If you listen to Apple podcasts - and you really should, because ATP and Gruber's The Talkshow are a delight to listen to, even if it's sometimes infuriatingly inaccurate about Windows, Android, and Linux - you would know there's a lot of talk going on about what Apple is going to do to 'salvage' the iPad, and what Apple is going to do - if anything - to replace the Mac Pro. They sometimes take it a step further, and go into what the future of macOS and iOS is going to - will they continue to exist side-by-side? Will macOS be tightened up and made more like iOS, or will iOS be expanded to make it more like macOS?
These questions arise from Apple's seeming indifference towards the iPad, and the obvious situation with the lack of updates for the Mac Pro, the Mac Mini, and to a lesser degree even the iMac. On top of that, the rumour mill is running in overdrive, and it further fuel the fires of these discussions.
I've been thinking about this a lot these past few months, and I've been talking to people who know their Apple stuff, and the more I take a step back and look at all the discussions, rumours, and Apple's actions - and lack thereof - the more obvious it becomes: it seems like Apple is about to completely redefine its infamous product matrix.
In case you don't remember, back in the late '90s, Steve Jobs showed the following product matrix:
Before I show you what I think Apple is going to do, here are a few reasons underpinning it, in list form:
The Mac Pro was introduced to much fanfare, but hasn't been updated in - as of writing - more than three years.
Likewise, the Mac Mini hasn't been updated in well over two years.
The MacBook Air - the number one crowd pleaser among non-techy buyers - hasn't been updated in two years.
The iMac hasn't been updated in over 18 months.
Apple told Nilay Patel that the company is out of the standalone display business. If true, the logical extension of this would be that Apple is out of the headless Mac business. As John Gruber noted in the latest The Talkshow episode - do you really think Apple is going to put ugly LG monitors in its brand new, meticulously designed headquarters?
The rumour mill claims Apple is expected to expand its iPad lineup even further, with more Pro models.
iPads - even the basic models - have an insane amount of computing power, and newer models have lots of RAM and crazy fast processors. What for? To watch Netflix? I don't think so.
And last but not least: Apple debuted a number of new commercials last week, in which the company positions the iPad not as a companion device, but as your only device, touting its productivity features such as Microsoft Office support.
Add all this up, and I'm getting the feeling Apple is working towards a product matrix that looks more like this:
The basic gist is that I feel Apple is slowly but surely working towards positioning iOS computers as its consumer line, and macOS computers as its pro line.
Since I can already hear people tapping away at their keyboards about Xcode this and consumption device that - it's important to note that what is iOS today will be very different from what will be iOS in the future. iOS surely has its limitations right now - specifically things like awkward and cumbersome file management, no proper windowing, etc. - but there's no reason to assume that what iOS looks and feels like today is what it'll look and feel like forever.
A lot of people are exploring what an IDE and related software will look like on iOS (just follow Steven Troughton-Smith and Federico Viticci on Twitter - they talk a lot about production-oriented iPad applications). The problem here isn't that iOS can't do complex applications - the problem is that the application ecosystem isn't conducive to such complex applications, which is quite a big hole Apple dug itself into by letting the App Store model ravage the indie developer scene, race all prices to the bottom of the barrel, and creating the expectation that everything is either 99 cents or free.
Another issue easily spotted in the product matrix is that the iPad Pro awkwardly sits in the desktop line, even though it clearly isn't a desktop device. It could very well be that we'll eventually see an iOS desktop or desktop-like device, but I honestly don't think it's worth the effort. People have overwhelmingly voted with their wallets, and portable computing has resoundingly won.
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Turns out the processor/SoC in the latest two ChromeBooks - the Samsung models - are part of a wider program by Google.
The OP1 is built by Rockchip, which has made ARM processors for a while and isn't especially well-regarded among US consumers. And, strangely enough, even discovering that Rockchip makes the OP1 took a bit of sleuthing. The company doesn't have its brand anywhere near the Chromebook Plus. Also, the chip is called the OP1, which implies that there's going to be an OP2 and OP3 and so on. What exactly is going on here? Just what is OP?
Well! Turns out there's a website for answering that exact question, helpfully named whatisop.com. OP is a designation for SoCs that are optimized for Chrome OS. Naturally, I assumed it was a Rockchip brand - but that's not the case at all. And the website ostensibly designed to explain OP to us doesn't tell us who owns it (and it's even registered anonymously), so OP strangely mysterious.
Mystery solved: OP is a trademark owned by Google, and bestowed on SoCs that meet a Google spec for a good Chrome OS device. Basically, if a Chromebook has an OP processor, it means that Google certifies that itâs been optimized for Chrome OS.
Everybody is racing towards ARM laptops. Intel's decision to sell Xscale is probably going to be looked back upon as one of the worst decisions in technology history.
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