Including Windows 8, all of the five biggest Operating Systems on the planet have app stores: Windows (8), Mac, iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The app stores all users to easily download and purchase apps in an enclosed environment with minimal effort. It is possible to press two buttons and to have an app instantly download and install. Ten years ago it was normal to have to go somewhere (or Amazon), purchase a disk, wait for it to arrive, put the disk into your computer, wait for the installer to load, go through a complex process to install, wait for it install, reboot and then eventually use the software.
Thanks to the major change in the way we get software developers and users have had many lasting benefits. It has helped to grow the software industry – especially the mobile software industry – and has also meant that users have a stronger variety of software on their computers. Since they were invented app stores have really helped developers as well because it means they don’t have to build trials, installers, update managers or complex license control systems. Many IDEs make it a two or three minute process to get an app onto a market.
Windows will be the last of the major platforms to get an app store and this really is going to be a problem. It will certainly be a good thing for Windows and I am sure it is going to be successful however I think it is too little too late. If Microsoft had launched an app store with Windows 7 it would have been a huge success and I should imagine Windows software would be very different however they were too late getting it onto Windows 8. Obviously Windows 8 is going to be a game changer, but it relies on a decent app store. Microsoft failing to provide this would be Windows’ downfall, but on the upside it could give Microsoft a decent shot at Apple.
Nobody can deny that Apple is a little over priced (ignore the iPhone in the above picture – it is on contract). Their cheapest computer is $600 and you cam build a similar spec PC for almost half that price. It is rumored that Apple make about $400 profit on every single iPad that they sell. Despite this Apple somehow get away with selling products for far more than the average market price. It defies the laws of economics.
The first reason is almost certainly exclusivity. Apple market OS X as the world’s best desktop OS and iOS as the best mobile OS (which it is). By only selling the operating systems on their devices and optimizing those devices for their operating systems they are essentially charging extra for the operating system. The design probably also comes in as well – Apple products are a fashion item and therefore people should be charged extra for them.
Arguably the next reason makes sense: Apple products are very good at being the best product in their market. Nobody buys regular MP3 players these days because the iPod is the MP3 player and nobody buys anything else because they have no reason to. The iPad is the best tablet. The iPhone is the best smart phone. The Mac is best at some stuff.
But the third reason is even more important and its that Apple got there first. Apple pretty much invented the style of GUI operating systems. They invented the MP3 player. They invented the smart phone (or at least they invented the touch smart phone). They invented the tablet. Because Apple invented the product, and therefore pretty much invented the market, they were able to invent the price. Apple fans are willing to pay the Apple price because it is the price.
The fan community also helps move things along because as my developer-user circle theory states, where the nerds go first the crowd follows (and sometimes the opposite way round).
Charlie Miller, a security researcher, noticed a bug in iOS a while ago that would allow apps to run unsigned code in apps. All code in apps on the App Store has to be signed or approved by Apple to ensure that it is safe for the device however Miller found a way round this in iOS 4.3 that allowed him to put dangerous code into any app. He even managed to develop an app that would fetch and run unapproved code allowing the app to do things that Apple hadn’t said it could do.
Clearly if the bug had been found by someone that wasn’t a security researcher it could have been incredibly dangerous as hackers could have used it to exploit iPhones across the world to obtain users’ credit or even credentials. The iPhone was designed to be secure and so it would clearly be a problem if people were able to do this.
Apple removed Miller’s developer license because he had (technically) broken the license agreement by releasing the app. It is perfectly legal for them to do so because he did break the law with the app, however it would probably have been best if Miller had tested the bug before alerting Apple so that they could deal with it internally.
A similar procedure is adopted by Google and Mozilla who frequently offer bounties to developers that are able to find bugs in their open-source software. If Miller had acted in this way it would have been reasonable for Apple to offer a bounty, but because he broke the developer agreement it makes sense he was kicked off.
Many professionals in the creative market are beginning to move away from Macs and onto PCs thanks cheap hardware, matte screens and better software availability. In recent years (after the move to Intel processors) Apple has dramatically grown in the consumer market and is making over $1 billion a month on Mac sales. People are first attracted to the iPod, iPhone and iPad and then go for the full Apple experience by buying a Mac.
Clearly Apple has realized that the consumer market will be big business for them, and so is aiming more of its software and hardware at that end of the market. This was most recently highlighted by Final Cut Pro X alienating many professional users with too simple features and lack of support for old plugins and files. Therefore, many professionals have moved all their work over to PC thanks to better professional software availability.
The problem is, Microsoft might be about to do exactly the same thing to professionals on PC with Windows 8. The new Metro interface isn’t that great on a desktop without touch and it is increasingly difficult to just work in the standard desktop mode. The OS is tablet based, and this is a major issue because a lot of design work still involves a mouse and a keyboard or a drawing device for illustration work. A tablet doesn’t really allow for this.
So if Apple and Microsoft are alienating the professionals, where does this leave them? Surely the answer is Linux, and it is perfectly reasonable for them to use Linux – there is a wealth of software available and it isn’t actually that difficult to code software for Linux as all the main development tools are incredibly well supported and open-source meaning that Windows and Mac developers are able to continue in their usual fashion. As well as languages such as C, C++ and C# other languages such as Python, Java and Objective-C are also available, making it incredibly easy to move over.
And Linux is getting better by the day with Fedora and Ubuntu both being very stable and mature operating systems – I use Ubuntu just as much as Windows because it is just as capable. All it requires is for the larger software companies that develop the design software to make the jump – and they don’t really need to change much.
Apple is honestly the most incredible company in existence. The only thing that has really gone wrong for them in the last few years is Ping – everything else has been a success. And they’ve just done something to change it all again: the new Macs. The first major release was one that we already knew about: Mac OS X Lion. This is nothing new and I’ve certainly blogged loads about it. But we had some more surprises instead: a new Mac Mini, new MacBook Airs and a new ThunderBolt display (basically a slightly updated version of the old, but still stunning – if not expensive, Cinema Displays).
The new Mac Mini looks pretty similar to the old one, but this one is clearly going to be a big upgrade, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for buying one – they’re expensive but they are incredibly good, and fast. According to the Apple website the graphics and CPU are about twice as fast (but there is some complicated reasoning behind this, so for the majority of people this probably isn’t true). It appears to be smaller, but it looks great.
Then there is the new MacBook Air, again this looks very similar to the last, though there is not as great a speed improvement, it is more just Apple making sure all the Macs support ThunderBolt technology properly. Having said that, it is a MacBook Air with Lion, which is cool. But there is a very, very big change. This MacBook Air hasn’t just killed the old model; it appears to have killed the legendary MacBook. Those beautiful white (and black, I hear you cry) creations that were there to replace the ancient iBooks. Sadly, this is the end for the classic MacBook.
This isn’t my final WWDC post, but here is a summary of everything so far:
- Notice this: https://www.me.com/maintenance/
- Hmmm. apple.com/mobileme still exists in its old form, but there is no apple.com/icloud.
- iCloud will work on iOS, Mac OSX and PC (WHAT?)
- Apple wants to kill the file system and claims to have been attempting to do so for the last 10 years. Poor FAT
- Syncs everything included documents, app data and purchases
- iCloud gives free no-ad @me.com e-mail address. Might get one
- OMG It’s free!
- iCloud gets all the old MobileMe
- iCloud time indeed. Everything is synced between Mac, iPod, iPhone, everything
- Steve Jobs back on. iCloud time?
- SDK seems to have doubled in content
- Apple just being Apple and showing off how amazing iOS5 will be
- Wow! No one saw iMessage coming – new service that pushes message, videos and audio between iOS users. This will kill BBM.
- Apple boasting how XBOX Live only has 30 million users in eight years, but Game Center has 50 million, and its improving
- Apps now update OTA
- iPad and iPhone area now a computer in their own right, no need for PC
- Mail app allows keyboard to split across screen on iPad
- Oh Gizmodo Live is back
- Camera has been tidied up, a few editing options have been edited
- Showing off a Reminders app
- iOS Safari has actual tabs and feed reader!
- Twitter is everywhere, interesting because Twitter was bought TweetDeck last week…
- Newsstand – news reading app will download newspaper and magazine subscriptions directly in the background – probably best for iPad, me thinks
- iOS getting notifications, they’ll appear on app icons and in the new Notification Center, available by swiping fingers down from the top of the screen
- iOS is #1 mobile OS apparently
- iOS 5 time!
- Lion will only be available as a download from the Mac App Store, meaning that there will be very few true Hackintoshes left…
- Mail has been tidied up
- New feature called AirDrop, pretty much like Dropbox, but Apple specific
- Full-screen apps are everywhere
- Lion is being demoed quite a lot
- Mission Control is basically how applications are managed
Right now I am standing in an Apple Store in front of an iPad 2. I’m even blogging from it. Last week there was talk of people queuing outside over twelve hours early just to get their hands on it – today I walked in half an hour after the store opened and I was the only person using an iPad. Not what you would expect from the hottest gadget of about the month, seen as Apple will almost certainly bring out something newer and shinier for nerds (and the ‘normal’ members of the population) to get excited about.
Despite all of the hype, the iPad 2 really isn’t particularly stunning. It is noticeably faster, but it is isn’t really fast. The screen isn’t very different either and frankly the only major difference is that it is a little bit smaller, it comes in two colors and it has a couple of cameras like the other current generation iOS devices.
Of course it was slightly inevitable that there would be some difference in what it was like as a device, however I don’t think that it will be used particularly different to the last iPad, FaceTime is simply a bonus that you can use, because ultimately you can use the iPad for the same old stuff, browsing the net, watching movies and messing around on apps. There are new apps, but most will run on the ‘old’ iPad.
Quite simply, buy the iPad 2 if you want one and don’t have iPad 1. If you have an iPad 1 but ‘need’ (I say need because a webcam that costs thirty bucks can do an equally good job plugged into your PC) FaceTime then just buy the Mac app, or an iPod Touch 4G. Just remember, iPad 2 is just a big ol’ iPod Touch.