Christmas is just around the corner and you know what that means; no, Iim not referring to mounds of Apple products wrapped up in ever-so-pretty ribbons nestled lovingly beneath a holiday festooned tree waiting for eager eyes to behold them and eager fingers to touch them. (Are you listening rich uncle?) Nor do I refer to the celebration of Christis birth, though that reference seems to get drowned out by the glaring lights and overzealous salespeople these days. Iim not particularly religious, but it would make me upset to have my birthday celebration turned into a reason to enhance the corporate bottom line.
No, for me, one reason Christmas is important is that two weeks afterwards the Macworld Expo starts up in San Francisco, and our good and bestest buddy (and Big Toe), Steve Jobs, will talk up new Apple stuff at his famous Keynote Address.
Thereis a plethora of imagined gadgets that folks are expecting to be delivered with the well known, ..."one more thing..." preamble; G6 iPods, iPhones, and iTablets lead the list. While the G6 iPod is a likely Macworld offering if it isnit announced in time for Christmas, iPhones and iTablets are iffy at best regardless of whatis in the rumor mills.
One thing did get me thinking about other possible Macworld announcements, however, that could have a far reaching affect on the Macworld; Thereis an article in The Wall Street Journal that The Mac Observer alumnus, John Martellaro, wrote about that discusses Microsoft, its dorky Zune media player, and what the company has to do to get people to buy it.
There was one paragraph in the Wall Street Journal article in particular that got my attention, it reads:
"Meanwhile, a cadre of respected Microsoft computer scientists and programmers formed a group under Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie to start building software that could be a critical piece of what Windows might become, say people familiar with the work. That group, says a person familiar with the matter, sees the future of Windows as much more as an Internet service than software that runs on a PC." (Wall Street Journal Can Microsoft Retool for Web? 11/27/06)
This paragraph is interesting because it has been something I had hoped Apple would be working on for a long time.
When Apple first introduced .Mac back in 2002 I believed that the company would soon deliver a cornucopia of online applications that we could "rent" when needed. Text processors, HTML editors, graphic applications, games, and more could be part of my $99 a year .Mac fee. I would never have to worry about updates or accessibility, no matter where I go I can use the latest software and work on my most current version of the the file Iim editing.
As the years have progressed I really canit say that .Mac has; it is still a convenient service for me, and the recent updates to Mail and Homepage has made the service marginally more useful, but it is still not the ever-present collection of work and play apps Iid envisioned it would be.
Maybe thatis about to change.
Many people are clamoring for an iPhone and iTablet, but Iid wager a large cup of hot Dunkini Donuts coffee (cream and sugar please) that most of the folks wanting these devices are techno-geeks who secretly find Microsoftis Zune fascinating. Apple wonit bother making a phone or tablet unless they can make it easy to use and worth using.
Making things easy is what Apple does, so making a device thatis a cinch to use regardless of the type of service (phone service of wireless access) is available should not be a big problem for Apple.
Making a device thatis useful is a bit tougher. Microsoft figured that people would flock to the Zune if it could download and share music from anywhere. they call it "Social networking" and itis suppose to differentiate the Zune from the iPod. I think they figured wrong. The wireless networking feature does make the Zune different from the iPod by adding complexity without gaining much in return.
Apple could make its future iPod/iPhone/iTablet device far more useful by tying it to .Mac for "Enhanced Services."
Imagine a .Mac service where all of the applications I had dreamed of earlier were actually available. Since these apps are online you wouldnit need a lot of horsepower to use them, just a way to connect to them. Free Wi-Fi or, if you donit mind paying the cost, cell phone based wireless access could give users a whole new way to access their own data, music, photos, and movies. The device need only have enough horsepower to display stuff.
This iMac Anywherei service could be offered as an higher tier service for .Mac users, opening up the service for users who may not be Mac users at all, but introducing them into the world of Apple in a relatively painless and useful way.
If the Wall Street Journal report can be believed, this is likely where Big Redmond is heading, and it would behoove Apple (isnit ibehoovei a cool word?) to get there first, and to get there best. it already has the foundation for this service in .Mac, it just needs to give that special Apple magic.