I was just thinking about today’s WWDC announcements which led me to wonder how much Jony Ive has to do with designs products today which then led to the “ah ha” moment that, of course, Ive still contributes. In fact, not only that but he (and likely Tim Cook as well as the posthumous vision of Steve Jobs), has a grand vision of what computing will look like and each development this year points towards it: the iMacPadBook.
I realized that like all great visions of the future you can’t just “build it” all at once. Frankly the technology doesn’t exist—yet—for all the wondrous things that are probably bouncing around Jony Ive’s brain. So the only alternative is to slowly but surely work on each component part until one day it will all be ready.
Before I get to the end game—the one that we’re all waiting for and know is coming—let’s just recap a little with what we (think) we know.
From Steve Jobs’ biography we know that he saw what would become the iPhone first as a tablet, not a phone. Seeing that as a tablet the technology didn’t exist to make it awesome, Steve had it shrunk down to phone size. We know how well the first iPhone worked (pretty well, but not perfect), we can all look back in hindsight and say “Good call Steve.”
Moving forward, the App Store was born (maybe begrudgingly, but it came to be) and the iPhone has gotten better and better. Not by leaps and bounds (maybe the 3GS to 4 and maybe the 4S to 5 will be), but good steps that paced with technology that worked.
With a solid OS and hardware we got the iPad, then iPad 2, and then the new iPad. All amazing devices that are changing mobile computing in ways we can’t entirely fathom yet.
On the MacBook side, starting with the first gen MacBook Air (Sheila has one and it’s only now beginning to show its age), Apple saw that lots of laptops were either being over engineered or under (the netbook) and answered that. It didn’t make complete sense then, because the technology to make it awesome wasn’t practical yet. It is now with the current MacBook Airs which aren’t just sleek, light, and power misers, but also pretty darn powerful. On the beefier side of the fence, I think Apple’s plan for the MacBook Pro line as really been just a stop gap measure until today when the Retina-equipped MacBook Pro could be made. Oh sure they were all great machines, before, but the new MacBook Pro sets the bar to a whole new freakin’ level.
And then it all hit me.
I have a pretty great screen in my 3rd gen iPad. Okay, not just great, freakin’ awesome. Right now I’m writing this post on my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard, so it kinda looks like a little laptop, right. So when I was imagining future computing I was thinking. What about a laptop with a removable phone. Hmm, that doesn’t make sense. Then…wait what about essentially a keyboard dock with more ports, bigger battery, more RAM, a hard drive of some fashion, and more processing oomph. Detach the “screen” and it’s a tablet. Put that device in your bag and carry it and leave the rest at home (or work).
Oh sure, the 15″ screen (or even 13″) of a laptop might not be practical as a tablet. Oh sure this has kinda been tried before. Even Apple tried this with the PowerBook Duo line, but if you look at the pieces we have. If you look at how both OS X and iOS have changed and morphed and grown closer together, you can see it. You can see that somewhere at 1 Infinite Loop there is a prototype of this kind of device. It might be three years off or five or ten, but I know it’s coming.
You can see the parts in AirPlay and the app AirDisplay (iOS device as extended screen). You can see the parts in iCloud. You can literally see the parts in Retina Display devices. We’re moving towards a place where we’ll have powerful desktop components married with much, much more portable components. The cost might be an OS that is more akin to iOS than OS X (techs might be able to get to the inner core, but not most folks), the cost might be a carry screen the size of an iPad, but a wall-mounted Retina screen for your desk that becomes primary when you dock.
The cost, however, will be worth it because I think the vision of the iMacPadBook is something we can all get behind.
Even if Jony Ives hasn’t dreamed how to build it yet, he will.