Apple’s iOS7 And OSX Mavericks – a heavy bet on a mobile future

It'll be months before users get their hands on most of what Apple announced yesterday. But what does the keynote tells us about how Apple sees the world?

It’s been a long time since we had an Apple keynote – nearly eight months, in fact – and so expectations were naturally high. More and more blog posts and news articles had been written, decrying the lack of innovation from Apple and suggesting that they’d lost their way post-Steve Jobs. Given that most of the products we saw announced yesterday won’t ship until the autumn, we won’t be able to judge how accurate that assertion is until then (although that won’t stop many online commentators I’m sure). What, then, can we glean from yesterday’s announcements about how Apple sees the future?

Mobile is everything

There’s two major pieces of evidence for this:

  1. Now that Jony Ive is in charge of both hardware and software design, where did he chose to concentrate his efforts first? iOS. The Mac interface looks only slightly cleaned up in the new release OSX Mavericks. iOS, on the other hand, is undergoing the most major redesign since it was launched. Given that Mac OSX is the older of the two, you get a clear sense of priorities.
  2. Most of the most significant announcements about the tech underlying OSX Mavericks were things that improve the battery life of your laptop. App Naps, Timer Coalescing and Safari Power Saving are all about reducing the power drain of your system and thus increasing the battery life of your device. These features make little difference to users of desktops, but mean everything to people on the go, who dream of whole days without having to find a power outlet. The new MacBook Airs were sold as having all day battery life, too.

iOS devices and Macs are drawing closer together, but not in the OS integration manner that many people seems to expect. No, instead Apple is starting to bring their conceptual underpinnings closer together. iOS was designed from the start to aggressively manage battery life. OSX is taking on those same characteristics, as it become a mobile OS. We must be close to more time being spent using Macs operated from a battery than from ones using a power cable.  Equally, iOS js getting full multi-tasking, making it a more powerful OS. The lines are blurring…

Desktop computing is increasingly the exception, not the rule. Those old assumptions about how and where people use their machines – computers at desks, mobiles on the move – have broken down, and probably have no was, universal answers. This is a big challenge to the way we think about digital services. The PC/Mobile distinction no longer makes sense.

The Truck still matters

Despite appearance over the last couple of years, Apple hasn’t abandoned the power users. Evidence:

  1. The new Mac Pro – a new, radical design that’s sure to be polarising. But it exists, it’s a very serious piece of hardware, and they’re assembling the thing in the US – and have invested in a facility to allow them to do this. That’s a major investment for a relatively small market for them these days.
  2. All that multiple monitor stuff in the new version of OSX? That’s serious professional user stuff.

If anything, Steve Jobs’s old comparison of the desktop computer with a truck for professionals, and the iPad as the car for everyone else has grown more marked here. The Mac Pro may be even more pro than it used to be. We’ve no idea of the price just yet – but it won’t come cheap. This is not your run-around-town truck, but a serious articulated lorry for long distance hauling.

Berlin is cool

Well, we knew that already, didn’t we? Lovely to see so much attention lavished on the new Apple Store in Berlin, though. I’ll be scheduling some time to drop in during my visit to NEXT Service Design this year.