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Apple Signals the Start of a Post-PC Era

Gordon Kelly


Apple Signals the Start of a Post-PC Era

At the start of May we wrote an opinion piece entitled iCloud.com: Apple's most important development in years? On Monday night it proved to be so. Steve Jobs took to the stage of the Moscone Centre for Apple's annual World Wide Developers' Conference and unveiled iCloud, a service which will fundamentally change the company's business model forever.

iCloud had long been rumoured, but for once Apple realised it was too important to play games and used the week before WWDC to declare: "At the keynote, Apple will unveil its next generation software - Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OS X; iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s advanced mobile operating system which powers the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch; and iCloud, Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering." music sync

If this was out of character then so is the theory behind iCloud itself: the beginning of a post-PC era. Until now Apple has built its iPod, iPhone and iPad product lines upon the strict practice that they must be tethered to a computer to sync with iTunes. The computer stopped these devices from being truly mobile and iTunes tied them to Apple's software ecosystem. This methodology was so strong Apple had begun to fall behind its rivals leading us to discuss in March Why Apple Runs Shy of the Cloud. As we declared at the time: "the business model which currently serves Apple so well will increasingly become a noose around its neck if it keeps refusing to evolve."

Well evolve it has and from a business perspective it has evolved brilliantly. The physical lockdown of a cable and PC has been replaced by a virtual lockdown to Apple's iCloud service. iDevice users can now setup, upgrade and sync their data without a wire or PC in sight as Apple services enter the Cloud with the help of the company's $1bn, 505,000 square foot data centre in North Carolina.

Apple 3

It is an approach that physically frees these products only to lock them into a new, stronger ecosystem you cannot see. To ignore iTunes was to not sync or back-up. To ignore iCloud does the same, but also sacrifices day to day functionality. Apple has created the illusion of freedom while actually tightening its grip. As the saying goes: "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist".

For Jobs' fabled "one more thing" he had an equally clever concept: the monetisation of music piracy. Naturally you will never hear anyone from Apple refer to iTunes Match in this way, but the theory is undeniable. Users can match their existing music libraries against iTunes' 18m track database and Apple will provide them with DRM-free 256Kbps AAC versions for just $24.99 per year. There is a 25,000 song limit to the service, but iTunes purchases do not count against that total. Yes, it is music laundering.


June 8, 2011, 6:08 pm

I didn't perceive Apple's announcements in the same way i have to say - i think after trying so hard to keep that tie-in between the PC and the iDevice, ANYTHING that goes the opposite direction would sound death-knellish :)

The Mac is a very strong offering for someone looking for something different; always has and always will be. I have no doubt the way everything works will change a fair deal with regards to the OS, but fundamentally the Mac cannot die as there are enough people out there who use it in 'just that particular way' to keep Apple from killing it off.

I'll always have a place in my heart and a hole in my wallet for a new Mac; it's just how i work...


June 8, 2011, 7:17 pm

Good to see Apple starting to catch up with the rest of the world :)

*cough Android cough*

Not having watched the event, I do wonder if iCloud was described as "magical" "life changing" "pant wettingly amazing" ... etc etc :D


June 9, 2011, 2:10 pm

That would put you in the minority... Google WWDC and 'post PC' and you'll see it is slowly becoming primary theme taken away from the event.

No-one will force you away from your PC, it will be around for some years to come - but as an Apple fan you will have to move with where the company takes you and that will be into a hybrid OS X/iOS world.


June 9, 2011, 2:12 pm

Haha, superlatives were down this year but I did jest in my early March feature that Apple would declare they had invented the Cloud and call it the 'iCloud' and Jobs pretty much did!


June 9, 2011, 3:27 pm

iCloud? Not only Cloud but i too? Ha ha ha ...
This so called company becomes more ridiculous every passing day.
Companies spy and manipulate your life completely. This is super stupid, for the customers of course.
As Castalan said, the Great Druid Steve Jobs must have used his usual expressions suitable for 4 years old children.


June 9, 2011, 4:41 pm

I ask this in ignorance, having returned to using dumbphones some time ago: Does Android actually provide a systemwide API to cloud-sync any type of application data? (I know they've had a cloud-based backup for app data for some time) It seems to me that that's where the value of iCloud is going to lie - the OS now gives developers of games, productivity applications and so on a very easy way of syncing things behind the scenes, so users can move seamlessly from one device to another and automatically pick up exactly where they left off. Sure, you could always do this using a third-party service like Dropbox, but the advantage of it being part of the OS is that the developer doesn't have to depend on the user having signed up for a third-party service.


June 9, 2011, 7:58 pm

The idea that the Mac or PC will become redundant in the foreseeable future is close to ridiculous and undermines the credibility of this article.
The world is indeed offering more devices for the consumer which is great. Pick and choose those best for you. Be it PC, TV, Mac, MP3 player, Smartphone etc. Different people will select the combination that best suites them.
The cloud offering allows different ways to use, access and share data across these devices – and not a lot more. It is not the dawn of a new age, just a continuing evolvement of IT services. Hotmail has been in the cloud for many years.
It certainly does not mean that what is probably the most flexible and universal device amongst them (the Mac and PC) will be redundant - just part of an ever evolving mix.


June 10, 2011, 2:37 am

'Apple starts the end of the PC era.' Hmmmmmmm. That made me laugh a lot.
Bad journalism, very poor quality.


June 10, 2011, 7:02 pm

An interesting and thought provoking article.

However, the more I thought about it, the more wrong I think you are. I can see that for casual use at home, on the sofa, or on a train, a tablet might be more practical than a laptop. As such, I can see that the market for laptops and netbooks might decline slightly as tablet sales increase. However, tablets offer only disadvantages to the following groups of people:

1) Touch typists.
2) Anyone into digital photography. Whilst the screens might get better, no-one who is studying an image to improve it will want to do so through finger smudges.
3) Anyone using a computer as a design tool. You just can't get the same pinpoint accuracy without a mouse. Even using a stylus on screen, HTC Flyer style, is worse, because it obscures the thing you are trying to examine.
4) Business users, who will want to carry on seamlessly using their Office suites
5) Developers and anyone with even a small interest in programming. Partially, this is about being able to type quickly, but I conceded that this may change if there's a high quality IDE available for tablets.
6) High end PC gamers.

I could go on, but it's clear that there are large group of niches, where a fully fledged PC is just the best tool for the job.


June 11, 2011, 7:45 am

Unfortunately not my title, but having read the article you will clearly understand the argument is different: it is about the evolution of the PC into something different - the coming of more hybrid devices. To only read a book by its cover would be bad readership, very poor quality.


June 11, 2011, 7:47 am

I expected better from your comment. Clearly this is not what the feature is saying. The title is not mine, but what is argument is not that the PC is dying but that Apple is pushing towards a single OS with mobile at its core. This will lead to PCs becoming more hybrid devices. This is not eradication, but evolution.


June 11, 2011, 7:57 am

Please see the replies above, it seems many of you have gotten the wrong end of the stick from a title which was not of my choosing. My article is about the evolution of the PC into a hybrid device based on a mobile OS core, not its eradication.

To quickly deal with your points though:
1. It is possible to touch type on a touchscreen and mobile does not negate the need for a physical keyboard in any case. Even the iPad has one!
2. Again you seem to assume the end of peripherals, I don't see why - fingers will never be the sole tool, they are too imprecise.
3. See points 1 and 2.
4. Again evolution is in the software, the physical format can be whatever it likes. Most likely the difference will be tablets and phones becoming the brains but connecting to PC form factors. There is no reason for useful form factors to die out, it is not a point I make.
5. Developers have always used specialised tools. This will not change.
6. The move to console gaming is dominant because of the reduced piracy. You may have noticed Trusted does not review many PC components these days, particularly high end graphics cards. This is reflective of the drop off of interest in this sector. The slow move will be to be console and eventually Cloud-based gaming such as OnLive where the horsepower is provided remotely and the experience is platform neutral.

I hope this has helped clarify any misunderstandings.


June 11, 2011, 7:58 am

Please see replies below.


June 11, 2011, 8:00 am

PS the title was actually 'Apple Signals the Start of a Post-PC Era' (now moved to a page title) two very different things.


June 11, 2011, 8:35 am

Title now returned to what it should have been


June 13, 2011, 1:05 am

Yes the title makes a major difference. I think you misunderstand the line you quote. I am saying what WWDC was about, in other words what Apple was arguing - that it is their opinion, not mine.

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