Much has already been written about the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs, so I’ll not cover his many accomplishments nor how his leadership shaped the electronics industry. What I want to look at is the company that he left as a legacy and speculate about the kinds of changes that we might expect.
Let’s look at some current news and industry rumors that might indicate the tech giant’s future direction. I’ll start with the October 13th release of the iOS 5 for iPad and iPhone (did I mention this is a free upgrade?) Not only does the new version have many interesting and useful tweaks, but it also signals a change in how Apple’s mobile devices will interact with their desktop and Laptop counterparts in the future. They are breaking the umbilical cord between mobile and stationary with this introduction.
The iOS 5 will be downloaded as usual via iTunes on a computer and then installed on the iPhone or iPad. After this, updates and synching can be done without contact with the Mother Ship so to speak. The mobile devices will be able to update on their own. Don’t panic, you can still synch your stuff from your PC to your mobiles, but you can do it with WiFi instead of wires. Now there’s a well thought out, planned and executed innovation; very “Jobsian” in nature. Steve would be proud.
Now let’s look at the rumors that Apple may be soon coming out with a 7 inch tablet, an” iPad Mini” for want of a better name. This on the heels of Amazon’s recently introduced Kindle Fire, also a 7 inch tablet. This whole tablet area has been volatile in the last few months; notably HP got in the market and then quickly punted. Look for much continued activity in this sector. Apple dominates the $500 and up market, but industry analysts say there is a huge market at $200 to $300 (Kindle Fire got in at $199).
Let’s hear from Steve on this development. “Apple has done extensive user testing and we really understand this stuff…There are clear limits on how close you can place things on a touch screen, which is why we think 10 inch is the minimum screen size to create great tablet apps,” Jobs said at an Apple earnings conference last October. Apple has up to now, embraced the upper end of the PC market and the same has applied to music players, phones and the iPad. Some of their followers have been called elitist and almost cult like. To be fair they’ve tried to produce the best products and their prices reflect that aspiration. Many feel that they offer value for what they deliver.
This juncture where Apple is simultaneously pursuing consumer driven excellence and the temptations of a much bigger mass market is a very treacherous and challenging place to be. Steve thought that the size of user’s fingers might be a limiting factor for a satisfactory touch screen experience. I would suggest that the Apple legacy managers proceed with caution. Make sure that touch technology keeps in sync with downsizing so that the loyal customer base is not turned off by less than Apple like performance. Tread carefully please!