Luminaries Talk ‘State of Apple’ at Macworld Industry Forum


One of the new features at Macworld 2011 this year was a day (Wednesday, to be exact) set aside before the show floor opens for an Industry Forum where various Apple (s aapl) luminaries were invited to deliver their own “State of the Union” about where the market is headed. The quality of presentations varied, with some speakers providing a rehash of what we already know, but there were a few standouts that managed to convey some truly interesting ideas. Here are some highlights.

Bill Atkinson

Member of the original Macintosh team at Apple Computer; photographer; app developer

Trends in Human-Computer Interface

Bill Atkinson, a legend in the Mac community for his work on the original Macintosh team, used his time to talk about the future of human-computer interaction. His basic premise is that future interfaces will evolve from the standards set by smartphone interface design. In particular, Bill focused on earpiece-based interface design. Where they now include audio and touch controls, future earpieces will incorporate video as well to capture what is going on around you and store that in the cloud through your connected smartphone. Bill’s idea of a “memory prosthesis” is certainly future looking. One of the better presentations of the day.

Jason Snell

VP & Editorial Director, Mac Publishing, LLC (Macworld magazine)

How Apple Does “It”

Jason was another good speaker. He focused on a few elements that make Apple successful. One of the qualities he appreciates in Apple is the ability to self-edit and leave things out of the product until they are ready (floppies, Bluetooth, and other technologies for the Mac and cut-and-paste on the iPhone are good examples). Being ready doesn’t mean just solving the technical challenges, but solving the user experience. Another quality Jason sees in Apple is a lack of sentimentality about products that aren’t working. One anecdote about Steve Jobs is that when confronted with a collection of old Apple computers at a company party celebrating their anniversary, his response was to ship all that “junk” off to Stanford. “You can’t look back in this industry,” Steve said.

Colin Crawford

CEO, Media7; former Macworld magazine contributor

What You Need to Know: Tablet Publishing Models

My favorite line from Colin Crawford‘s talk: “Publishers depend on volume to create audiences that can be packaged up for marketers.” This view of the publishing business drives his opinion regarding what is coming for digital publication. An opinionated personality, Colin saved some of his most scathing criticisms for magazine apps that require an instruction manual to use. “If that’s the solution, we are headed in the wrong direction.”

John Gruber

Writer/publisher, Daring Fireball; developer

Apple and the Open Web: A Love Story

John recycled his talk from Web 2.0 in October to make the argument that Apple, while not a web company in the sense of delivering products and services exclusively through a consumer-facing website (like Google (s goog) or Facebook), is very much a web company in the sense of being dependent on HTTP to deliver content and services to its devices. A big part of John’s argument, and one I agree with, is that iOS and the web are not mutually exclusive. Native apps and web apps coexist quite nicely, and the App Store and the web aren’t at war with each other.

John Welch

Head of IT, The Zimmerman Agency; Macworld magazine contributor

Apple and the Enterprise

John Welch is a frequent contributor to Macworld magazine on the subject of Enterprise IT. In what amounted to a rant about people who complain that the Mac doesn’t fit with existing corporate IT, John repeatedly explained that the Mac fits in quite nicely. His strongest point was that even if Apple doesn’t lead the way in providing IT infrastructure solutions, the Mac and iOS devices play well with others that do provide that infrastructure.

Mike Lawrence

Executive Director, Computer-Using Educators (CUE)

Apple’s Role in Ubiquitous Learning

Mike talked about the future of education, which he described as being available anywhere and anytime, adapted to your learning style, and social. Apple devices are well positioned to provide a digital platform for not just textbooks that have been repurposed to the digital era, but also to new types of interactive learning content.

Alex Lindsay

CFO, Pixel Corps

The Here and Now, There and Tomorrow of Digital Video

Alex, known for his work on MacBreak, wrapped up the day talking about the future of video. He expanded on Mike’s talk about education by suggesting the human brain is wired to learn through watching someone else, that the modern habit of literacy and book-learning is only a recent development, and that people will turn to video as a return to the imitation method of learning once the distribution problem is solved. Of course, Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and other such devices are perfectly suited to deliver video to people wherever they happen to be.

The Industry Forum is a welcome addition to the Macworld schedule, and definitely proved to be an interesting way to spend a day. Follow the links above for more from any of the speakers whose thoughts sparked your interest, or share you own thoughts in the comments.

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