Google, Apple and the future of personal computing

I confess: My last post, about the Zonbu, was frivolous. The Zonbu will be lucky to be a footnote in the history of 21st century computing. Yes, it has the right model, more or less. What it doesn’t have is the muscle.

I know precisely what the future of personal computing looks like – and you do, too, if you’ve been paying attention. If you haven’t been paying attention, I’m going to lay it out for you now. (I’ve been waiting patiently for Robert X. Cringely to explain it – he’s a pro at this kind of thing – but since he appears to be asleep at the big switch, the task falls on me.) The future of personal computing was divulged by Mr. Eric Schmidt, the chief executive officer of Google, on March 23 of this year during an interview with Wired’s Fred Vogelstein. Vogelstein asked Schmidt why he had recently joined Apple’s board of directors, and Schmidt responded:

Google’s architectural model around broadband and services and so forth plays very well to the powerful devices and services Apple is doing. We’re a perfect back end to the problems that they’re trying to solve. And they have very good judgment on user interface and people. They don’t have this supercomputer I’m talking about, which is the data centers.

At this very moment, in a building somewhere in Silicon Valley, I guarantee you that a team of engineers from Google and Apple are designing a set of devices that, hooked up as terminals to Google’s “supercomputer,” will define how we use computers in the future. You can see various threads of this system today – in Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, its dot-mac service, its iLife and iWork applications as well as in Google’s Apps suite and advertising system, not to mention its vast data-center network. What this team is doing right now is weaving all those threads together into what will be, for most of us, the fabric of cloud computing. (This is so big, you need at least two metaphors to describe it.)

Here’s how the partnership works. Apple is taking responsibility for “the user interface and people.” It’s designing the devices themselves, which will be typically elegant machines that run versions of OS X. While Apple puts together the front end of the integrated network-computing system, Google provides “the perfect back end” – the supercomputer that provides the bulk of the data-processing might and storage capacity for the devices. While the devices will come with big flash drives to ensure seamless computing despite the vagaries of network traffic, all data will be automatically backed up into Google’s data centers, and those centers will also serve up most of the applications that the devices run. The applications themselves will represent the joint efforts of Google and Apple – this, I’m sure, is the trickiest element of the partnership – and will be supplemented, of course, by myriad web-delivered software services created by other companies (many of which will, in due course, also run on Google’s supercomputer).

Let’s look at a few of the advantages that a Google-Apple Cloud Computer offers:

1. It will be cheap. The introductory machine, a small, general-purpose Apple-branded computer, will go on sale for $199 and in short order the price will fall to $99. There will be no monthly charge for all the applications you use or the data you store – Google will serve all of that up, along with advertisements, naturally, for free. Premium business accounts, without ads, will go for $50 a month, the same price that Google Apps currently goes for.

2. It will be highly energy-efficient. The Cloud Computer, outfitted with a low-power chip, a flash drive and a superefficient LED screen and lacking any optical drive (plug in a usb drive if you need one), will consume a small fraction of the power that a traditional PC burns through. The first model may well be marketed as “the Prius of PCs” and flaunted by celebrities. (Watch for an ad featuring George Clooney.)

3. It will be low-maintenance. With few moving parts and software served up from distant data centers, the machine will be highly reliable and basically immune to viruses and other nasties. Eventually, it will fail, of course. At which point you’ll trade it in for a new one (recycling included), which as soon as you plug it in will precisely replicate the former one. You’ll be about as concerned with “PC maintenance” as you are with refrigerator maintenance. Upgrades and patches? Forget about ‘em.

4. It will be flexible. Because your data and applications are stored centrally, you will automatically have full access to them whenever you buy a new Google-Apple device (maybe they’ll license the system to other manufacturers, too) or walk up to a public terminal. Forget about syncing, forget about thumb drives, forget about backups. You’ll never think about that stuff again. All your data is with you all the time.

Why do you think Google is spending billions of dollars a year building data centers? Why do you think Microsoft is madly trying to catch up, spending even more billions than Google? It’s not just search and ads. What’s at stake is control over personal computing itself – and Microsoft knows that, confronting the combined front-end and back-end skills of Google and Apple, it’s at a big disadvantage. It will likely lose this war.

So how how long before the first Google-Apple Cloud Computer appears? I would say it’s months, not years. And then the fireworks really begin.

31 Comments

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31 Responses to Google, Apple and the future of personal computing

  1. timswan

    I have no doubt that you’re correct that Apple and Google are likely working on something like this, and that the partnership could very well produce something new and groundbreaking. One question: how will you run applications outside the basic set of Word Processing/Spreadsheet/Calendar/Browser/eMail?

  2. dubdub

    Actually, this whole post kind of channels Cringely!

    Not sure that’s a good idea, given Cringely’s/Mr. Stephens’ penchant to exaggerate.

    I can’t wait for the cloudbook, as long is it actually — umm — works.

  3. Tim,

    I think there will be three sources of apps: (1) the basics that you mention, which will be supplied and served up by Google-Apple; various consumer apps, including games and web 2.0 stuff, that will be served up over the net as they are today (ad-supported or for fee); and specialized, pro apps that will be designed by developers to run on the Google-Apple platform (incorporating app-cacheing techniques to ensure the necessary speed and responsiveness) and that you’ll either license for a fee, as you do today, or subscribe to for a monthly fee (with consolidated billing from Google-Apple).

    Nick

  4. You remind me of a conversation I had with a blogger at Yahoo. He asked what would happen when hard drives became dense and cheap enough to hold every piece of music he owns. I said it’s already happened, I have all my music on one drive. The more interesting question is, what happens when hard drives have the capacity to store every piece of music ever recorded?

    So.. analogously, what happens when you can fit the computing and storage capacity of a Google data center into an iPhone? You know it will happen someday. The cloud seems like a way to fake it until this happens.

  5. SallyF

    The scope of this vision is still “personal” computing, not business computing. For the lone visionary/pundit/whatever (such as you, Nick) you could argue that this is another swing back to the “mainframe” model of computing in some sectors. This time, the swing is not driven by compute power, per se, but by the data and by the ubiquitous nature of connectivity. Now that urban centers are getting wired with outdoor WiFi, it will not be compute power that matters so much but ideas and personal data and the ability to communicate them. We are putting our photos online and our videos over at YouTube (which, of course, Google snapped up). It is really a matter of integration level: as connectivity becomes ubiquitous and reliable, then why carry around anything more than a terminal? Sure, you will still keep a copy of the Powerpoint presentation you are going to go into a business meeting with onboard your laptop just in case anything goes wrong with network connectivity, but for a lot of other less time-critical data, why keep it onboard and worry about your own backups? Tossing it off to a datacenter makes sense. For a period of time in the early 1990’s

    X terminals such as the ones that NCD used to sell made a lot of sense. If they start to mass-produce those $100 laptops for every child on the planet, a lot of them will still find their way back into the hands of people who live in the economically developed countries. Those affordable units will be little more than terminals. Such terminals continue to blur the distinction with PDAs and cellphones which have no meaningful local storage and tend to drive this “mainframe” model of usage.

  6. Charles,

    You appear to be assuming that the iPhone will advance while the Google data centers will remain static, hence the iPhone will “catch up.” That’s a fallacy. The more likely scenario is that local devices will fall ever further behind (in terms of their capacities). Still, though, you’re right about one thing: the centrally controlled system will be able to make use of local computing power and storage capacity to optimize the user experience (without shifting maintenance and other crap onto the user). It’s all one system.

    Nick

  7. Nick, I’m sure you’re right. I use Google Apps; I have an iPhone; I’ve seen the future.

    But I’ve bet on Microsoft. My company’s spent years building a wiki intranet platform predicated on software living behind the firewall, running on Windows servers, authenticating against Active Directory, being accessed by Internet Explorer.

    So the question is, how long? How many years before the future of personal computing becomes the future of business computing? Until every CIO is comfortable with their data living on the cloud, until single sign-on is a reality, until Google’s data centers make network congestion a non-issue?

    … I bet it’s at least a decade.

  8. SallyF

    It is that “model of usage” that drives the majority of users. For the average consumer, having a PDA and cellphone with Internet connectivity will tend to drive them to use their laptop in the same fashion. For people who still just have a workstation at home, it will depend on how much they use their PC in an offline fashion. By that I mean, if you use a local copy of QuickBooks for personal accounting or whatever, then perhaps you with view your home workstation differently, but even that kind of application will tend to drift to the datacenter as long as the user feels that their privacy is reliably protected. Then their workstation tends to merge with their home entertainment center and the only programs you run locally are video games.

    Again, it is a viewpoint thing and different people will still have their own ideas about what is an appropriate “model of usage” for these different devices. In the early 1990’s, when I was working on the major commercial UNIX workstations which provided different flavors of X11 desktops, I used to say: Someday, all desktops will consolidate into one and that unified desktop will be called Netscape. My point was that the software desktop flavors offered the same kinds of applications (calender, mail, etc.) but that the differences between vendors (even those offering CDE) was annoying. When I consider how much I use my Mozilla browser these days, I could say that to some degree, this has happened. For instance, after ten years of using Eudora, I finally switched to Gmail. I probably will not go back because my attitude about my email changing and so my high-inertia “model of usage” is changing. It is a psychological thing and it has a lot of inertia for myself and, I expect, most other people.

  9. Nick, it’s a beautiful vision, but I think we’re a long ways away and a whole bunch of forces will ultimately conspire to prevent it from happening.

    More in my blog:

    http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2007/10/17/google-and-apple-to-rule-the-universe-interesting-theory-from-nick-carr/

  10. SteveEisner

    By aiming for low specs, are you forgetting the multimedia aspect of PC use? No one I know is playing games or watching movies through a web browser (besides short, grainy YouTube clips.) For that reason alone I doubt the low power usage and $99ish price point. But I like the rest of the ideas! It’s similar to what Apple already saying by forcing “Web 2.0″ as their iPhone API.

  11. Well, no, Nick, I would never make the assumption that portable tech would catch up with Google data centers, I just make the assumption that portable devices will catch up with what these super data centers can do today. I just have no idea what anyone would do with all that computer horsepower in the palm of their hand. But I am certain that day is coming, sooner than we expect.

    You raise an equally interesting question from the other side of the equation. When the day comes that your iPhone has that power, what will Google be like?

  12. Bill Gates described this “personal fantasy device” in his book, “The Road Ahead” published in 1995.

    I think its important to emphasize that you’ve described a consumer device/application that works great for Twittering your friends, or Facebooking your girlfriend or typing a note to Grandma – but not necessarily a business tool.

    What this “consumer cloudbook” is far from achieving is the ability to handle business applications, database work, business process, workflow, customer service, accounting, analytics, etc.

    In other words – what you’ve described is a toy – lets face it, the iPhone is a very pretty toy.

    Not that you can’t make a lot of money and influence the world with toys….I just want to emphasize the difference between toys and business tools.

    Given enough time, I suppose it is inevitable that the the toys will morph into business applications but I don’t believe this “right around the corner.”

    Which leads me/us to a question: Is there/What is the difference between consumer computing and business computing?

  13. Yes, I’m talking about personal computing, and the Google-Apple Cloud Computer will certainly be designed and marketed as a consumer product. But there’s no reason that it couldn’t expand into certain segments of the business market fairly quickly – and into other segments more slowly. If it can accommodate a virtual desktop – and I’m sure it could – then it would fit nicely with the trend I describe here.

  14. By aiming for low specs, are you forgetting the multimedia aspect of PC use?

    Apple will continue to sell traditional machines, though they will over time be melded with the Google back end.

  15. An issue I often have with predictions such as this is that they are too limited in how they view the situation. That is, your prediction, Nick, is looking down the wire from the data center to the PC. This, of course, brings to mind all the past attempts at thin clients (or dumb terminals, depending on how sensitive one is to connotation), and also suggests comparisons between various web application interfaces and their native desktop counterparts.

    I propose that it is more practical to view the transformation described here as a natural evolution of today’s auto-update mechanisms. It clearly doesn’t make sense to ignore the processing and storage capabilities available in small, consumer electronics. This means that one will need elaborate caching strategies for storing program code and data, as well as user data. I assert that the paradigm that this progression asymptotically approaches has more in common with today’s desktop apps with auto-update functionality than it does with applications delivered through a web browser. An important consideration here is the dependence of the net-delivered applications on the native OS for support (i.e. the aforementioned caching infrastructure). The net-delivered applications will need an interface to the local device, a driver if you will: the OS.

  16. SteveEisner

    Nick, I guess my point was that I’m not sure the public would take to the simplest version of the hardware you describe. It doesn’t seem to fill a need that the more portable ipod devices don’t already. My guess is that we’d be more likely to see the jump to “melded” version immediately – for instance via a Mac Mini or “Nano”?

    Thinking fancifully for a sec, if they could provide a multitouchscreen/dock that my iPhone/iTouch plugs into and used as display/input (perhaps w/ USB keyboard support), would that be basically equivalent to your “lite” hardware? (But not $199 total cost)

  17. > (This is so big, you need at least two metaphors to describe it.)

    Now I know why you are my favorite blogger.

    > You’ll be about as concerned with “PC maintenance” as you are with refrigerator maintenance.

    Can someone please give this man a multi-billion dollar computer company to manage? Please?

    By the way: how do you do to have quotes in italics?

  18. We could already achieve the client part of this using the thin clients that many corporations are already deploying e.g. HP T5710 etc.

    All they need is software that’s aimed at the ‘home’ user e.g. Linux with Firefox, Skype etc., rather than the corporate.

    Part of the challenge comes with ensuring online applications are sufficient both feature and speed wise. (Google’s spreadsheet runs like a dog on my P3 laptop)

    The other challenge is how would this scenario work with things like the iPod, are we to be condemned to be able to only download music or can we carry on ripping from CDs?

    There are plenty of other apps that fit into the category of needing local power (both CPU and storage), but never the less the thin client will have a role to play from some people at home.

    Andy

  19. Hello,

    Your point is right IMO: consumer computing will move to a centralized model…

    I would like to propose an analogy that I have not seen yet about this idea. In the gaming world, you can use either a console, either a PC.

    We all feel the need now for a “business/everyday” console. This is IMO the goal. With this analogy, it is easy to infer what will be the business models.

  20. Realtosh

    @ Issac Garcia

    Your comments couldn’t be further from the truth. I won’t even bother with a point by point rebuttal; your negative spin is just off the mark.

    First, Nick’s piece is probably going for controversy as much or even more so than precision. So cut the man a bit of slack.

    Don’t get hung up on your personal like or dislike of any particular piece of equipment. The iPhone is what it is – a phone.

    The iPhone just happens to run version of one of the most developed modern desktop OS available today. The only other options are Windows or Linux. God luck getting Windows Vista ever running on any such small-sized portable device. Linux is the only real pretender, but isn’t yet as polished as OS X is today. That may change in the future with further development, but it’s not yet as polished as OS X.

    If you don’t think that having a real version of a robust modern OS available on a piece of equipment that can be carried in your pocket doesn’t change things, than your denial is only fooling yourself. That such a powerful tool would not have business applications is laughable.

    Now back to the Apple-Google partnership. If you don’t think that those two are up to something, then you’re just kidding yourself. Apple’s front-end expertise and Google back-end mojo can be a powerful combination.

    They won’t change the world in a few months. But do expect some tangible product to ship within a few months, possibly during Steve Jobs’ presentation in San Francisco in January or at WWDC at mid-year next year. Just notice the Google apps that are already on the iPhone. They are already quite useful for any mobile professional. Don’t think they’ll stop developing more apps and more functions going forward.

    The change of computing wouldn’t come in an instant. It will happen gradually over time with the constant development and introduction of more pieces of the puzzle over the coming years.

    I can’t say without a doubt that it would change computing as we know it, but I’d be surprised if the changes aren’t radical in nature.

    Competition is good. Let the games begin.

  21. RealTosh,

    I guess I’m a little older than you and not as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than most.

    My point, which I think you missed, was that I believe Google and Apple are consumer companies and create consumer products – not business applications. To date, Google’s triumph has been search and has not proved to be able to successfully and profitally do much else. And Apple? Well, Apple builds great entertainment devices – not business applications.

    One has to be a bright-eyed optimist to believe that a Google/Apple Business Application Device/Product is “right around the corner.”

    In fact, you yourself confirmed my belief that: “The change of computing wouldn’t come in an instant. It will happen gradually over time with the constant development and introduction of more pieces of the puzzle over the coming years.”

    That doesn’t mean that GoogApple are not or won’t be successful with their consumer products (combined the two companies have more cash on their balance sheets than most countries). And even I admit that consumer products will most likely morph into business products over time – I just don’t see it happening overnight – like many people believe.

    So, we probably agree on more than you want to admit. Agreeing with a curmudgeon like me can be a shocking experience to young idealists.

    And also, I don’t think you need to stick up for Nick – he can hold his own.

  22. I have used Amazon S3 as backup, but it was too expensive. It also consumes amazing amounts of bandwidth. But then again, at this time I have about 1 terrabyte of local data that I’d like to keep (only a small portion of which I backed up to Amazon, obviously).

    The reality is that while local storage has become amazingly cheap (1 terrabyte is currently 200 euro), bandwidth has been at the same speed and price scale for some time now (on a typical day have a 600-700 kbps downlink at home, about 200 kbps up). Doing serious backup for multimedia is not likely to be an option anytime soon, and the Internet infrastructure is not ready for this. Bandwidth / price does not follow Moore’s law and certainly not Kryder’s Law.

    Rather than uploading my stuff to a remote server, I’d prefer a local server that does the same thing for me. Microsoft’s Home Server is a start, but Apple or Google devices are welcome competition. Off course, yes I want automatic backups, cheap hardware, near zero power consumption, zero maintenance, automatically tuned security, etceteras. But storing it locally and only uploading it on demand makes a lot more sense. I cannot foresee any technical barrier combining all of these capabilities in my local home server. Let me say it again: zero maintenance, automatic backup, near zero energy consumption, always anywhere available, zero worries. Today, you can already access those thousands of pictures on demand from your iPhone browser. I’d be surprised if Apple wasn’t working on competition for Microsoft’s Home Server.

    This is for personal computing. Business computing is far simpler. In fact, most real business applications (Siebel, SAP, workflows, …, everything except Office and development tools) already run through the browser. Initiatives like Adobe Apollo, Microsoft Silverlight, etc. will significantly strengthen this trend. Business computing also has to deal with managing 1000+ PC’s, which takes different approaches and skills from managing just 1 to 5. The skills are very specific, and there is no significant difference between managing 1000 or 2000. So there is a clear trend to outsourcing PC & server maintenance to specialized companies. In fact, that trend is largely complete, at least in all of the multinationals I work with. Oursourcing this to Google/Microsoft/Salesforce/Oracle/… is merely a financial decision, not a major shift. Salesforce installed locally versus over the Internet is a practical decision (risk-based), not a shift. Same for Microsoft CRM, and future on demand applications. It is surprising how many “on demand” applications are actually installed on corporate servers to self-manage the downtime. Business PC’s are already locked down and maintenance comes down to simply overwriting them with a new image, which essentially makes them terminals already.

    We are moving away from the old PC concept, but I don’t think we are returning to the mainframe. The ideal scenario for my personal computing needs would be to have the computer management in the cloud, the applications in the cloud (cached locally), but the data storage and the computing power locally, carefree and low-powered.

    Much like that refrigerator you were talking about stores my food in my kitchen, not in the shop (even if it is available there 24-7). Imagine a world where you bake your own cake and then bring it to the store to keep it fresh for you.

    Filip.

  23. Realtosh

    @ Issac Garcia,

    Thanks for the reply. Our thinking is not so far apart, with a few significant departures.

    While I don’t see myself “as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” I am a bit more open-minded. I am open to marketplace innovation, and don’t pigeon-hole companies based on how I feel they should limit themselves.

    1) Google gets almost all of its revenue from companies. Who do you think pays for all those ads? If you don’t think they have much to offer the world, you’re sadly mistaken. They have done a decent job of monetizing the internet, by connecting individuals with companies through search and advertising. While the search is free, which can be seen as a consumer or business tool; they are excellent at monetizing the ad space – ALL BUSINESS.

    I believe that Google has the brain trust to compete in many arenas. They also don’t have an old way of doing business to protect, which ties their arms and their bility to innovate. Microsoft has been hindered by not wanting to interfere with their Windows and Office monopolies, which bring in Billions of $$$ in CASH every month. So most of Microsoft’s ventures that are not directly tied into Windows or Office are either failures or huge money pits. Sony also screwed up their digital music product, trying hard to protect their content from their music business. Sony in the process of shutting down their Connect music store because of their conflicted commitments. Apple needs to be careful that they don’t miss future innovations trying to protect their lead in digital music today.

    So Google can compete in the business world quite capably. They have already made many software programs available over the Internet. This web-based software utilization format will be more important going forward. Microsoft and Adobe and many others are trying to go in that direction. Both Google and Apple have shown competence in successfully monetizing web-based software. There is still much to learn in this area, but companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, etc. are already leading the way.

    2) Apple has been selling hardware and software to businesses and organizations in certain key markets: education, science & research, government, video editing, photography, graphics, music creation, and professionals (ie doctors, dentists, attorneys, architects, etc). There are many offices, companies, organizations, and professionals that use Apple products in their business; many as mission critical equipment. It is no accident that so many people who depend on their computers for their livelihood choose Apple products to get the job done.

    Apple can create products that are as compelling for business as consumers. That there is an established monopoly for Windows and Office becomes an additional obstacle in the marketplace, which requires adjustment in business strategy.

    It makes no sense to battle a filthy rich opponent on their own turf. So Apple will not battle Microsoft for OS market share by licensing OS X, at least not in the near term. But they will continue to cherry pick the most profitable PC sales. They continue to grow by expanding their sales of mid to high-end systems (many sold to professionals and businesses) while avoiding the low profit sales at the bottom, no matter if to families looking for a cheap PC box or to companies looking for the most basic of boxes.

    Apple has the expertise in hardware and software to compete against anyone in the emerging battlefields of new category marketplaces. They have shown with the iPod that they can dominate new markets quite effectively.

    3) With the iPhone, Apple is battling with entrenched

    incumbents in cellular telecommunications. I’m sorry to say that Motorola is imploding by itself. Right now only Nokia is positioned to take on Apple. The one big problem with Nokia is that they are working on so many different designs and platforms. It gives them a nominal Darwinian advantage in that they may have a greater chance of finding a winning hand by playing so many hands. On the other hand they lose their focus by trying to kep so many balls up in the air at once.

    This is where Apple excels. They apply all of their hardware, software and design talent in a focused pursuit to create the best possible experience. Only after successfully creating the best possible experience do they build derivative products, all based on the foundations created in the initial design. Apple did so brilliantly with the iPod that has grown to include a family of iPods, iTunes jukebox software, and iTunes digital Music Store.

    The iPod family even branched out to yield the iPhone. The iPhone first had to be the best thought-through phone with the best user interface. The first iteration of the iPhone has been completed with the goal of excellence in mind. It is now being positioned to grow into a family of phones that will all be based on the core competencies acquired by Apple while applying their hardware, software and design competency to the first iPhone. The iPhone technology has even been returned to the iPod family, from which it came, as the iPod Touch.

    4) The iPhone is arguably the most advanced smartphone ever created. It is true that Apple has not yet delivered an SDK for third-party developers. The reason so many people have been vocal about this omission is that so many people see the potential in the iPhone’s capabilities and in it’s platform for developing fully capable apps. No more need to create baby apps as for Palm, Windows CE and all other similar platforms with such reduced.

    Thankfully Apple finally announced that an SDK is in the works. Such an elegant combination, of so capable a phone with such a powerful software platform, cried out for a way to use more of it’s built-in potential.

    The iPhone is the most capable mobile phone in existence so far, and delivered to the marketplace with unprecedented uptake never seen before in any cell phone at any price. The iPhone and it’s future siblings will have a pretty decent future. It is small-minded to call a phone with such capabilities as the iPhone a toy. I wish any of the many cell phone I’ve purchased over the years had visual voice mail. I wish any of them had such easy call handling interface as the iPhone. I wish any of them offered even a semblance of the web that is available on the iPhone. Etc., etc.

    So I don’t narrowly look at either Apple or Google as consumer companies. They are great at creating solutions. Both Apple and Google have on staff people capable of creating very robust software that can be used in a multitude of situations, including business software.

    Again “right around the corner,” is hyperbole for dramatic effect and to create controversy. Even so, the iPhone already shows evidence of collaboration. Surely, more products will continue to come to market. It would not surprise me in the least to see another product of their collaboration within the next few months, either in San Fran in January or at WWDC at mid-year. The world will not be turned in its head, but the progress will continue.

    The iPhone today can handle better business apps than Windows CE, Palm or even Blackberry. As of February there will be an official SDK to assist in the creation of such robust apps. I wonder what you’ll say about the iPhone in a few months when the business applications developed for the iPhone will make the baby apps on Palm, BB and Windows CE look like toys. You certainly wouldn’t call a Windows CE app or a BB app a toy, would do? Many of those apps will certainly look toy-like in comparison to full apps that can and will be developed for iPhone.

    Seeing the possibility for two of the largest market capitalized technology companies to be able to create great things is not stuff of young idealism. Such a label I would reserve for my own ability to work with some adventurous partners-in-crime in a garage or other small office and to be able to create the next big idea that could grow into the next Google. Now that would be young idealism. That 2 large corporations can battle in the marketplace with other large corporations is just the stuff of life, of a robust marketplace.

    So while I don’t see myself “as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed;” I certainly don’t see myself as narrow-minded and fatalistic as some others may be accused. I look forward to some great competition in the marketplace. We as end-users will all benefit; no matter which of the competing products we elect to use.

    Be open to great things from all parties, especially when they are 2 companies with big bank and a culture of innovation.

    Good luck to you.

  24. finerobe

    Can’t you just see this. The sum total of knowledge is reduce to a storage device the size of a dime and everybody in the world has access to it. And then some AH accidently loses it throught the hole in his pocket.

    At least the Eygptians had clay tablets that were indestructible.

  25. I’d just like to agree with everything Filip said. (A managed Windows SBS server in a datacentre is pretty much a company-in-a-box. I’d rather have that than Google Apps.)

  26. Filip Verhaeghe

    Here is more food for thought, open for debate.

    It seems like the iPhone is frequently quoted as the device we want to experience our software on. But the iPhone is designed to run a PC-grade operating system (OS X). Why have a full OS, that takes lots of resources, when all you need is a browser. To switch easily between your call and your calendar? That seems like enormous overkill. I’m sure Jobs has something else in mind. Also, the iPhone has a good browser built in. If we are moving to a centralized model, then why care about the SDK to the iPhone OS? Don’t these contradictions show that we simply changing the shape of the PC and the way we experience them, rather than moving to a centralized model?

    Something similar is Intel’s future 80 core processor. The way I understand it, these cores sleep when idle. So essentially, this is computing on demand in my living room. Great for multimedia editing. Do you believe I would care about “utilisation” when an idle core is simply not consuming energy, and an 80-core processor costs the same as a current standard PC processor? Why would I want to rent external computing services as a consumer? Utilitisation doesn’t matter ;-). And isn’t it likely that for the same reasons, “utilisation” will become irrelevant at a corporate level?

    As the number of devices that have the power of a PC grow at home, we are all at risk of becoming part-time system administrators. Fortunately, some self-tuning solutions already exists and more are coming to the market. Just look at what the Home Server is designed to do. The power of the PC is more and more used to manage the PC’s. As a result, the old pain of the PC might going away in the future. At the same time, ulta-low voltage processors consume less energy, and multi-cores are shutting down dynamically. So energy consumption will certainly fall below the pain point as well. Again, domestic computers are leading the way but these solutions are allready finding their way back to small businesses.

    Now that all of my data is in the cloud with zero upload, always available anywhere, it will be interesting to see how applications evolve. They’ll need to be a lot more flexible that they have been in the past. Some real innovations are needed here. Simply putting a less version of the same application in a browser is not going to be enough. I want it to know about and work with my home server whereever I am.

    Filip.

  27. Kendall Brookfeld

    A big hole in this is Apple’s long-standing overpriced closed-box mentality:

    “It will be cheap.”

    When’s the last time Apple shipped anything cheap (in the low price sense of the word)? Its entire line is overpriced and a modest iPod Nano is $149-199. Even if the purchase price is subsidized by advertising or a monthly fee — and don’t forget that iPods and iPhones are subsidized by iTunes and phone bills — a $99 price point is hard to believe.

    “It will be flexible.”

    How flexible or universal will it be if Apple stays true to form: the software and content only run on Apple devices; Apple limits or prevents third-party application development while selling many apps itself; and there are platform lock-in problems?

    Platform lock-in with Apple or Google is a big question, but at least Google is more committed to open standards and free services than Apple is, and this may be a much bigger source of friction than any clash of company cultures. Their collaboration may be due as much to marketing as substance: two of the sexiest companies in the world gain a lot of attention by working together, but it doesn’t mean the collaboration will necessarily go well.

  28. Realtosh

    @ Kendall Brookfeld

    [I]“When’s the last time Apple shipped anything cheap (in the low price sense of the word)?”[/I]

    Compare the $399 iPhone to the inferior $99 Motorola Q phone. Most people given the choice between the iPhone and the Q phone at the same price would almost certainly pick the iPhone in nearly all cases. Now compare the lower subscription plan rates that Apple negotiated with AT&T for the iPhone with a Verizon plan with the Q phone over a 2-year contract period. Did you realize that the iPhone actually costs LESS over a 2-year period than the Q phone. Keep in mind that the Q phone is nothing special compared to the iPhone in any measure: build quality, specs, memory, included apps, interface, design, touch screen. One ought to be disgusted that one is paying many hundreds of dollars more for the much inferior G phone (in the low price sense of the word).

    The cheapest price I’ve paid for a computer (in the low price sense of the word) was the Mac mini at $499. When I tried to buy comparable Dells, I ended up buying $750-$850 Dells after all upgrades to get the Dells up to spec to be able to live on our small network, things like NIC cards, Windows XP Pro, Anti-virus software, etc. These Dell prices are all BEFORE adding any software suites and other useful software titles.

    All the Macs I’ve purchased have come with great best-of-class software included for FREE. Usually the most I have had to spend for most systems is iWork, which includes Pages (the combo of Word and Publisher I’ve ever seen), Keynote, which runs circles around Power Point, and Numbers, which at version 1.0 does most things most people need from Excel spreadsheets in a visually expressive way, all 3 for just $79. (in the low price sense of the word) The rest of the software is FREE (in the low price sense of the word) including the iLife suite [iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb, iDVD, Garage Band], iTunes, Safari browser, Mail, Dashboard widgets, Front Row and Apple remote, iChat video catting, iCal, Address Book, DVD Player, and many others including Xcode development environment, Apache web server, etc.

    On the other hand the Dells came with a bunch of useless demo software, which blew up a number of days after the first use. Office Ultimate cost anywhere from $679 vs. $79 for iWork + all the FREE software on a Mac. Windows Vista Ultimate costs $399 vs $129 for MacOS X Leopard due this Friday, which will run circles around Vista for less than 1/3 of price (in the low price sense of the word). Plus all of those demo software titles on Dell all cost money, in spite of them being less capable, less intuitive and less pleasing to use then their FREE Mac alternatives (FREE in the low price sense of the word).

    “Its entire line is overpriced and a modest iPod Nano is $149-199. Even if the purchase price is subsidized by advertising or a monthly fee”

    Sometimes a few dollars more for a great product is actually cheaper then a few dollars less for a mediocre product. Have you bothered to compare the prices of iPods with Zunes? Same or similar prices for products that are very different in terms of usability, ease of use, design, usefulness, etc.

    “don’t forget that iPods and iPhones are subsidized by iTunes and phone bills”

    Actually the opposite is true.

    1) iPods are more profitable than FREE iTunes software and razor-thin profit margins at iTunes Music Store.

    2) As shown above the lower monthly plans actually make the total cost of using an iPhone lower than many/most ultra-cheap Windows Mobile and Blackberry devices on Verizon or non-iPhone AT&T plans. (total cost in the low price sense of the word)

    “the software only run[s] on Apple devices”

    FREE software meant to stimulate the sales of Macs… So you want your cake and eat it too. So Apple should just create great software and just give it away FREE. You must also download FREE music files illegally because paying artists for their work is too heavy on your wallet.

    “Apple limits or prevents third-party application development while selling many apps itself”

    Apple created the amazing Final Cut professional video-editing software, only after Adobe refused to update their Premiere video product. When Apple’s Final Cut software product came out, it was so good everyone in the business started using it. Adobe then discontinued Premiere and blamed Apple and Final Cut, but had already stopped upgrading Premiere, even though Apple was begging them to update the Mac version for a couple of years previously. Apple went out and purchased Final Cut and it’s engineering team, only after Adobe refused to update the Mac version of the product. Usage of the superior Final Cut was so great and the pricing, even at $999, was so much lower than previous high-end video products that Avid, the maker of high-end video-editing work stations actually had to drop their prices by thousands of dollars to compete with the Apple software and computers.

    After Microsoft stopped updating Internet Explorer for Mac, Apple created the Safari web browser. Then Microsoft blamed Safari when announcing the discontinuation of Explorer on Mac, even though Microsoft had not done any development on it for years.

    Do Adobe and Microsoft think we are that stupid?

    Apple went on to purchase numerous professional software titles that had previously sold for multiple $1,000’s, often $4,000-$6,000+ After cleaning them up, Apple put them out at $999. Over time, a number of these software titles were joined together in suites or $999 – $1,499, many thousands less than any one of these programs individually had sold for previously for a whole suite of them.

    Imagine Apple actually lowering prices (in the low price sense of the word) for software, both at the low-end for consumers and the high-end for professionals.

    “more committed to open standards and free services than Apple is”

    Apple has implemented the following open standards in their hardware and software: Ethernet, Firewire, USB, OpenGL, X11, IDE, SATA drives, WC3 web standards, official UNIX implementation, mp3, AAC=mp4, H.264, Darwin-open source version of Mac OS X core, CalDAV, WebDAV, RSS, wiki, Jabber XMPP, SSL/TLS, SMTP, POP, and IMAP, Apache 2 web server, Ruby on Rails, Tomcat 5, WebObjects, 64-bit Java VM, SSIs, PHP, Perl, Apache modules, custom CGIs, JavaServer Pages, JavaScript, OpenSSL, L2TP/IPSec and PPTP VPN, 802.11n, 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, bonjour zero conf, etc. etc.

    I guess there is so much about Apple that you didn’t know or just wanted to misrepresent. I made the courtesy of providing you with some facts. I hope this helps clear up some misconceptions.

  29. Makes total sense, except for the fact that Schmidt/GOOG messed up the Apple relationship.

    Back in mid-2005 I was writing about the “Walkabout Wiki” a $200 tablet sized device.

    It would let me record messages, or events photo, video or audio. The Walkabout Wiki would naturally, have a built in Skype-like phone service, broadband, and bluetooth. It would have open source Office-like applications, which would be a mixture of client side and server side – but I shouldn’t really know or care. All I need to know is that I have access to my applications, to a degree, even if an Internet connection is not available.

    When a Walkabout Wiki walks into a hotspot, or hops a bluetooth connection, things sync up and I don’t need to know. Everything is always backed up and I can roll things back to any point in time on my device.

    And it would be very robust, you can play frisbee with it, let your dog bring it back and send it spinning back out again, and it still keeps working, dog slobber and all…

    http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2005/07/i_want_a_portab_2.php