Daniel Eran Dilger
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Ten Big Predictions for Apple in 2009

200901152129

Daniel Eran Dilger

Two years ago, Apple teased Macworld Expo audiences with the line, “the first 30 years were just the beginning. Welcome to 2007.” Since then, the company has has regularly embarrassed naysayers by repeatedly reinventing itself and successfully adding major new lines of business, although the market has failed to recognize any net appreciation in the company over that period.
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Throughout 2006, Apple had aggressively resisted any encroachment into its iPod territory that it had built up over the previous half decade, while it also turned Mac OS X into a credible enough alternative to Windows to woo a new generation of Mac buyers away from Microsoft’s faltering PC monopoly. What would the company do for an encore in 2007? Release a mobile Mac in the shape of a cell phone, and immediately redefine and raise the bar for the largest and fastest growing electronic product category in the world: the smartphone.

The following year of iPhone mania was assaulted at regular intervals by mainstream pundits with derision and skepticism, but their myopic outlook was ultimately crushed into the ground by Apple’s steamroller juggernaut, leaving an obvious path for competitors to follow, even if none have actually been able to chase the company down over the last two years since the iPhone was unveiled.

What a difference a year makes: 2008.

For 2008, the company had seemingly little left to do. Apple did just the opposite of what pundits expected; rather than roll out a cheap ‘nano’ feature phone and a Mac branded netbook mini laptop, the company instead enhanced the iPhone and revamped its entire laptop lineup into a high performance, aluminum unibody design that brought it further upscale rather than reducing its notebooks into the level of the wildly hyped, low margin, poorly performing netbook segment.

In addition to hardware, Apple rolled out software technology for the iPhone and iPod touch that enabled developers to add value to the new mobile platform. One of the first apps was Apple’s own Remote, which fulfilled the second prediction I levied for the year (the first was an easy one, a mini MacBook: “With a full resolution 13” screen and multitouch trackpad, the unit could even do without a mechanical hard drive and optical drive reader and instead use a Flash RAM based system“).

”WiFi goodness“ and ”bonjour remote ready“ ended up features of Remote and (independently) in few third party apps, but Apple hasn’t yet turned discoverable, embedded web apps into a serious product strategy yet. Last year I recommended, ”Apple could first roll the idea out in software by adding a simple web server listener in Mac OS X with modules to allow third parties to advertise services to iPhone devices and interact and respond with them. That would enable input features such as remotely controlling interfaces such as FrontRow/Apple TV, or alternatively output features such as watching a streaming video new podcast, movie, music video from your iTunes library on the iPhone or similar devices.“

Apple’s notification server for iPhone software, unveiled at WWDC, was an alternative mechanism to solve a different set of problems, but Apple still hasn’t completed that system either; it was intended for delivery back in September.

Third party apps in general did follow the course I predicted. ”Once the iPhone SDK arrives, Apple’s OS X platform will be inundated with the largest surge in developer interest ever. Imagine something bigger than pairing the Mac market with NeXT technology: visualize the opposite of the Windows Vista yawn.“

Apple hasn’t followed my suggestions for developing a Wii iTunes channel for selling music to family gamer yet, nor has it done anything public to push Ubiquitous AirPort WiFi. It also has yet to deliver anything like the Xserve mini concept, although the Airport Extreme now has basic file and backup server features. Other branding efforts I pointed to as having potential were either left out in the cold or backed away from; Apple has done little to promote Bonjour, Image Capture, or FireWire.

The other big omission was development of the iPhone’s latent, hibernating Bluetooth. No wireless speakers or stereo headphones, nor any third party developer access. If Apple had no interest in developing Bluetooth, it would make sense for it to open it up for other developers to target. Clearly, the company has plans of its own, still deeply up those turtleneck sleeves of Mr. Jobs.

Ten Big Predictions for Apple in 2008

Next for 2009.

So what about this year? The iPhone likely will get cheaper for China and India, probably without WiFi. But it won’t be limited otherwise, with the same full resolution screen and the same software SDK. This will dramatically increase Apple’s market share and visibility in emerging markets. If you’re wondering why this wasn’t shown at Macworld, consider the disappointment that would have emanated from its Western audience upon finding that the new hardware was targeted at China. This is something that will only please investors and people on that side of the globe.

Apple needs to release Bonjour discovery for mobile Safari to make the iPhone’s web browser more than just a way to read the web. It has the potential to make the iPhone the touch screen display and control pad for literally millions of devices with just a cheap embedded web server, from kitchen appliances to cars to stereo equipment to security systems. Everything will simply advertise itself, initiate a secure connection, authenticate, and then allow for ubiquitous control from a single, pocket sized device with a standard, intelligent human interface.

Additionally, the company appears ready to deliver a mechanism for creating and syncing self contained web apps. I assumed this would appear before Apple released its Cocoa SDK, but the pressure to deliver high performance apps that would differentiate the iPhone (and iPod touch) clearly impacted the company’s priorities. Being able to create simple offline web apps that can work on the iPhone even without an active network connection would result in a flurry of HyperCard-like development of simple, useful applets built using HTML and JavaScript, taking advantage of the HTML5 support Apple has built into Safari and WebKit.

Apple’s Secret iPhone Application Business Model

What else? IP Telephony. Apple needs to add an analog phone jack to its Airport Express, Extreme, and Time Capsule products that allows users to place internet calls at no extra cost via the phone they already own. The company could also release actual WiFi IP headsets that allow for Internet calls and video conferences between users on a local network. The iPhone and iPod touch also need native (as in Apple-supplied) IP telephony apps, as third party apps lack the ability to seamlessly bridge incoming calls from the cell network over IP. Apple needs to convince AT&T and its other partners that the best way to provide great phone service is to allow users to set up their own WiFi IP telephony at home. This would also help take some of the iPhone burden off of AT&T’s cell towers, particularly in places where the company’s 3G service is weak or terrible. Market data from AdMob indicates that the iPhone demands up about half of the data traffic on AT&T’s network.

Apple’s Next Killer App

Apple has been deafeningly silent on Bluetooth since it upgraded its Macs to the latest 2.0 EDR spec. Why isn’t anything happening on the iPhone? Clearly there’s a strategy that just hasn’t come together enough to be released. Hopefully, this will be the year that Apple squeezes out a functional support for stereo headphones, its own wireless keyboard, and Bluetooth printing, file transfers, and so on. Third parties would be happy to contribute great innovations here, too. The iPhone with a Bluetooth keyboard would be more practical than a netbook, which can’t fit in a pocket nor serve as a full performance notebook. It Apple afraid that an iPhone with functional text entry would eat into its notebook sales? It shouldn’t be, and the company probably makes as much selling an iPhone as selling a notebook. And, of course, iPhone users need to sync to something.

From iDay in SF: A Finer EDGE and New Bluetooth Info

Apple’s got a foot in the water with online apps, but needs to jump in with an Online Apps Store. It’s got the MobileMe apps under its belt, and now it has the iWork.com viewer with collaboration features. Add some simple editing features to iWork.com and you have the online office suite everyone has been anticipating will be a big deal, except in Apple’s case it will further sales of iWork rather than attempt to replace desktop software with an online equivalent. Things would really get interesting if Apple opened a store selling access to the online apps of third party developers. The company already has the billing infrastructure in place; all it needs to do is set up an expansion of MobileMe that allows users to try and buy online apps usable from any modern browser. They might even work well enough in Internet Explorer.

Of course, anyone can host web apps; Apple is fairly unique in that it can offer a web services store, tied into MobileMe, which syncs data to its mobiles and associated Mac or PC desktops. Apple has already developed a suite of server apps for Leopard Server, which includes its open source CalDAV Calendar Server, soon to be joined by Snow Leopard’s Address Book Server, as well as the slick Wiki services that support ”click to edit in place“ updates. The company needs to coordinate its MobileMe online web apps and services with its server tools, allowing companies to host their own MobileMe-style web apps on one hand, while also hosting its Mac OS X calendar collaboration and wiki services in a business version of MobileMe.

Cocoa for Windows + Flash Killer = SproutCore
Inside MobileMe: Web 3 and Web Client-Server apps

While Snow Leopard Server promises to bring customized wiki themes to the iPhone, Apple hasn’t been vocal on when it will support basic task and to do sync. The iPhone needs help in the PIM area. Mac OS X’s Mail got to do and event support in Leopard, and MobileMe already syncs todo data between computers. It just needs event and todo sync to mobile devices.

Apple’s incrementally improving Mail, iCal, and Address Book could also benefit from either baked in support for Getting Things Done tools, or the provision for software module support in Mail that would enable third parties to add additional functionality. The company seems reluctant to deliver plugin-style APIs to its applications, perhaps in the fear that it will have to maintain those extension APIs and police them for security threats, while being tied down by third party software and unable to either add its own version of the same features in the future without hearing complaints from the community.

Using iPhone: Notes, ToDos, Attached Files, and Mac OS X Leopard

Outside of its free apps bundled with Mac OS X, Apple has already started 2009 off with a software bang in introducing iLife and iWork (and Apple’s FileMaker subsidiary also released a new version of its applications as well). Also due this year is a likely update to Aperture, Final Cut Studio, Logic Studio, and the new compositing app intended to replace Shake, code named Phenomenon. And of course Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Snow Leopard Server, and a new iPhone 3.0 update are planned for arrival this year.

WWDC 2008: Future UI Designs in Mac OS X 10.6
Ten Big New Features in Mac OS X Snow Leopard
Is Apple Shedding its Final Cut Pro Apps at NAB?

On the Mac hardware front, 2009 appears to be the year that 64-bit, multi-core, multiple-processor, GPGPU processing erupts all together into a volcano of number crunching potential. Being able to harness and coordinate all those engines is the job of Snow Leopards Grand Central. Together with its 64-bit kernel and OpenCL, Snow Leopard will enable a shift in computing architectures for Apple, allowing the company more flexibility in how it builds and designs systems, from conventional computers to mobile devices to dedicated appliances like Apple TV and Airport Extreme.

Rather than a single hot CPU with a dedicated GPU for running games, Apple’s PCs will be able to take advantage of multiple CPU and GPU cores in parallel for all kinds of tasks. Add in Apple’s uniquely processor agnostic Mac OS X operating system, which happily runs on both Intel x86 as well as embedded mobile ARM processors, and the potential for all kinds of new silicon designs from its acquisition of PA Semi, and the company’s potential over the next five years becomes simply impossible to chart. It will be fun to observe it in motion however, and I’ll certainly be working hard to keep up with new developments.

What do you see (or hope) is on the horizon for Apple this year as the company prepares to enter a new decade on sitting comfortably on top of digital media distribution, mobile device sales, software platform development, and poised for dynamic growth in whatever areas it chooses to target?

Road to Mac OS X Snow Leopard: 64-bit to the Kernel
OpenCL and OpenGL take on DirectX

Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas.

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  • danpoarch

    Good read.

    I think what we’ll actually see from Apple is a lot of professional app improvement based around Snow Leopard. Apple has been quiet on the professional front during the iPhone bubble. I could see a lot more pro back-end support arriving this year.

    I was surprised that iLife 09 didn’t come with a server function. I know everyone has their eyes on the cloud, but there’s a microclimate in everyone’s house full of MP3s, JPEGs and MPEGs. It would be nice if this new MacMini was actually a lovely home server that could look like any other Airport-style hub, but function as the media center of the Apple family life.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    Ah, the Apple home server. I do believe Daniel has a long track record in wanting one of those as well.

    It is hopefully the natural task for this year’s Mac mini remake. But we’re yet to see.

  • http://www.markalanthomas.com marsviolet

    Hey, Apple already has a wireless bluetooth keyboard. I’m using one!

  • mikeg

    From a professional perspective, I am looking forward to seeing how Snow Leopard works out with the GPGPU capability as I see demanding image processing and visualization becoming an OS X stronghold in the future.

  • wings

    I won’t be greedy in what I want to see from Apple this year. Just give me reminder beeps for a missed call and I’ll be happy.

  • matthewadavid

    Dan,

    Good to see you posting your great articles again.

    I think that 2009 can be one of two things for Apple: 1) with the world in recession and Job’ health in the spotlight, this can be the year for tackling the “less than sexy” updates of system architecture and infrastructure. In other words, get the house in shape for 2010.

    The other thing that Apple could do is, as they have done in the past, walk to the beat of a different drum. Bring out a great new OS, new computing hardware; extend the breadth of consumer products (a new iPhone, new iPods and a real AppleTV solution would be great) and build on the Web services.

    The consumer products and software will be easy for Apple to sell. After all, they have been doing a great job of this for the last 10 years. I think the harder market will be convincing the world that Apple has products in MobileMe.com and iWorks.com that are seriously worth investing in. That is a much harder job and will require the same kind of marketing chops as the iPhone and iPod enjoy.

    I am realistic that Apple may choose the safe road and go for a safe year, but I hope they don’t.

  • qka

    @marsviolet

    It isn’t so much that Apple doesn’t make a Bluetooth keyboard, it’s that the iPhone (& iPod touch) don’t work with an external Bluetooth keyboard as a replacement for the on-screen keyboard. That external keyboard could be the existing model that you have or a new model that might be compact, folding, and all sorts of other portable wonderful.

  • stefn

    Rant alert.

    The netbook explosion says that small is beautiful. But no Apple netbooks please. A larger yet pocketable iPod Touch can be the next big thing. A Mac that we keep with us anywhere, anytime. Just like a wallet.

    … The front jeans pocket is the new rear jeans pocket.

    The “MacTROU” (for The Rest of Us) can be untethered, like the Kindle providing anywhere, anytime web access via EVDO. But many times better than the Kindle, this Mac can connect to ALL our files online at MobileMe.

    … It’s all about selling solutions, not simply gizmos.

    Here’s the big Apple shift: The MacTROU can be cheap, like a razor, ‘cuz Apple can charge for all kinds of razorblades: the connectivity, the subscription to MobileMe, purchases of software and services, books, audio, video, banking, whatever, which can then reside online, always available to the MacTROU user. All of these revenues can flow directly to Apple.

    … Money is the ultimate content stream.

  • nelsonart

    I’d like to see Apple apply their user-friendly skills towards making MobileMe workgroup friendly. There are workarounds for making MM work in an office, but Apple can really do something slick to make all their main OS components function together in a way that really enhances productivity.

    As far as hardware, I’m horrible at prediction and don’t possess Dan’s knowledge to venture anything intelligent.

    If I had a wishlist, however, it’d be that Apple lead the way with OLED display technology. And as long as we are nearing solid state, let’s also venture towards friction free as well. Would it be possible for Apple to design a connector for their iPods that is similar to the magsafe connector on their laptops? I hate the idea of smunching my iPod touch onto my Zeppelin speakers, knowing that I’ve gone through several bases for my iPod 5g due to the connector absorbing the daily abuse of alignment variances and wear from friction.

    As long as I’m on a roll, perhaps a new power innovation such as a fuel cell or whatever nano-tech innovations brewing in nerd labs across this country. There has to be a better way to push electrons than our current battery technology.

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  • John E

    we’ve all got a list. Dan’s is good really because it addresses connectivity items that would expand Mac products into universal products.

    my baseline is Apple MUST address the primitive limitations of AppleTV and MobileMe this year or really fall far behind MS (XBox and LiveMesh) and the others who really are moving ahead. 2009 is now or never.

    it is frustrating that Apple, in these and other aspects, seems unwilling to realize the full practical potential of its outstanding technology. i know Jobs loves focusing and dumbing down, but like anything else, that can be over-done.

  • Janus

    In 2009 (or early 2010) Apple will face renewed competition from Windows 7 (which, worthy or not, will dispel the Vista FUD that has worked
    to the benefit of Apple over the last 2 years) and the Palm Pre (or whoever buys Palm and more effectively markets its potentially brilliant webOS).

    I’d like to see Apple refocus on Mac and iPhone innovation or it’s going to be 1995 all over again…

    I’d like to see Apple suing more companies for violating their “200 iPhone patents”

  • carlo.98

    Hi Dan,
    Long time reader and fan here, but new to posting. :)

    I believe that Apple will hitch on the cloud computing buzz but on a totally different angle. Most of the time when you here that term it’s about a user connecting to somebody else’s cloud; a move that gives less power to the user. But what if you can have a piece of your very own cloud? What if you have your own server delivering your own content to your own client? In other words, what if you own a Mac and an iPhone?

    The original iMac was billed as an easy way to connect to the internet. A billing that has been passed on to the iPhone. Current generation iMacs are overkill for the usual browsing, email, word processing and chat, (which were it’s old bread and butter). It could do so much more (not counting multimedia creation). So along the years, I fully expect features found in OS X Server to migrate to the iMac (so it still fully deserves it’s internet-Mac name)

    But here’s my specific 2009 prediction. It came to me because I was shopping for a good router and found this: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/biz/4824323.html. Apparently, the Airport Extreme cannot enable stealth mode unlike every other router out there. The Mac appfirewall is the one that implements stealth mode. It makes the Airport Extreme discoverable as a default. With Bonjour enabled, it’s almost a lighthouse in the world wide web. But why do it that way?

    A separate home server was created to solve the following problem: How do I get data I left at my home PC? The first answer is to connect your PC to the net. But your data might be on the PC that is not connected to the net or you might have accidentally deleted it. Not to mention that exposing your PC to the web is electronic suicide. So you make a home server as a centralized back-up of all your computers and you make it discoverable in the web. But configuring back-ups is a bitch and making it safely internet connectable even more so. If only there was a company specializing in seamless integration of various consumer electronic devices. Oh, wait.

    Macs already have a seamless automatic back-up in Time Machine. It also has an easily internet discoverable seamless centralized storage of all your Macs in Time Capsule. All that’s left is an easy-to-use seamless interface on iPhones (and Macbooks and the Touch) to retrieve data from your Time Machine/Capsule back-ups (instead of directly from your securely firewalled, stealthed and Little Snitched Mac) over the whole wide internet. Apple could call it, Time Travel.

    To sum up: iMac = server. iPhone = client. Time Travel for 2009. And you too can own a cloud.

  • http://ideasengine.cytv.com cy_starkman

    If you want the direction Apple is going…

    Look to the iPod launch, something subtle happened, recording.

    The future is not consumption, we’re all on that wagon. It’s creation. Not YouTube, I’m talking… Well, actually, I have said enough…

  • t0m

    I’d echo some of what you’ve said, and also cy_starkman.
    iLife 09 seemed to be stage setting for integration of content creation for Apple from the current crop of iPhones, but more specifically potentially for v3 iPhone which likely will have video content creation possibilities alongside geotagged pictures at >2 MP.
    Look at the Flip – it’s doable, useful. The small Facebook detail from the keynote – seems sorely passed over by the media – Apple could outsource tagging of photos to all your Facebook contacts, sync it both ways/1 way, and then be able to have a full local store/MobileMe store of your photos (vs. the pain of getting your photos/contact information from Facebook (similar to trying to export contacts off MobileMe a while back?)).

    Editing capabilities? If they were doable for Microsoft Office 2007 files/ iWork files would be great. I know of many situations still were someone hasn’t been able to access .docx files for example, and yet they can pass it to an iPhone and read from there…

    Apple said copy and paste wasn’t a priority. Would be interesting to rank potential new features/adding sorely missed features.

    Integration also at the Snow Leopard level. As you said – PIM – something that Palm Pre demos showed was theoretically possible
    – your adresses, appointments, maps, contacts, pictures
    – your addressses, appointments maps, contacts, location, pictures of/with your contacts

    – Basic tasks. Notes, todos, events… GTD.

    Your Omnifocus, your Things, they are good – but they could be helped.
    Apple could really do good things with Grand Central, and help Education, Science etc.
    Will it use that potential power from concurrency in the server field?

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