Monday, 11 June 2012

apple talk

I see that Apple has announced a bunch of new things at their conference. Some were fairly predictable, but I think it's interesting in terms of the changes that will affect the ways we use computers over the next few years.

I'll ignore the speed and capacity increases on some of the laptops, but the new Macbook Pro is moving closer towards the MacBook Air form factor. A high resolution screen (2880 by 1800), solid state disk and no DVD. My Air (1.35kg) is about a year old, but if the new Pro (2kg) had been available it might have been a tough choice.

Then there's the addition of allegedly usable speech dictation. I've been pleasantly surprised with the speech on the iPad, although it beams the speech to the cloud where Nuance processes it, which makes it still a slightly disjointed operation. It's pretty accurate though, as you can see with this spoken blog entry.

The underpinning for the speech is Siri, which is already on iPhones and will go to Macs. It seems to be part of the integration of the messaging and notification environment too, one view everywhere, which already works pretty well.
It looks as if Siri will also be making its way into cars for sat-nav and similar. My car already has voice recognition for sat-nav and phone dialling in any case, but I can't ask it 'Are we nearly there yet?' which I suppose Siri will support (in fairness, my car already tells me this both in distance and time)
screenshot_05 The interesting thing will be whether the new "Eyes Free" for cars is fully integrated or whether it will be a separate device plug in like the iPod/iPhone. I see that about half a dozen car makers (e.g. BMW, Mercedes, GM, Honda, Audi, Toyota) are adding a Siri button to the steering wheel. It's still important for the sat-nav console to not become a source of distraction so I guess Angry Birds is out of the question.

Another related concept is streamed traffic congestion data - which is an idea that has been around for years- and is where the sat-navs in cars can send in data from their GPS that provides communal road status updates. Nowadays it'll be called crowd sourcing or similar and presumably part of the new mapping offered by Apple.

I noticed my car in the USA was Microsoft Sync enabled, complete with a Setup and a rather ominous Reset button. I guess we'll also get the war of Google vs Apple vs Microsoft as part of the battle for mapping. There's a whole load of new 3D imaging and so on, but I must admit I usually revert to basic 'North Up 2D' mapping when I'm in the car, except if I want to show off 3D pictures of London buildings to passengers.

I guess its different on a computer and I sometimes replay bike routes that I've ridden and GPS'd using google maps. (My Garmin Edge 800 is great for that)

Then there's the new Mountain Lion OS/X and iOS 6 releases for Macs, iPads and iPhones which I'm sure I'll use. The iOS has a few features that I've already had on my Blackberry over the years like - 'Do Not Disturb' (i.e. in a meeting), 'Reply with Message' (i.e. I can't talk right now but here's a standard courtesy text) and similar.

We also see FaceTime over cellular although my corporate world still uses MS Lync for ad-hoc conference calls and sometimes Skype, so it will be interesting to see how pervasive this becomes.

There's also some catchup items for OS/X like TV screen mirroring (at last) and hooray finally Aperture and iPhoto get the same database for their photographs. There's plenty of other new detail features, but the basic way to drive the system remains the same so the new stuff is sort of optional for usage.

I suppose these changes are part of the definitions for the next generation of computers.
  • Speech enabled
  • Very high resolution screens
  • Very lightweight form factor
  • End of spinning hard drives for laptops
  • Always connected - even when 'power napping'
  • Cloud dependent for certain functions
  • No more DVDs
  • No more ethernet plugs
  • Not announced, but they should have an option for non-reflective screens
I can't see this being the end for desktop machines though. There's still a different feeling sitting at a desktop system (e.g. iMac) compared with a laptop. But maybe the next iMac should also include a video in from a laptop?

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