While sitting around doing nothing, my brain was wondering. I happened across the thoughts of the endless battle between Windows and Mac fanboys. How everything from market share, viruses, ease of use, crashes, etc. is used as fodder for one side to continually peg the other. All of a sudden it came to me; there really are two things that are going to be over the next probably ten years that are going to make or break it for Apple; Web Apps and the Apple iPhone. Subsequently it also morphed into a future prediction for the world of Mac and Tech.
First, it’s time for full disclosure. I am a Windows guy. I’ve used Windows since the 3.0 days and have used it ever since. I’ve also used Macs some. From the horrible System 7 when I was in middle school to a much improved OSX. With that said, I think Apple has done some great things for the technology world. OSX is truly a great operating system and the Mac hardware is beautiful and functional (except rev. 1 products). The house that Jobs built is definitely a worthy competitor to the Microsoft world. The only reason that I have not owned a Mac is the price makes it hard for me to justify it, but to each his own.
So now let us dive in to the meat of my out of left field idea. Web Apps will be the killer of MacOS (and most desktop OSes) for the general public. Most of the computing public does a few things with their computers. They surf the web, edit a few documents, look at pictures, update their Twitter and Facebook status, and maybe play a casual game. All of these tasks can and do exist in the browser already. Now there are those of us who do other things that have to be native apps, but the majority of the computer owning public do not. Very few people are PC gamers, the consoles have taken the lion share of that market and the Mac platform has very few games written for it.
Since most things now run in the browser, how important is the OS. The OS is not going to die anytime soon, but as the browser becomes the main screen for most users why pay for the glitzy OS. Of course this argument also applies to Windows, but I see it affecting the Mac platform first. Why spend $2000 dollars for an iMac that can run OSX (even if it may be better) when all you need is a cheap windows PC with a functional browser? This is going to force Apple eventually to either lower the price of its systems, which given Apples reaction to the netbook segment seems unlikely, or cause a major paradigm shift for the general computing public. This leads me to my second reason, the iPhone.
I see the iPhone as the next widespread Mac platform. Going back to our mainstream user needs, what about that can the iPhone not do now? The Apple iPhone is everything the public wants, a cheap Mac. Apple has already shown that they can sell the hell out of the thing. Plus if I’m not mistaken, iPhone platform has more applications and games developed for it then OSX. The only thing missing from the iPhone is a larger screen (for document editing and better web browsing), a keyboard (for document editing and email), and more storage (for pictures and documents). I truly see in years to come the end of the iMac and Macbook. Instead I see “extenders” of the iPhone taking their place. How awesome would it be to have a larger screen on your desktop, with a keyboard, hard drive, and broadband network connection to dock your Apple iPhone in. Of course Apple would keep OSX and the Mac Pro for power users, but you could even have a Foleo type mobile dock for the phone to replace the Macbook. What about processor intensive tasks? Let us say Apple’s desktop dock has a graphics chip to offload the graphics tasks. Through OpenCL the iPhone OS can offload video processing, picture manipulation, etc. without requiring the phone to have a beefy processor. Ubiquitous computing would come true and I can see Apple being the only one to bring it to fruition. What else could lend credence to a shift like this? Take the gradual market shift from desktops to laptops. While laptop power has increased, it still is not close to the power on the desktop. It works though because a laptop has enough power to do what most people need it to. Even the iMacs that Apple produces now use mostly laptop components.
Now that I have the entire Apple fanboy world wound up, let me temper the flames by saying that this same paradigm shift will also affect Windows. It’s just going to take a lot longer to make the shift. Marketshare and business penetration will slow this progression on the Microsoft side. It would take a radical break from the status quo, architecture, and people to jump on the idea to make it come to fruition. Who else has the knowhow and balls to make this happen? Simple, Steve Jobs. It makes the acquisition of PA Semi and the patent from Apple a few years ago for a large docking station for a mobile device make sense don’t it?