Friday, June 6, 2008

Apple Inc. Is About To Redefine Mobility

On Monday, June 9, all eyes in the tech world will be focused on Steve Jobs as he addresses the WWDC crowd. As usual, the rumor mill is running at a fevered pitch with impossible predictions and fantastic expectations. I should be conditioned by now to prepare for a let-down given that it's almost always too good to be true. With the exception of last year's Macworld iPhone announcement, Apple almost always seems to underwhelm by delivering great but seemingly restrained products. After all, Apple has carefully crafted the reputation as the world's greatest innovator. Why wouldn't we expect them to change the world on an annual basis?

I have a hunch that this time Apple will deliver in ways that most of us didn't see coming. While we've all been obsessed with the iPhone, Apple has been thinking much bigger. Well not that much bigger, maybe a couple of inches across and slightly thicker. You see, this is the way they do things there in Cupertino. They give us products that completely captivate and amaze to the point where Apple is able to work behind the cover of distraction to cook up something even more enthralling than before. They had us so focused on the iPod's evolution as a media player that our wildest iPod + phone fantasies didn't envision the convergence device that was finally introduced to us as the iPhone.

This time Apple will introduce the world to a product that it never thought that it wanted. The Ultra Mobile PC has been around for years and Bill Gates has been ready to change the world with it in just about every interview he's given since 2003. The problem with the UMPC isn't only that it runs a clunky version of Windows or that nobody has ever figured out a way to market it or that it's never been presented in a sexy form factor. The problem is really that it's a concept that was ahead of it's time. Like the mp3 player before it, the consumer market hadn't really yet gotten it's head around the concept of digital media and nobody had given them a cohesive approach to managing it. In stepped Apple with it's iTunes software and service and suddenly the mp3 player is a common household item. On Monday, I fully expect Apple to show the world what it really wants in mobile computing.

The world wants a device that it doesn't have to unfold and lay on a table or our laps. The world wants a device that it can use standing up or sitting down. The world wants a device that allows us to do all of the things that we typically do while mobile - consume media, IM, check email, surf the web, create documents and not much else. The laptop is really overkill for what most of us need in a portable computer and it's not all that convenient to use either. Imagine a device that you can whip out of your backpack, purse or man-purse at a moment's notice and begin using with the same level of effort that it takes to engage your iPhone. Imagine a device that allows us to interact with our digital objects in a tactile manner. The iPhone has taken us there in a small way. It has changed the way we navigate on a handheld device. This new device will change things in a much larger way.

Not only will Apple deliver to the world this device that it doesn't yet know it wants, but it will package and market it in a way that will leave us all wondering why it's taken so long to get here. Like the iPod and iPhone, this new device will be integrated with software both on the desktop and in the cloud that will make our digital lives more seamless than we ever imagined.

Of course I've always been accused of being a dreamer and I won't shy away from those allegations. Monday could very well come and go and all I'll be looking at when Steve leaves the stage is a new iPhone with faster internet and hundreds of 3rd party applications. In fact, I'm almost certain that will be the case. However, in the event that the dreamer in me was right, don't say I didn't tell you about it first. Afterall, Apple patented this over 3 years ago.

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