Over the last year, some Apple enthusiasts have been vocal in their demands for the next big disruption from Apple. In the same way that Apple completely changed the way music is distributed and purchased, turned the mobile phone industry on its head, and created a tablet that people will actually use, these folks want The Next Big Thing--something about TV, or mapping, or toasters, or ... something.
The fact that no such earthshaking development has emerged from Cupertino to assuage those demands has prompted some to say that maybe Apple's lost its edge, and that the company can't create disruptive technology as it once did.
But I'd like to suggest that The Next Big Thing is already happening, right before our eyes. You can see it in OS X, iOS, and the devices that Apple is creating.
About you and your devices
The Next Big Thing is Apple comprehensively changing the way we interact with our devices and data. Let's start with the devices; for this, we'll require the assistance of a nearby four-year-old.
Sit that four-year-old down and place an iPad before them. Show them how to switch it on, press the Home button to get to the Home screen, and launch an app or two so they can get the gist of the touch interface. Then let them play with it for awhile. Check in with them in about an hour and you'll find that they can make their way around the device pretty easily.
Take that same four-year-old and place them in front of your Mac. Start the thing up, explain what the mouse and keyboard are for, launch a couple of applications, and tell them to take over. After shoving the mouse around for a few seconds they will turn to you and, in whatever terms four-year-olds use these days (I believe "poo poo" is likely to figure into it) they will let you know that the idea of shoving a mouse around to, in turn, move a cursor across a screen is insane.
And they're right. We, as Mac users, have been doing this for years and so, to us, it's entirely natural. But try to forget what you know. In the real world, do you walk around with a retractable mechanical claw designed to manipulate objects around you? Of course not. Why would you, when you can simply touch what you need?
Same idea with technology. What's more natural, pushing a Next Page button on a Kindle or swiping a page in iBooks? If your answer was the button, try again.
So, Apple is pushing us in the direction of gestures and touch with the idea of removing that level of abstraction where you need to move a physical object to then move a virtual one. It makes sense, given how we interact with things in our daily lives.
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