|Architosh News Reports
|Anthony Frausto-Robledo, Editor ([email protected])
Editorial: Apple's Position in 2010: Options Galore
Where will any technology company alive today really be in the year 2010? It seems so far off that it may seem useless to talk about it, much less design it. But that is just what IDEO, the Silicon Valley superstar of creative industrial design, did for BusinessWEEK. And boy! if you love technology and have a fancy for sci-fi, you have got to visit this site. So go there now, see the special article and come back here to read my thoughts.
How does Apple fit in this vision of the future? Or Microsoft for that matter?
Today, like the talk ten years ago, the battle-lines still seem to be drawn over who's OS is running what device, what applications run on it, and so forth and so on. This year 'OS discussion' has reached a new high point -- with Window2000 just out, all the hype over the Linux operating system, and the promise and hope of Apple's OS X -- it's all conspiring to create a new 'battlefield for OS supremacy'. Who cares anymore?
Really. The "Welcome to 2010" article is so refreshing. There isn't a single view of a traditional PC in it; and in 2010 the idea that people got excited over a Gateway Essential because of the new Pentium or AMD processor in it will certainly seem hysterical in hindsight. Our children will laugh at us, most certainly. Today's print advertising for PC's will be as comical as the 1950's magazine ads for modern kitchen appliances. Even worse, for at least those appliances of tomorrow back in the 50's were stylized and sleek. At least 'design' was in the equation.
Design is Everywhere!
If IDEO's vision of 2010 comes true -- and is there any good reason to believe it will not-- we need not worry too much about Apple. And Microsoft will no doubt be there as well, struggling to control and direct an expanded universe of technology in its financial favor. That much is predictable. But what isn't predictable is where Apple will fit in.
In IDEO's vision all things are "designed", personalized and so-well-thought-out that the littlest of human details are considered in the subtlest of ways. It's the type of humanistic design Apple is already famous for. And here I mean humanistic as in the da Vincian idea that "Man is the measure of all things". In fact, Leonardo da Vinci would love this world of 2010, full of gadgets and technologies infused in human life. Now this is a world where Apple can excel, exceeding all others on the merits of its industrial design prowess and its ability to humanize technology.
Where's the Platform?
At the center of IDEO's vision is the Agent PDA. It's a reasonable vision; the PDA (personal digital assistant) will be at the center of human computing. We will take it everywhere we go. And it will be very small and convenient. IDEO's vision is ironic for Apple. They invented the PDA, coined the term 'personal digital assistant', and shipped the very first Newton MessagePad. Unfortunately for them, they shipped it way before its time. They weren't quite ready for it and neither was the market.
If the PDA is the center of human computing, sending wireless data to digital sunglasses that serve as screens, communicating with our Ear Ring, telephone/communication device, then one platform seems more important than ever before: Palm's. And if Microsoft is to control the technology landscape in 2010, like they control it today, than Palm and its licensees are its biggest enemy.
Handspring, Palm, Sony ... and, if all the rumors are true, Apple all stand to be in the cross-hairs of Gates' canons, for they all may constitute 2010's brightest players. Surely if Palm succeeds, Apple can have a bright future as a PDA maker. And there is more to PDA's than Agents.
HomeBase is where your blazingly fast home server is. Can you imagine every American's home running Windows 2000 Server? Isn't that a bit overkill, those 20 million plus lines of code? This too is where Apple can succeed. OS X, as Jobs has referred to it recently in a magazine, "is like a space-frame", whereas Windows is like a large masonry building, getting heavier every upgrade. Linux too is also a great candidate OS. Light, brief and stable. Those will be the virtues of a home server OS.
One of the most interesting notions in IDEO's vision is that the world in 2010 will be diffuse with computer technology. It looks as everyone will have these things. Could it be any other way? To reach every segment of the population there will have to be far more digital production then there is today. Could it be even possible that the digital tomorrow be served and predominantly controlled by a single company, like Microsoft, as it is today? Windows everywhere? Now that's an interesting old mantra. In 2010 computing becomes far less dependent on the paradigm of "glass windows". No longer do we stare into the glass window at the end of a Sony picture tube.
Computing in 2010 is "voice" centered as much as it is "window" centered. And information returns to our "hand" in the form of digital pens on our PDA's and in our work computing environments. Computing moves to our "eyes" and the keyboard moves away. The notion that information (data) moves, breathes and passes through "windows" will feel like an ancient idea. Microsoft's product name will become increasingly 'meaningless' in a world who's computing interfaces are based on non-windows metaphors.
It is probably useless to predict now who will dominate our future technology landscape in 2010. Hopefully no one company will dominate. But if we were forced to consider today's players on the basis of IDEO's vision of computing in the future, it seems pretty hopeful that Microsoft will not be able to control the whole scheme -- and that's good. And it appears key that those companies who can center digital design on humanistic terms (not marketshare terms) will likely win the hearts and minds of users.
But it also remains necessary that people be open-minded, independent in their thinking (not herdish, or ambivalent) and openly question what computing should be about in human life. How should it work around me? How does it fit me? How does digital life embrace me? Not how do I fit it.
The companies that ask and answer those types of questions will be making the types of things we see in IDEO's 2010.
What do you think? Send me feedback.
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