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Back to the Mac

So Apple had their big announcement yesterday, and I caught bits of it sitting in a Starbucks in Oxford Street, London. (I should have stayed in the hotel, I would have had better connectivity.)

 I haven’t really had time to go over everything, since I couldn’t watch the whole presentation yet, and have mostly been going from the commentary, but here are some thoughts about the whole thing.

 The key piece of “Back to the Mac” seems to have been that they were taking things learned from the development of iOS and implementing them in MacOS. This has led to (further) speculation that MacOS is on the way out, to be replaced with iOS on all the desktop platforms as well as portable devices, but such an idea seems ridiculous.

 Essentially, iOS and MacOS are designed to do quite different things. As such, while there are opportunities to replicate features from one platform to another, there will always be a need for a desktop OS to be more full featured, and for a phone OS to be simpler and more efficient. (This has been Microsoft’s historic problem with Windows CE/Pocket PC/Windows Mobile/Windows Phone Mobile Series. They tried to make it look exactly like the full Windows OS, assuming people wanted familiarity over ease of use. I haven’t seen Windows Phone 7 etc, so I don’t know if they’ve fixed this problem.)

 The different requirements and constraints of desktop and mobile platforms are also good arguments against a touchscreen desktop or notebook. There are some very niche uses for such a device, but these are outweighed by the problems. “Gorilla arm” has been recognised as a problem since the first attempts at touchscreen computers. On a small, portable device, however, it’s an extremely good solution to a set of problems. Basically, touch is really useful in a situation where you can’t have a keyboard or pointing device. The situations in which this arises with an actual PC are limited. Those touchscreen information booths in shopping malls and the like are the main one, but those have a very limited usage requirement. Some have suggested that a “kitchen PC” (IE a computer used in the kitchen or somewhere else where counter space and free hands are at a premium) would be a good use of touch. This may be, but despite some tech journalists I don’t see this being a big market.

 Of course, Steve mentioned, at least in passing, that they weren’t going to do a touchscreen computer, and yet that hasn’t stopped speculation that they will do it at some point. I don’t see why they would, myself, nor do I feel a great need for it.

 Since the presentation, I have managed to get hands on a MacBook Air at the Apple Store in Regent Street. Apart from being confused by the keyboard configuration, which turned out to be standard for UK keyboards, they are neat little machines. I’m not sure I’ll buy one, I’ll probably upgrade to a 13 inch MacBook Pro if/when they upgrade the processors to i3, but they are tempting.

 I haven’t had a chance to look at iLife or iWork 11 yet. Buying a copy of iLife while in the UK may lead to licensing problems, and it would be yet more stuff I’d have to get home somehow. I have had a chance to look at the beta of Facetime for the Mac, but haven’t been able to use it at all. The security problem seems typical of a beta release, and has allegedly been fixed already, but I tend not to leave my computer unattended in cafes.

 Finally, let me just make a couple of comments about the release of Windows Phone 7. I haven’t seen it myself, nor did I see the apparently awkward early morning release party. I have to say that I’m still surprised that Microsoft have released a phone OS that doesn’t do Flash, or have Copy and Paste (unless they fixed that) and not get the same level of bollocking that Apple did. Maybe it’s just happening on forums that I don’t frequent, or podcasts I don’t listen to. There has been some criticism, but not the same extent. 

Anyway, as I have mentioned earlier, I hope they succeed in some way. Preferably in a way that results in them having a decent product, as opposed to previous versions of Windows Mobile.

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