After covering the tech industry for 20 years, Erik Eckel says it has helped him spot clues about Apple's strategy for the future.
This week in 1999 the TechRepublic website sported a different look and different information. The site's talented editors and writers were working studiously to prepare TechRepublic for official launch; I was privileged to be among that team. If 20 years of researching, authoring, and publishing IT news and information teaches any lessons, it's forecasting and predicting the technological future is exceedingly difficult.
Consider, for a moment, that the Apple Power Macintosh G3 and PowerBook G3 were darlings of Apple offerings in spring 1999. The PowerPC chip-powered blue-and-white Power Macintosh G3s and bronze-key PowerBook G3s boasted up to 400MHz performance, and 32-bit Mac OS 8.6 was the current platform. Mac OS X, the predecessor to today's macOS, wouldn't appear for almost two more years.
Today, of course, even the most basic MacBook boasts up to 3.6GHz performance, 64-bit macOS Mojave (10.14), and screen crispness that far exceeds that available at the turn of the century. Times have changed, indeed.
SEE: Apple's first employee: The remarkable odyssey of Bill Fernandez (PDF download) (TechRepublic)
Remembering that era, first Linux was going to take over the desktop, then thin clients were going to do the displacing. Thoughts of architecting cloud computing solutions were few and far between, as hyper-energetic discussions of monetizing digital audiences, perfecting client/server environments, and owning internet spaces dominated conversation. No one foresaw the Apple iPhone forever changing the way everyone communicates with one another and accesses news and information. Imagine, we still answered our cell phones for voice calls back then!
Neither did many really foresee the netbook fad, a trend permanently terminated by Apple's introduction of the iPad. Then came wearables. Where Apple technologies proceed next is anyone's guess, but several predictions seem fair.
1. Mobile computing will become paramount.
The long-discussed desktop demise is only now beginning. iPad- and iPhone-like mobile devices will ultimately end consumer and business user preferences for standalone desktops and laptops. Apple is well positioned to capitalize on such trends, as evidenced by its existing iPhone and iPad market share.
SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)
2. Everything is going to the cloud, and I do mean everything.
Everything from your files and images to your banking information and business software to electric utility invoices and money will be stored and exchanged within the cloud. Apple services, subsequently, may well grow to constitute the majority of revenue the firm produces.
3. Everything is going wireless.
When making new purchases today, including laptops and desktops and even automobiles, they typically no longer include CD-ROM or DVD drives. Such thoughts were heretical in 1999. But soon wired networks and physical Ethernet ports (or adapters) will be an obsolete feature relegated to history's past.
Expect Apple products across the board to move both to wireless charging and exclusively wireless networking. Just because Apple AirPower didn't make it off the launching pad doesn't mean the firm's wireless charging initiatives are finished—to the contrary. Apple's products have been powered by electrical connections for the past several decades, but I don't recall ever seeing Apple-branded power strips or battery backups in any of my visits to its website or retail stores.
SEE: Wireless networking policy (Tech Pro Research)
4. Digital security will only grow in importance.
It's likely blockchain innovations will assist identity and information protection strategies, as we'll be far beyond using simple multifactor and even biometric protections by 2040. Apple is, again, well positioned to dedicate staff and resources to integrating such innovations directly within its hardware and service offerings.
SEE: Quick glossary: Blockchain (Tech Pro Research)
5. Streaming trends will completely change how entertainment and other programming is distributed and consumed.
With Apple entering the original content production and distribution arena and the late March 2019 announcement that it's debuting its TV+ video subscription service, the company is fighting a unique battle by tying original programming consumption to just customers of its own hardware. While other content producers must only obtain subscribers for their programming, Apple seeks to also sell the hardware needed to receive its content, too. That's going to prove an uphill battle, but if anyone can do it, that company is Apple.
SEE: Streaming media policy (Tech Pro Research)
Let's see which Apple predictions come true
Twenty years is a long time. TechRepublic has accommodated multiple trends and adapted to numerous changes. You're in good hands within its community for staying abreast of the trends, products, and innovations that will be changing the way you work and live.
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