface for powerful Macs like the MacBook Pro or iMac or Mac Pro (and certainly not Windows PCs)?
Why not? Too much heavy lifting. My arm is heavy.
It’s one thing to touch a screen to control a device you can hold in your hand or put in your pocket.
But it’s something entirely different to control a full-fledged MacBook Pro calibre notebook, or an iMac, by moving finger, hand, arm, elbow, and shoulder when a simple mouse click or a few keys on a keyboard will do the same thing.
Don’t worry about the Mac as we know it (powerful computing devices capable of running iMovie or Adobe Creative Suite or Final Cut Pro or other CPU intensive apps) becoming a touch screen device. It won’t happen.
If the Mac is not destined to become a touch screen device, then what will the Mac of the next five years become?
The Mac Of The Future
Like it or don’t, many Mac users can be much more productive on some Mac applications using the keyboard and mouse than I ever will be able to on my iPhone or iPad. It’s one thing for Apple to dismiss the floppy disk drive, or even drop USB ports from new devices, but it’s totally different to remove the cherished keyboard and mouse combo.
What can we expect of the Mac of five years or 10 years from today? Faster CPUs? Certainly. Higher resolution screens? Naturally. Longer batter life? Of course. Larger hard drives and more RAM? Bet on it.
These are evolutionary steps; logical progressions that we’ve seen Apple employ for the last 10 years (remember, OS X is about 10 years old now). It’s rumored that the iPhone of 2010 may have some kind of super glass back instead of plastic or aluminum. Could that be the MacBook of the future? No more aluminum?
One can argue that Mac OS X’s interface is easier to use than Windows Vista, but, if so, not by much. Both are state of the art, but the art of yesterday. The same holds true for their respective file systems. Folders here and there and everywhere need to be managed, cultivated, pruned, and copied for safekeeping. That’s not the case for iPhone or iPad users; shielded from the antiquated file systems.
What can Apple actually do to a Mac that would be revolutionary for five or 10 years from now? Already Apple has placed Mac OS X on the back burner as the company devotes more and more resources to mobile devices and iPhone OS 4. Clearly, the Mac is no longer the center of Apple, Inc. The company has gone mobile and touch.
I read with interest what our Mac360 colleague, Ron McElfresh wrote in his recent article that Apple will migrate iPhone OS into Mac-like devices in the future, perhaps a MacPad or Mac touch. It’s a compelling argument, but doesn’t describe what takes place for power users who love the versatility of their Macs.
Where’s The NeXT Great Thing For The Mac?
To answer my own question, I don’t know. Touch is only good for smaller, less powerful devices that are highly mobile. Many of us use MacBooks or MacBook Pros as our main Mac. Serious computer users go for iMacs or MacPro models, usually because of an overriding need for more power and larger screens.
What about a voice recognition user interface?
Maybe. But that whole Star Trek interface sounds more distracting than productive.
If I had to bet money, I’d bet that the next great thing for the Mac user is already here. It’s mobile touch; wirelessly connected to either the cloud (like Google and the internet), or to more powerful home Macs (iMac and Mac Pro), or, as it should be, to both.
That means the Mac as we know it today—fast, powerful, sleek—will become tomorrow’s digital dinosaur, limited to a rapidly dwindling user base that requires the extra computing power and storage and screen size that the touch screen masses do not require.
If you’re driving a Mac today, you may be using the last of a dying digital breed—the full on, all powerful computing device; a legacy from the 20th century. Does Apple have something insanely great in mind for the Mac? If so, what?