It’s not about outdated concepts like widgets or settings toggles, or inconsequential interface trends like skeuomorphism. It’s about software and services that don’t force us to hunt for data or controls, no matter how they’re painted up, but that bring data and controls to us, flat or textured. It’s about actionable notifications powered by headless apps and seamless inter-app communication. It’s about predictive data assistance with multi-layer natural language interfaces. It’s about data moving from cloud to device, or vice versa, transparently, in the background, so we have what we need, when and where we need it, without having to manage or store it. It’s about all our stuff working together directly, device to device, so using one of them is akin to using any one of them. It’s about an app ecosystem that pushes rather than than waits for us to pull, with demos and refunds, and analytics that delight developers and users alike. It’s about the brilliant interaction of software and services both on-device and in the clouds.
Last year was a hardware-packed year for gadgets being designed in California. Retina MacBook Pros, super-slim and bubbly iMacs, iPhone 5, iPad mini, et al.
Of course, 2012 wasn’t strictly a hardware year. We got Mountain Lion, and OS X is now on an annual update cycle; we also got iOS 6 and Apple’s own maps app. But the updates to iOS and OS X were not of the same breakthrough caliber as the hardware updates — last year was a very good year to be in the market for a new Mac, iPad, or iPhone.
This year, I’m hopeful that the pendulum will swing towards the software-side of things.
I believe Apple wants to improve iOS in many of the areas Rene points out above. By removing some of the friction and frustration currently experienced with iCloud, maps, and more. And I also believe Apple wants iOS to be seen as a professional-grade operating system, worthy of “real work”. There is still some low-hanging fruit, and no doubt there are also some significant updates and breakthroughs to the usability and functionality of iOS on the horizon.
But I think it’s fair to say that the general perception of the iPad as a legitimate work device just isn’t there yet.
Even amongst the readers of this site — whom are decidedly, clever, nerdy, and prone to living on the bleeding edge — when I talk about using the iPad as my laptop, I get more than a few raised eyebrows and responses from people who still need or prefer to grab their MacBook when it’s time to work away from the office. Even my own wife would not be persuaded to get an iPad when she needed a new computer.
The prejudice against the iPad as a legitimate work machine isn’t isolated to just the iPad. It’s one of the few things all tablets have in common right now. Microsoft is attempting to market the Surface Pro as a professional grade device by showing people in a board room dancing.
Apple, on the other hand, I believe will demonstrate the iPad’s professional viability by bringing best-of-breed solutions and then demonstrating real-life use-case scenarios. A massive component of this is, and always will be, the App Store. But it can’t end there. Apple has more than a few areas where their own technologies and services need to catch up to those of 3rd parties as well as to those of their own competitors.