Following Apple’s announcement of the new MacBook Pro models today and the impressive looking Touch Bar, cnet have a fascinating interview (and timeline of Apple’s laptops from the original PowerBook through to the latest MacBook Pro models) with Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller, software engineering lead Craig Federighi and Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive.
Although the media focus is predominantly on the new Touch Bar, there’s several interesting quotes in the article on why we won’t be seeing a combined or merged OS or hardware device from Apple that combines iPhone/iPad touchscreen functionality with the laptop format of the MacBook product line – Schiller said:
“We did spend a great deal of time looking at this a number of years ago and came to the conclusion that to make the best personal computer, you can’t try to turn MacOS into an iPhone. Conversely, you can’t turn iOS into a Mac…. So each one is best at what they’re meant to be — and we take what makes sense to add from each, but without fundamentally changing them so they’re compromised.”
I’ve agreed with this line of thought for a while, and discussed this last year when Tim Cook said something very similar.
While it might be immediately obvious to some that the way you interact with a smart phone that fits in your hand is a completely different experience to how you interact with a computer while sitting at a desk, Microsoft’s (failed?) attempt at combining both of these usage styles into a single phone device with Continuum that you can use as a phone or plug into a dock and use as a desktop has always seemed to me to be a massive compromise. How you use a phone with a small screen and limited input capability is so completely and radically different from how you interact with a desktop computer with a keyboard, mouse and large LCD screen, why you would even try to combine these two experiences into one device is just beyond me.
Anyway, I’m pleased to heard Apple reiterating on their understanding of how different devices have different capabilities. Until a radical new approach comes along for how you interact with your devices where the reduced physical size of a portable device is no longer a constraining factor, a phone is still best as a phone, and your desktop or laptop is still best as what they do. Even in this “Post-PC” era, there’s still a place for both.
Things are still not looking good for Microsoft’s attempt to get a foot in the smartphone market. While their FY16Q1 financial results stated their mobile phone revenue fell by 56%, which was ahead of the new Lumia launch, IDC’s latest sales figures have shown Windows Mobile sales dropped 10% for the year. Given the launch of the flagship Lumia 950 models this year that has to hurt.
Worst still, Forbes are predicting a gloomy future for Microsoft’s mobile business for the coming year, predicting that they will cut their losses and pull out of the mobile phone market altogether.
Given the dominance in the market of Android and iOS devices (IDC shows Android has 80% global market share at this point, and even iOS is relatively far behind with 14%), one has to wonder what Microsoft were thinking when they bought Nokia and announced their Windows 10 Mobile plans. If they can come out with a truly revolutionary new product to catch everyone’s attention then maybe they have a chance, but an evolutionary step forward (and a small one at that) like the Lumia 950 models is definitely not the one that people are going to be dropping their Androids for and moving to. It’s just not good enough.
Given Microsoft’s focus on a single, combined version of Windows for all devices, desktop, tablets and phones, Tim Cook, Apple CEO, has said in a recent interview that he believes desktop and mobile operating systems should be separate:
We don’t believe in having one operating system for PC and mobile … We think it subtracts from both, and you don’t get the best experience from either. We’re very much focused on two.
… and I have to believe this too. I can understand from a cost reduction point of view that if you’re developing a mobile OS for phones/tablets and also a desktop OS at the same time, the attraction of merging your development efforts to a single product would be attractive to reduce development costs from shared assets, smaller development team, combined testing efforts etc.
The problem with this approach that Cook mentions, is that a mobile device compared to a desktop (or even laptop device) are such radically different user experiences, that any attempt to combine the two to a single common product is going to be a compromise that is going to impact the ability to capitalize on the key features that differentiate a mobile device from a desktop device and vice versa.
I’ve thought this for a while now seeing Microsoft, in my opinion, struggle to find the right balance of common features across device types with Windows 8 and now Windows 10. And yet, haven’t they already been down this path before with Windows Mobile on smart phones back in the early to mid 2000s? Anyone rememeber trying to use the Start menu on a phone in the early 2000s with a stylus? It was a terrible user experience – worked well on the desktop with a mouse, but translated very pooly to a small screen either touch or pen based. But, Microsoft believes they can still get this right. Uhuh. Call us when you’ve got something worth looking at.
According to a study by Ovum, Android is expected to be the mobile development platform of choice… in 12 months. That’s not a long time.
As an Android user, it’s pretty obvious there’s an increasing amount of development for the platform just by the volume of apps making their way to the Android Market. 3 years ago it was slim pickings in the store, but now the Android Market is starting to have the same issue as the iOS App Store… how do do you find what you’re looking for?