On Wednesday, Steve Jobs took the stage and announced what he called “Apple’s third post-PC blockbuster”, the iPad 2. Don’t get me wrong: I’m loving everything I’ve seen about the iPad 2 and I plan on grabbing one next Friday when they become available, but watching the event from Wednesday, the use of the phrase “post-PC” was just blatantly incorrect.
Why? Because of one nagging deficiency in all of Apple’s “post-PC” products: As much as they are these highly functional, magical devices that you can carry anywhere and do nearly anything with, at the end of the day, they all need to be connected to a fully functional PC. They need that wired connection for 3 things:
- Activation / System Software updates
- Backing Up / Recovering Data
- Document transfer and syncing
That is a deficiency in Apple’s product line. It’s the main reason why when people who don’t really need a computer ask me if they should get an iPad that I say no. The way the iPad, iPhone, and iPod have all been designed, they require a PC.
Cut the wire, Apple
If you have a Mac, you’ve probably started using the new Mac App Store and you’re used to it letting you download updates to your software over the internet, just like the App Store for the iPad and iTunes. However, there’s one feature of the Mac App Store that far surpasses the features of the App Store: the Purchases tab. From here, you can log onto any computer that you own and download all the software that you’ve purchased for your Mac. On both the iPad and iPhone (and even in iTunes), you have to know what you’ve purchased in the past, find it in the App Store, and then re-download it. There is no “Purchases” list of everything you have the right to download again without paying for it again. This is Apple effectively weaning us from CDs and DVDs on our computers. If Apple really wants to be Post-PC, then Apple needs to cut the cord from iTunes on all of these devices.
Imagine if you bought a new iPad, and instead of plugging it into your computer and waiting for it sync with iTunes, if instead, you simply went through a set up procedure on the device, connected to the internet, and logged into your Apple account, and wirelessly, it took you to a list of all the applications you’ve purchased for previous iOS devices in the past. Imagine if you could choose to download all those and along with them came all your data for those programs that have been syncing wirelessly over the air to Apple for storage all this time. We’ve all seen the news about Apple buying up large data centers. Why not use those data centers for this?
Imagine downloading all your music immediately. Imagine MobileMe type sync remembering all your email accounts, browser bookmarks, and important iWork data and syncing that down to the iPad too?
Sound crazy and impossible?
On Tuesday evening on my way to Grand Central, I stopped by the Verizon store on Madison Avenue and grabbed a Motorola Xoom. I caught my train, and I sat down and pulled out the device. I turned it on and it started looking for an active internet connection. As soon as the train left the underground, emerging near 125th street, the device was Activated on Verizon’s network. A minute later, and I’d entered in both of my Google Apps accounts via the setup screen and all my email and data from those accounts began syncing to the device. I was up and running and being effective in less than 10 minutes. Then I launched Android Market. All the apps that I had previously purchased on my Samsung Galaxy Tab and that were connected to my Google Apps account, were there ready to be downloaded and installed. I selected all and began installing them.
By the time I arrived home (about a 30 minute total commute), my Xoom was not only fully setup with all the data and applications that I needed at my fingertips, but I’d actually been *using* those applications and data to be productive as other parts were still being set up.
Now, that being said. iPad still trumps Xoom. The iPad is a more refined device.
But, the Xoom is more of a true post-PC device.
Apple, cut the cords now. Make these changes. If you don’t, I fear that Google is going to eat your post-PC market just like Microsoft did back in the day when you were the first innovators with the personal computer.