The true launch of iCloud Apple

While the iPhone launch has grabbed people's imaginations, the announcements afterwards showed us Apple re=engineering its ecosystem for the cloud age.

As I noted yesterday, Apple’s iPhone 5 launch has been rather over-shadowed by the iOS6 Maps debacle. But, in its turn, the phone itself might have distracted people from the fact that around an in that announcement, Apple was fundamentally re-engineering many parts of the ecosystem around iOS devices.

Let’s look at some of the other things they announced:

To me, this was the most important part of the announcement. They’re not just releasing a new – and massively popular – phone, but actually starting to rebuild the ecosystem around their devices for the next decade.

Don’t think the ear pods are important? Think about how iconic the white headphones have become, how redolent of Apple as a brand. When I bought my very first iPod – the 5Gb Firewire version – my wife caustically remarked that they made me look like a hospital patient – nobody wore white headphones for anything else. Quickly, though, they became a badge of common ownership, a signal between the few early iPod owners. From there they grew to be the most ubiquitous headphones around. Investing in changing and improving them is a stake in the ground for Apple, a sign that things are changing and improving.

Nowhere is that more true than in the switch from the old long dock connector to the new lightening connector. at a quick count, we have five devices in the house that support the old dock connector – and that’s for two adults and a two month old baby‚Ķ Some of those will live useful lives with older devices and adaptors, but some will be replaced over the next few years. A whole ecosystem of devices are going to have to be replaced with re-engineered versions over the next few years, as the replacement connector becomes ubiquitous. That’s not a change to be taken lightly, and Apple must have felt that it was absolutely necessary.

The changes to iTunes have been long in coming. It was clumsy, outmoded, and increasingly rendered irrelevant in parts by the “cord cutting” changes in iOS5 which made management of an iPad or iPhone possible without ever attaching them to a Mac or PC. The figure that 66% of iTunes downloads now come from iOS devices that Apple mentioned at their event the week before last made it clear that change was coming – indeed, that it was inevitable. iTunes needed to be relegated from its role as the centre of your digital content universe, to another, equal player to its sibling apps on iPhone and iPad. The role that iTunes once had as the hub? Now that belongs to iCloud.

In effect, this was the start of the second decade of Apple’s iDevices. The newer ones – the iPad and iPhone – were still operating in the ecosystem of their predecessor, the iPod. This is the start of the post-iPod Apple, with services and hardware ecosystems to match. And we’ve seen a large amount of foundation building happening at once.

It’s certainly possible that Apple tried to change too much in one go. The three above would have been enough on their own, without a change to such a fundamental part of the operating system as the maps.

Where they have something in common, I suspect, is that they are all laying foundations for the next decade of Apple products. A new connector, with a new ecosystem of device around it. New headphones, upgrading the found quality after a decade of the old style. A further decoupling of the device from the desktop version of iTunes -and perhaps the final end of Apple’s old “digital hub” approach to devices.

All three elements that are being shifted had their roots in a different age, one where the Mac was still Apple’s biggest product, and everything had to be connected to that to make any sense at all. Now, the Mac is a bit part player in an ecosystem where the devices talk to each other through the cloud.

Goodbye Mac Apple. Hello iCloud Apple.