It’s way early in the new year so I feel safe in polishing up my crystal ball and heading out on a limb (it’s Friday; mixed metaphors are on sale) to predict that Apple is about to spring some new tech on Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Watch users.
Well, duh, right? Isn’t that what Apple does with nearly every product every year? Add something new to make it all work better while making whatever it makes thinner, lighter, more powerful, but still the same price. Yep. Here’s what’s on my gee whiz bang tech list.
Siri Goes A.I.
As much as critics lament the aging iPhone interface, and device interfaces in general what with all those one tap app icon buttons, the only new UI waiting in the wings is already here, but still something of a toddler. Siri.
As much as Apple has disruptive innovation chops– Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, Watch– the company actually is more about incremental innovation and slowly, but surely, we see Siri gaining more capability; from app launcher, to soothsayer, to friend-in-a-pocket, to something of a digital personal assistant, Apple is layering in more capability.
That’s how it should be. But that also means Siri is no longer gee whiz bang technology.
What’s on the immediate horizon? Apple buys companies that have new technology that can be integrated into the company’s products, and few technology giants do it as well. Siri? She came from another company. The A-series CPUs that run rings around everything else? Apple bought the company with the chip designers. Touch ID fingerprint sensor? That came from a purchase.
Apple also bought motion sensing technology and more recently facial recognition technology, neither of which has found its way into a product, but these are visible tea leaves which tell the future. How long before Siri and Touch ID show up on a Mac? I predict it will be 2016. Hey, that’s this year. Months away, perhaps.
Along with Siri and Touch ID we could easily see voice recognition combined with facial recognition that adds multiple layers of personal security to Mac, iPhone, and iPad. A generation or two beyond those obvious functions and we could easily find that Siri watches us, knows the meaning behind our facial expressions, and treats us to information and options which match our mood of the moment.
It could happen.
Sweet Home New Tech
Apple is all about taking technology purchases and finding a useful home for them in upcoming products. The company spent a ton or two of money on Beats Music and a line of overpriced, overly glittery headphones which seem to be all the rage these days. There’s talk that Apple will do away with the ancient headphone jack and run audio through the Lightning connector which, as you might suspect, will be married to new Beats headphones. Plausible, no? Apple has a history of throwing out old technology and replacing it with new technology.
The company should be applauded for moving the technology bar forward so it will be interesting to see what Apple does with music. Here’s why. An MP3 from the 1990s sounds, to most ears using earbuds or average headphones, much like the same song with the highest bit rates and highest quality currently available. The human ear can only hear sound frequencies to a certain point and we’ve been there for decades already.
But what if Apple could get higher quality, higher dynamic range audio masters for 30-million songs in iTunes, then provide that music, streaming or lossless, at a higher audio quality than currently available online, and then improve the entire audio chain– from master to music to device to headphones– that actually improves the sound sufficiently that most people can tell the difference between an MP3 on old earbuds and a new audio format with higher quality?
I know. It’s a ‘what if’ scenario but Apple has both a history of incremental improvements to technology and a willingness to throw away old technology to advance the state of the art and move us, sometimes kicking and screaming, into a new world that ends up better for everyone. Why? Because technology competitors follow Apple. Remember USB and the floppy disk? When was the last time you saw a floppy disk?
So, for 2016 let’s expect more personality and functionality from Siri. Let’s look for voice and facial recognition in Apple’s products. I’m all for Touch ID and Siri on the Mac. And I’m willing to bet that Apple wants to up the quality standards in digital audio. Then there’s Apple Car and Apple’s Cable TV service, but that’s another story.