Friday, June 13, 2014

Your Mac Is Now A Sideshow

Your iPhone and iPad have become the main event

Okay, I don't know that I really mean a "sideshow." Maybe more like an accessory or a peripheral. What I do know is that for some time, mobile devices have been getting more powerful and more popular and tech powerhouses have been thinking about how to push them to center stage – and what it means for their business models when they succeed. The reason is obvious: more mobile devices get sold every year than computers, and monetizing their larger numbers makes sense. When your company makes both computer and mobile operating systems, as is the case for Apple and Microsoft, it’s your job to figure out how to make the user experience a positive one for the larger population of mobile user and perhaps to put them at center stage. I believe that in the Apple ecosystem, June 2nd was the day when the scales fully tipped and mobile became dominant.

Let me try to make my case.

Early this month, Apple held its 2014 World Wide DevelopersConference (WWDC), a conference at which it communicates primarily with the Apple developer community, while knowing that much of the rest of the tech community watches. WWDC is not an event at which new Apple hardware typically gets announced. Instead, we hear about near future versions of iOS, the operating system that runs on Apple mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads, and MacOS, the operating system that runs on Apple laptops and desktop computers. This year, we heard about iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 (also called “Yosemite”).

Many new features and facilities were introduced. Apple announced a HealthKit for developers of health related applications, with the promise of inter-working devices and software to let us track health targets, and they released a basic Health app to get us started. They announced a HomeKit for developers to allow home automation to come together on iOS devices.  They announced a new iCloud Drive service, and a new iOS programming language called Swift.

The thing that caught my attention, though, was Apple’s progress towards a very converged iOS and MacOS experience. Some of the functionality of iOS, such as the Notification center and its “Today view” will now come to MacOS. And Macos is taking on some of the look of iOS.

What really strikes me most is that iOS devices, which number in the hundreds of millions are becoming the primary devices, and Mac laptops and desktops (whose sales are much lower) are becoming accessories or peripherals, working closely with your mobile devices. Apple announced a number of new ways in which iOS devices and MacOS devices can work together more seamlessly and in some cases the iOS device is the glue that holds them together.

Continuity is a set of features that will enable moving work easily between and among Apple devices. This applies to web pages, mail messages, documents, and even communications such as phone calls and instant messages. It was already possible to send and receive iPhone text messages ("iMessages") from a MacOS computer. Now, using the iPhone as the hub, even non-iPhone text messages can be handled directly on the Mac. Get a phone call on your iPhone? That call can be picked up on the Mac – by leveraging the iPhone's capabilities.

Apple is moving quickly (and unlike Microsoft, successfully) toward a unified user experience. More than that, Apple is creating workflows that seamlessly move among your Apple devices. But the subtle point in this is that it's your iPhone that may be providing the glue that holds it all together. The iPhone becomes the crucial device, and your Mac becomes the convenient large screen and keyboard when you need it.

Are you ready for your iPhone or iPad to be the primary device, and a laptop or desktop to be an accessory? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.


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