Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had a reputation as a visionary, and, indeed, some of his views of the future displayed a profound to uncanny knack for predicting what will come in the future. Examples? The original Apple I, the Mac, the iPod, iTunes Music Store, iPhone and iPad, the iTunes App Store.
No, wait. Jobs missed that one completely. Yet, here we are years later, and Apple leads the technology world with applications. Mac, iPhone, and iPad customers use more applications than their Windows and Android relatives, and app developers make more money with the App Store than anywhere else.
One unfortunate aspect of predicting the future is that our view is always distorted by the present and the past. It’s a wonder anyone can predict anything with accuracy, including Steve Jobs and Apple’s famed designers and engineers. Yet, Apple continues to surprise customers with polished iterations of yesterday’s designs, and occasionally makes a leap toward the future with new designs that are well integrated into the so-called ecosystem.
Writing for The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance provides a glimpse into Apple’s forward thinking from a couple of decades ago. It wasn’t pretty. Think Newton PDA with videophone, stylus, and CD drive.
Seriously. That was the view of the future, but definitely based upon the past.
That vision was based upon technology as it existed then. When Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone it was met with howls of criticism, a public hostility that only Apple could survive. No 3G. No keyboard. What was Apple thinking?
That was then and this is now, so looking at the technology landscape as Apple has shaped it, can we see the future?
In details, no. But as generalized thoughts, perhaps.
In recent years the trend has been toward thinner, smaller, lighter, more powerful, always-on wireless devices with vivid screens, and with increased interoperability with other devices.
Many of us who live somewhat on the edge have multiple devices. Macs, iPhone, iPad, Watch, Apple TV, and a variety of Apple services, including Apple Music, iCloud storage, et al., and we’re beginning to see the home populated by additional devices which can be controlled by our Apple products.
I lament an obvious set of problems which do not seem to have a solution. Not that a single device can control many devices, but that Apple hasn’t figured out a way to control Apple’s own device settings and configurations from a single device.
I lament that how we communicate with our devices hasn’t improved much, despite speech recognition technology. Siri isn’t very smart. Neither are Siri’s competitors. They all perform a few tricks of action, but really are not yet useful. For the Mac, it’s point and click. For iPhone and iPad, it’s tap to control and navigate. Siri shows promise for Apple TV but navigating between networks and channels is worse than cable TV remotes.
Nothing Apple has created since Steve Jobs’ second coming has replaced the Mac. A PC still performs PC-like tasks, though we’ve managed to offload some functionality to our mobile devices. The iPhone and iPad do some of what the Mac does, but more. Watch, too, is an example of moving the bar forward, but incrementally. You don’t browse the web on Watch or compose email, but Watch can take functions away from iPhone and make them more conveniently managed.
Perhaps what we will see in the not-too-distant future are simpler devices that we can carry with us– iPhone-like perhaps (camera, video communication, calls, applications, Watch-like, even Apple Glasses-like with augmented reality displays– but completely connected to the cloud for everything else thanks to much faster wireless internet connections. How we connect to devices will grow in number and capability. Keyboard? Yes. Voice recognition? Of course. Touchscreens? Uh huh.
I see the interface to our devices coming to us; first in voice form, Siri-like. Then in visual form, Avatar-like, with greater personal interaction. Apple says the company is working on autonomous devices and many think that to be Apple Car. I don’t think so. Personal robots will be the order of the day in the future; not necessarily physical robots that are always at our beck and call, but a personal Siri-like robot with the ability to go wherever we go by posing within devices, physically in some cases, but as avatar everywhere else.
Seldom is the past an accurate reflection of what actually took place, and the future seldom is as clear as we want it to be.