The Two most important Things Tim Cook Said at Last Week’s Launch Event

I have been thinking about the comments Tim Cook and other Apple execs said last week and there were two specific things Cook said that were quite intriguing and important to Apple’s future. The first comment came when Cook unveiled the iPad Pro, he called it, “the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing.” This is significant for many reasons. The key one that stands out to me is the idea that a large tablet with a keyboard is their vision of the future of personal computing. I was with Bill Gates in the mid 1990s when he told a small group of us analysts that “pen computing” was the future of personal computing — so this idea goes back at least 20 years. However, Apple’s embracing, embellishing and implementing this vision with a desktop class processor, the A9, and the fact this is a touch-based system says a lot about the way Apple is thinking about portable computing in the future.

While I don’t believe it means they will drop the Macbook Pro or even the Macbook Air anytime soon, it is clear there is little room for further innovation in the clamshell form factor. Yes, you can do Yoga-like designs but even PC makers who create these products today buy into the idea that a 2-in-1 delivers much more flexibility when it comes to the future of mobile computers. What is interesting is, from the Apple viewpoint, it could suggest Mac OS X and iOS could be on a collision course. Although with Apple’s continuum strategy in place, the interoperability between iOS 9 and OS X may make the need for merging a non issue. Cook also recently told Buzzfeed, “I think that some people will never buy a computer,” Cook says. “Because I think now we’re at the point where the iPad does what some people want to do with their PCs.”

As Ben pointed out in yesterday’s Insider piece on the iPad Pro, Apple validated the 2-in-1 category by bringing the iPad Pro to market. You can expect their competitors to crank up their own innovation engines for this platform. This is where I believe we will see the greatest innovation in mobile computers in the next few years. Apple’s Pencil will be a differentiator for them at first but I suspect voice navigation, 3D gestures and other UI concepts will be deployed on 2-in-1s as Apple, Intel and PC OEMs accelerate their R&D in this type of mobile computer.

The other thing Cook said that should be watched closely is his comments on the A9. He stated it is faster than 80% of the laptops on the market today and their new processors deliver desktop class performance. This is important for many reasons but the deployment of the A9 in the iPad Pro means they see this as delivering a full PC experience right out of the box. In my notes from a discussion with Apple execs, the A9 is actually faster than a core i7 and has faster and better graphics. I see Apple’s increasing prowess in semiconductors leading them down a path in which they will use their own chips some day in all of their PC based products. The good news for Intel is they could stave off a move by Apple to go to their own chips by moving their processors over to 10 nm, and eventually 7 nm to, at least in theory, always be ahead of Apple when it comes to next generation processors. But I think it is highly likely Apple will want to eventually control their entire destiny and, some day, use only their own chips if they can make them work with both operating systems seamlessly.

What I think is clear from last week’s event is Apple has pivoted quite a bit towards the iPad being their platform for their future of computing and they will likely bring the rest of the industry along with them. For Apple’s competitors this is a silver lining.

To date, demand for PCs and laptops are off about 8-9% for this year. The PC industry has been searching for a way to get people more interested in buying new laptops to replace older models. Perhaps, with Apple’s help, the 2-in-1 category will really catch on and we could potentially see a serious move by millions of people over the next three years, not only to upgrade, but buy these new 2-in-1 devices to give them what Apple and the PC crowd believe is the future of personal computing. At least, that is what the PC crowd are hoping for and are now keeping their fingers crossed and cheering on Apple with the new iPad Pro.

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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.

6 thoughts on “The Two most important Things Tim Cook Said at Last Week’s Launch Event”

  1. I’ll reserve judgement on “desktop class” from an ARM CPU until I know more. On the desktop, integrated graphics, even if better, are irrelevant, since discrete graphics cards blow away any integrated graphics. Again, this applies to the desktop.

    As for their vision of the future of personal computing.. I’ve been notoriously (obnoxiously?) vocal about Apple being the de facto IT department, ever since iOS’s App Approval Process. This has value, but does come at a cost, and that cost is- What makes the computer personal, or not, is who controls it.

  2. I have a few issues with this article.

    First, you say;

    The key one that stands out to me is the idea that a large tablet with a keyboard is their vision of the future of personal computing.

    If that were the case, then why would the keyboard be optional? The fact that it is optional suggests that Apple does not consider it to be an essential core part of the experience nor the vision.

    Secondly, you say;

    I think is clear from last week’s event is Apple has pivoted quite a bit towards the iPad being their platform for their future of computing

    Has Apple really pivoted? Steve Jobs said that PCs would be trucks and tablets would be cars. He said that the bulk of personal computing would be on the tablets. Hasn’t Apple considered the iPad to be their future computing platform all along?

    Now I wouldn’t nitpick on this unless I thought that it was very important.

    I also contemplate what Tim Cook meant by “the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing.” I however do not see their vision to be something as superficial as the presence/absence of a keyboard. Their vision most likely goes much deeper and further, possibly back to the roots of the company when Jobs and Woz created the Apple II, and definitely back to the Mac. Their vision could also go beyond a touch interface. In fact, one should consider input methods to be simply a means to achieve the vision and not the vision itself. The vision is also most likely manifested in the priorities and design of iOS as compared to Mac OS and Windows; the security model, the obfusication of the file system, etc.

    Remember that Apple had a keyboard for the first iPad;

    Of course, if you don’t have the memory of a goldfish you will know that Apple introduced a keyboard alongside its very first iPad in 2010 which matched those requirements.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/2984018/input-keyboards/apples-first-ipad-keyboard-and-the-power-of-the-portrait-display.html

    The very fact that Apple has been in and out of keyboards for iPads proves that a keyboard is not core but merely peripheral to Apple’s vision.

    The way I see it, the iPad Pro is “the clearest expression” because Apple has managed to reach the point where iPads can basically fulfil the needs of laptop computers, and because they achieved it without compromising on their vision for secure and simple computing. They achieved it despite stubbornly refusing to expose the file system. They achieved it despite a strongly sandboxed architecture. They achieved it while keeping touch the main interaction interface. They achieved it while keeping iOS simple enough to use for 2-year olds, and secure enough to entrust your most personal information. The combination of power, simplicity and security is what I think Tim Cook means by “the clearest expression”.

    I seriously think more people should carefully read Steven Sinofsky. It will broaden your perspective of the mobile OS paradigm.

    http://blog.learningbyshipping.com/2014/08/12/mobile-os-paradigm/

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