What Apple sees of the future

Science Fiction author and armchair tech industry analyst Charles Stross has written an article on what the 'Apple/Adobe letter' signals for the future.

Go read it. It's good.

He sees the letter as a clear signal that Apple is actively trying to ensure that the Apple brand is relevant in a future in which computing is even more commoditized/cloudy than it is now. He sees PC hardware sales becoming even more of a loss-leader than it is now, and both Apple and HP (hello Palm purchase) have identified what the (profitable side of the) future looks like:

  • Wireless broadband everywhere
  • Very little local storage, basing everything on the cloud
  • Tight vendor controls on the software ecosystem, for safety. "Cross-platform" is for skeevy hackers.
There will still be traditional PC environments around, Microsoft won't be able to allow a monopolitic stack like Apple i$Device to develop for legal and technical reasons, but they won't be where all the money is being made. The real money in PC-land will be made in software, not hardware and OS. *I* suspect it'll get more annoying to rip apart a new machine to get linux on it. Because of naughtiness in the 90's, Microsoft won't be allowed to produce a vertically integrated Hardware/OS/Software stack like Apple is actively doing with iPhone/iPad.

The future has lots of mobile bandwidth, enough mobile bandwidth that having your primary data-storage be a few network hops away is not annoying; especially if there is a local, and large, cache available. The future is a lot more paternal, software will auto-update in the background without notifying you and will be hard to get around; you better hope updates don't trash your other software. The future has software cops preventing bad stuff from getting on your gear, and the software cops will be the device vendor (Apple, HP, Google).

At least, at the consumer level. How this all will interact with workplace environments is an open question. There are some tasks for which a full sized keyboard is really required, as well as 22" displays and high-volume printers. I strongly suspect there will be large computer-environment differences between home-computing and work-computing. We shall see how it develops.