The future is now at Apple !

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec

While browsing the web, a few days ago, I realized that something had changed on my favorite sites... The flashy banners had been replaced by ads for the upcoming WWDC '04... Ah, the cheery but tasteful ad, carefully designed every year to attract developers to the Mac event of the year !



Even though you may think that I have gone cuckoo, now is the time where the Mac web wakes up again, as the Mac OS X development team prepares to hand out the coveted 10.4 beta CDs ! Rumor sites are fighting to get some crunchy details before anyone else, developers are anxiously waiting to see if the new frameworks will allow them to make their applications even better and we, mere users, are anxiously waiting for the report...



Last year, Apple introduced the world's most powerful personal computer, the PowerMac G5. It was a wonderful announcement and, to speak in Jon Rubinstein's own words, this is "one kick-ass machine" ! Without doubt, this announcement was an essential step in Apple's strategy and has prepared the ground for the years to come -- with amazingly powerful devices against which other chip manufacturers struggle to compete...



Panther was also introduced : a new interface, speed gains, 150 new features... Probably Mac OS X as Apple dreamt it when the project was first launched a few years ago. The few Mac OS 9 users who hadn't yet made the switch have joined us this year and the transition is now over...



A bit later during the year, Apple re-vamped its entire software line : iLife, QuickTime, Safari, FinalCut and all the others... All the Apple applications (consumer or pro) got a facelift to run more quickly, more efficiently and take advantage of the latest hardware developments. We, Mac users, are accustomed to frequent (and free) updates but this year was a firework !



Apple also released some cutting-edge peripherals. The iSight is no ordinary webcam -- or video conferencing would have long almost replaced the phone -- and the iPod is an engineering marvel. Even better, the iPod Mini is getting rave reviews from both music and technology lovers only a few weeks after its introduction.



In other words, Apple seems to have focused on updating its lines and getting comfortable with cutting-edge technologies. And comfortable they are : considering how many new things were introduced this year and at which rate, the ride was remarkably smooth !



As silly as it may seem, this positive turn can be seen everywhere : the ads are new, the stores are getting better than ever and even the Apple.com site is undergoing a discrete but real facelift.



Finally, Apple has finally found its place back in the hearts of investors... Un(F)ortunately, some investors couldn't bring themselves to see Apple as a serious challenger in the computing industry. This perception, that probably changed with the introduction of the XServe, is now almost gone -- just look at Apple's stock this past week-end. Apple is also a debt-free company now... and that is huge !



Finally, and most importantly, Fred Anderson and Peter Oppenheimer have provided investors with a look into the future that, coupled with positive magazine articles has convinced those who weren't...



So, what's next ?



Well, like you, I cannot know in advance and the O'Reilly Network is not the place to engage in speculation. However, the various partnerships -- both technical and commercial -- in which Apple plays a key part, the announcements they have already made this year and the evolution of Mac OS X over the previous years lets us envision that some great things are to come...



What is sure, though, is that Apple is now free to release more innovative products than ever, products that consumers will be willing to try and adopt now that the more "traditional" part is secured. They can, to a certain extent, take some risks and re-introduce breakthroughs in a industry that is suffering and had stopped seriously innovating for a while.



Of course, I am not expecting things to work like magic : nothing does and, even if you are Apple, you need to come up with ideas and work extremely hard to make them come true and to succeed in selling them. However, as you can see, I am not too worried. Apple has already proven that it can do great things and resist to adversity. A ride to success is never entirely smooth but obstacles are part of the game and can even be beneficial.



So, let's buy our conference passes ( if we are developers ) and include a few good news sites in our bookmarks ( if we are users )...



Until next time, dear Mac users, enjoy thinking different !