There were relatively few hardware surprises at Apple’s press event on Thursday: Upgrades to the iPad line and a new iMac with 5K retina display were the headliners. The software news was more of a recap as well; most everything that Apple discussed today was mainly a recap of features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, which was covered previously by the company. So it wasn’t much of an event after all?
If you think so, you missed the underlying theme of Apple’s entire product line: After years of “merging” iOS and OS X, [company]Apple[/company] now offers a broad range of products across many price points that work seamlessly together, providing a ubiquitous computing experience that few others can.
PC vs tablet is getting old as is desktop vs mobile
Ironically, Apple started its Thursday event discussing how successful the iPad is, particularly in comparison to desktop computers. More than 225 million iPads have been sold in the first four years of availability; the most of any Apple product over the same time frame. And in the last 12 months, Apple sold 70 million iPads compared to Lenovo, the reigning PC sales leader, which sold 57 million computers.
We often draw these comparisons; I’ve done it time and again over the past five years as smartphones have evolved and tablets have replaced computers for some.
But it may be time to stop thinking of desktop vs. mobile or tablet vs. “real” computer. Instead, it’s time to consider how the cloud, software and hardware combine to let us do whatever computing task we need to do on the device we have in hand.
The Apple product line works in concert with Handoff and Continuity
At its event, Apple spent a fair amount time showing how this ubiquitous computing model works. Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering for Apple, used every device in Apple arsenal to illustrate this.
Starting with the iPhone, Federighi favorited some photos and added them to a presentation in Keynote. Picking up an iPad, he continued working on the presentation right where he left off, adding an embedded video sent to his email. A minute later, Federighi moved to a Mac, where he placed a voice call — which was routed over Wi-Fi to his iPhone — and got additional feedback on the presentation content.
The effort was seamless across three devices and two software platforms. And because Apple controls the entire end-to-end hardware and software chain — plus iCloud, which ties everything together — it didn’t matter what device Federighi was using: He simply got his work done.
While other companies are working on similar things, they’re not quite yet as far along as Apple is. Google is probably the closest with Android, Chrome, Chrome OS and Google Drive, but the experience isn’t as seamless and some of the best solutions still come from third-party apps; PushBullet is a perfect example. [company]Microsoft[/company], too, is making strides here with stronger cross-platform support among various devices from competitors.
Devices in every size, shape and price
There are still some things you’ll want a full computer for, just as there are other things that work just fine on a handset. Apple has it all covered now in every budget.
You can get the benefits of iOS 8 with an iPhone 5c for no cost on-contract, for example. or splurge on a loaded iPhone 6 Plus out of pocket for $949. Last year’s iPad now starts at $249, making the cost of acquiring an iPad less expensive than ever, while the new iPad Air 2 costs between $499 and $829, depending on storage and connectivity options. MacBooks start at $899 and reach up to $1,799.
The upgraded Mac Mini gets you an OS X desktop for $499 while the new iMac with retina 5K display is $2,000. And of course, there’s the Mac Pro which can be super-sized for maximum performance at $3,999.
No matter what you buy or how much you spend, all of these now work together like never before. Yes, Apple has “merged” iOS and OS X but not with a clunky MacBook laptop running tablet or phone software. Instead, the apps on both of Apple’s platforms and all of its devices work in tandem so that your choice of device or your location is less of a barrier to getting things done. You can move about freely between Apple desktops, laptops, tablets, phones; and eventually even your Apple Watch.
I’ll still be looking at the PC vs tablet numbers going forward but I don’t think they’re going to change my outlook: The idea of seamless, ubiquitous computing is closer than ever before and the companies that thrive in the next few years will be focused on bringing that experience to consumers regardless of their budget or device choice.