Apple’s Next Technology Move to Drive Industry Direction

I have been told that I am the analyst with the longest history of professionally covering Apple. I think this is a polite way of saying that I am old. I started covering Apple in 1979 and began covering them professionally as Creative Strategies’ first PC analyst in 1981. Interestingly, when the PC industry kicked in with the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981, there were no PC analysts. The four of us, which included someone from IDC, Dataquest and Forester were actually drafted or forced to cover PC’s along with our current job of researching the role and impact of mini-computers for our respective companies.

From this position I have been able to watch the PC industry grow from the inside and got to deal with all of the major PC executives in person from the beginning. All this to say that over these 32 years I have developed a pretty broad understanding about what makes the tech market tick and the leaders and technologies that have driven the tech industry to what it is today.

Although Microsoft, Lotus, Software Publishing, IBM, Compaq and Dell along with many other software and hardware companies lead much of the PC’s direction over these 32 years, there is one company that actually had perhaps the greatest influence on the direction of the PC industry and tech market that exists today.

A Look Back

Apple was the first to introduce a commercial PC with the Apple I and II but it ultimately influenced IBM to get into the market. In 1984, Apple introduced the Mac with its graphical user interface, which of course drove Microsoft to follow suit with their eventual Windows OS. But with the Mac they also introduced another key technology that the industry adopted rather quickly. When PC’s came out, they had a 5 and 1/4 inch floppy disc for storage. Apple bucked this trend and put a 3 and ½ disk reader in the Mac and within two years, all PC’s adopted 3 and ½-inch floppy drives.

While still at Apple, Steve Jobs became very interested in laser printers and private labeled the first desktop laser printer from Canon. After he departed in 1985, Apple execs, lead by John Scully, married a piece of software from Aldus called Pagemaker to the Mac and along with Apple’s laser printer birthed desktop publishing. Within three years, the IBM PC compatibles had a similar solution and became a big part of the desktop publishing revolution.

Around 1989, Scully got really interested in the impact of desktop publishing on storage and took the bold move of introducing CD ROM drives in the Mac. While its initial impact was to give desktop publishing content, which included text, images, and even some video, a larger storage medium for DTP distribution, this move also birthed what was known as the multimedia PC. Apple owned the desktop multimedia PC for about 2 years but by 1991 most PC’s were also being shipped with CD Rom drives in them.

In 1998, after Jobs returned to helm Apple he turned his eye on industrial design and created the first popular all-in-one desktops PC’s with his candy colored iMacs.
By 2001, All-In Ones that were IBM PC compatible started coming out and are still a key part of desktop PC sales today.

While he did not invent the MP3 player, he reinvented it with the iPod. He did not invent the smartphone, but reinvented it with the iPhone. And he did invent the tablet; he reinvented it with the iPad. In all three of these cases Apple has taken a leadership position and drove their competitors and the industry forward in leaps and bounds.

Where to Go From Here

So, what is the next big technology that Apple will make popular that the entire industry will need to follow to be competitive? About 4 years ago I was asked to go and meet with the senior execs of an east bay company that very few people had heard of. I was only aware of them because when IBM still owned the PC division, they had looked closely at this company and in my work with IBM and eventually Lenovo who bought the PC division from IBM, I had to work with this technology as part of my role in testing products for them.

The company was AuthenTec Inc. They were a hardware security firm whose crown jewels was a fingerprint reader that many PC companies had embedded into laptops to provide an additional layer of security by means of fingerprint identification. Late last year, Apple bought AuthenTec for $356 million dollars and has brought them in house to work on various ID authentication projects in the works.

While I suppose Apple could include their fingerprint reader in new Mac laptops, I believe their real goal is to bring second and possibly even third levels of ID authentication to the iPhone and iPad. While laptops can be left behind, iPhones and iPads are even easier to lose and misplace and securing these more mobile devices is becoming paramount in the eyes of Apple’s iPhone and iPad customers.

However, trying to put a fingerprint reader on small mobile devices is difficult to do in a way that it is easy to use and foolproof. Apple has only owned the company for 10 months or so but I am convinced they are working overtime to try and get this technology into the next version of the iPhone. The most logical way to do this is to put the fingerprint reader in the “on” button on the bottom that when touched with the proper finger allows you to securely open the scroll bar. But since people also hold the iPhone in one hand and at least one or two fingers touch the back of the screen to hold it, it is plausible that the fingerprint reader can be on the back.

I have no doubt that when Apple eventually introduces their much rumored TV or even an iWatch, these moves could drive the industry in new directions. But as in the past when Apple introduced key technologies in their products and the industry followed, my bet is that the integration of a fingerprint reader in the iPhone and iPad, will actually have the greatest impact on the future designs of all smartphones and tablets in the future.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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