The end of an era is looming

Anthony Caruana
31 July, 2017
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When Steve Jobs returned to Apple after some years in the Silicon Valley wilderness, he set about restoring the company he had founded. When he returned he found a willing partner in Jony Ive and they began designing the products that took Apple from the brink of oblivion to where it is today – one of the world’s most valuable companies and a leader in design and consumer technology.

While the iMac and iBook products completely changed the way we thought about how computers should look and work – much like the original Macintosh back in 1984 – it was the iPod that allowed them to grow. Although it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The first iPod was Mac-only and very expensive, but it changed how people thought about carrying their music.

The original iPod was eventually renamed the iPod Classic before it was usurped by the iPod touch, which ran the same software as the iPhone and iPad. And that was complemented by the iPod mini (for a time) and then the iPod nano and iPod shuffle.

The success of the iPhone resulted in the cannibalisation of the iPod’s market. When the iPod was first released, most mobile phones were just that – phones. But the iPhone, and all the other smartphones that followed, changed things significantly.

That brings us to today. Apple has put the iPod nano and iPod shuffle out to pasture, leaving just the iPod touch as the last one standing. In fact, Apple now does not make a single music-only device. Is that something you could have imagined ten years ago?

And it makes me wonder – how long will the Mac survive?

Everything the iPod could do is now possible from a device running iOS. And, as iOS continues to evolve, it does more and more of what the Mac does.

In the course of my week, I use several different computers. I’m typing this on a Lenovo tablet running Windows 10. I also have a desktop system running Windows 10 at my finace’s home. I have a Mac mini at my place that I’ve used for a few years and an iPad Air 2 with a Logitech keyboard case. In terms of being able to do my work, all are more or less the same. However, of the three operating systems, I find I prefer to use iOS – as long as I have a reliable internet connection.

I have little doubt that Apple is slowly transitioning iOS to become more functional and a viable replacement for the Mac. Although Mac sales remain solid, Apple is investing in the iPad despite flat and falling tablet sales globally. Apple has rarely concerned itself with short-term issues – Jobs’ vision was always much broader than keeping shareholders happy each quarter.

In iOS 11, we have Files for managing our information. Multi-tasking continues to develop and the applications that run on my iPad Air are almost functionally equivalent to their ‘proper computer’ counterparts. And the gap between the macOS and iOS versions of programs continues to narrow.

The first iPod was released in 2001. It’s taken 16 years to whittle the product line down to one survivor – and the iPod touch is basically a two-year old iPhone without the phone.

The iPad, which is the logical successor to the Mac was released in 2010 – seven years ago.

Do you think the Mac will still be around in another nine years?

What some readers say

Brett says, “End of the Mac?  Can’t happen until iOS gets a fully fledged file management system. Until then it’s still way too limited to be a replacement for a PC or Mac.”

And Mike says, “My wife’s 2010 MacBook (yep – white plastic one) is just about done, which saddens her greatly. We are now literally questioning whether to cough up a few thousand on a MBP or go with an iPad Pro, as all she uses it for is Lightroom (and that bane of the 21st century – Facebook). The more articles we read, the less it appears as though a full-on MBP is needed.”

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