Apple’s iOS: Will It Change the Content of the Internet?

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Apple recently re-branded its iPhone OS to the less device-specific iOS, and not only because it seemed ridiculous to have the iPhone operating system powering the iPad, which is a decidedly different gadget. No, as rumors surrounding the upcoming iTV suggest, Apple wants to bring the touch-enabled, app-powered operating system to still more hardware platforms.

A new patent application making the rounds suggests that Apple’s plans for iOS go beyond its Apple TV revamp, too, and extend to the desktop. The patent in question describes a modular iMac, with the ability to pivot down to a more touch-friendly angle and the power to switch between OS X and iOS, depending on your needs at any given computing session.

Obviously, Apple considers its forays into touch-enabled mobile computing a success and wants to translate that success to its traditional desk and laptop computing divisions. Anyone who’s used an iDevice and/or gotten used to multi-touch gestures using either a Mac notebook trackpad or the recently released Magic Trackpad peripheral will likely attest to the convenience and ease of use of Apple’s take on touch computing. But can the iOS model be successful on more traditional computers, and who will reap the benefits of such a change?

In some ways, of course, a unified iOS platform across all devices will be a boon to consumers. Presumably, apps purchased for one platform will be installable and usable on each of the others (with limitations and exceptions, as evidenced by the iPad and iPhone differences). So your money will go farther, and a more uniform experience means that even the most casual computer users will get the most out of their devices.

But the consumer isn’t the party that stands to gain the most from a move towards iOS. Apps are the key to Apple’s mobile operating system, and apps, as we’ve seen, present a sort of “walled garden” version of the Internet for safer, more controlled consumption of content. Apple’s policies regarding the policing of that walled garden are of debatable merit, but what isn’t in question is the advantage to content producers.

By segmenting, repackaging and reselling focused content bundles in the form of apps, Apple is making it possible for web content creators to charge users directly for their wares, instead of having to rely on the unpredictable revenue stream provided by advertising, which has by far been the dominant model to date. The widespread availability of free information on the web has been cited as responsible for the gradual decline of traditional media outlets, like print news.

iOS on more devices means more potential revenue sources for media providers and content creators, and could provide the boost that journalism is looking for. Ironically, it should help Google, too, since the relevance of its search capabilities depends upon the continued production of good and useful information sources, which apps could help fund in a big way going forward.

Of course, the upshot is that Apple gets to operate as the arbiter of taste and morality for all of the content that passes through its gates. Is it a small price to pay for the continued sustainability of media production, or a pill you’re ultimately unwilling to swallow?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Rogue Devices: The Consumer Influence On Enterprise Mobility, Part 1

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