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Looking for disruption? It's staring you in the face, bub.

Christopher Breen | Nov. 28, 2012
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.

It's about your stuff

You may recall a few years ago that Apple pushed the idea of a Digital Hub. This hub placed your Mac in the middle; off of it you'd hang other devices--an iPod for your music, a digital camera for importing pictures, a camcorder for movies, a scanner, a printer, hard drives, and on and on. But the Mac was the brains of the outfit.

That's no longer the case. The Mac is now (or soon will be) just another device. And that's because the Mac is, in this new scheme, broadly no more important than any other device you use to interact with your stuff. And Stuff is the key. Everything is now about your stuff. Your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac, and web browsers are just different-sized windows to your stuff. And your devices talk to one another in order to ensure that your stuff is the same, regardless of which gadget you use at any given moment.

Work on something on your Mac, it's synced to iCloud. Pick up your iPad and continue that work, right from where you left off. Take a picture on your iPhone and it's synced with your other devices, as well as your iCloud account.

If stuff rules the roost then concepts like "file structure" are far less important. You don't care where your stuff is, you just want quick access to it. And that helps explain why Apple has eliminated file structure from iOS devices and is deemphasizing it in the Mac OS. The folder hierarchy has always been a construct to help us visualize how our files are organized, but it's only a construct--it's not real. So what's to keep us from doing away with the abstraction and instead thinking of our stuff as simply "just available"?

Where we fit

All of this change is not going down terribly well with longtime Mac users. They like their mouse, trackpad, and keyboard; they've learned to think of their data as stored in nested folders; and they resent the iOSification of the Mac OS. Although Apple doesn't currently prevent you from working with the Mac OS as you have in the past, the company has certainly made it more difficult to tweak things the way you once could. And my guess is that trend will continue.

But here's the bitter pill: Longtime Mac users who think this way are not Apple's future. We're seeing that future unfold before our eyes and it strongly hints that those now coming to the Mac will have already had their first experience with Apple products using an iOS device. They'll expect touch and gestures, they'll feel comfortable with Launchpad's interface and a simplified settings screen, and they won't gripe that their documents are tied to specific applications.


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