My first computers, way back in the 20th century, were CP/M machines. Then along came IBM PCs and DOS. Then my first Mac in March 1984.
It was a revolutionary device that just didn’t do much other than evoke hope for the future. Compared to then, early 21st century Macs are super computers that do nearly anything and everything. What of future Macs? Does Apple have another revolution coming?
Revolutions Then, Now, Tomorrow
We may argue specific points about what makes a company innovative, but it’s difficult to argue with Apple’s 35 year history of making complex devices easy to use.
From the first Apple computers back in the 1970s to the iPhone, Apple creates revolutions.
Revolutions are leaps forward. The first Apple computers. The Mac. The iPod. The iPhone. The iPad. Each revolution begets evolutions which extend the revolution into mainstream life.
What does Apple have planned for the future? Is there a future for the Mac beyond mere evolution?
Does The Past Point Toward The Future?
My research turned up some interesting visits to the recent past. Jason Snell’s The Mac at 25 in Macworld provides some historical context of the Mac since inception back in the early 1980s. Vikas Shekhawat provided futuristic vews of the iMac as we know it today in GizmoWatch.
Notice the general similarity of today’s iMac. Will Macs of the future be merely rungs on the evolutionary latter of computing, or does Apple have a better idea for the future.
More research took me to Google and an image search of “future macs.” Surprise. Much of the future—in the eyes of Mac loving artists—looks like the past and present.
PetitInvention has a number of highly evolutionary Macs, which are decidedly non-revolutionary.
See the problem? Visions of the future look pretty much like Macs of today.
If we define the Mac as a desktop personal computer or a notebook computer which adds mere mobility and reduced size but is evolved from the desktop, then the future of computing must be touch. That’s the case with smart phones, and Apple’s iPad. Computing for the mass of masses is touch—applications manipulated by a touch screen and a finger, vs. a keyboard and mouse.
The Mac is not a touch device. Touch is the device of choice going forward for many computer users.
Apple derives more revenue and profit from the iPhone than the Mac. Has the Mac reached the end, awaiting minor nips and tucks to extend the revolution, or is there a revolution not yet known, yet near?
I do not see a touch screen device sitting on the desktop as a revolutionary Mac. There’s too much hand, arm, and shoulder effort to manipulate a 27-inch iMac touch screen to make it attractive for future knowledge workers, despite visions of future computing from movies such as Minority Report.
Is it possible, if not probable, that what we know of the Mac—a powerful, complex, desktop bound computing device with a mobile counterpart will never see another revolution, a Dr. Who-like transformation to something totally new?
I once thought that Apple might push the Mac to a hybrid device—capable of both touch input and keyboard and mouse controls. Touch is now. Keyboard and mouse are last century. Then what is the future? Voice control, voice input, voice recognition, and an artificially intelligent Mac with speech capability? Desktop, mobile, or handheld?
I fear we’ll merely have more of the same (high resolution screens, keyboard, mouse) in the Mac’s future. It has become a battle of powerful computing (desktop, notebook) vs. convenient computing (iPhone, iPad). As convenient computing becomes more powerful it will overshadow many of our requirements to be tethered to the desktop or notebook.
The Mac of the future probably looks much like the Mac of today, just as the Mac of today carries genetic similarities with the Mac of 1984. We just won’t use the Mac of the future as much as the Mac of today.