Apple executives at Monday's keynote for its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco rolled out the latest in Mac laptops and showed off forthcoming Mac Pro workstations, as well as offered a glimpse at the future OS X and iOS versions. While over the past few years, Mac hands at WWDC may have felt a bit neglected, this year's pitch sounded a new push for the Mac platform bringing it into what Cupertino calls the "Apple ecosystem."
At recent conferences in the spring, Apple CEO Tim Cook used the word "ecosystem" loosely, a shorthand for a market "the iPad ecosystem," or as a term for leveraging cloud services. However, from the WWDC demonstrations it was clear that the Apple Ecosystem is the deep integration of Apple hardware (for both mobile devices and computers), Apple operating systems (both OS X and iOS), Apple software (from Apple and third-party developers), Apple's iCloud services, its various online and bricks and mortar stores.
This rich tech stew was aimed squarely at potential "switcher" customers who are currently running Apple products with Windows machines. Apple is, after all, one of the world's biggest Windows developers. While Windows users are Apple's predominant base for its iOS platform, Apple wants to give them new reasons to join the Mac fold, making them full members of the ecosystem.
What drew my eyes were the many new pieces of expanded integration between mobile iOS devices, Mac applications and iCloud services. This was clearly seen in the iCloud integration of bookmarks, iCloud Keychain password security that syncs across Apple platforms, Notifications on OS X Mavericks, and in the integration of Maps data in calendar events that are then presented across devices. The 1.8 million iBooks will soon be able to be read on a Mac.
So, iOS apps will be able to send push notifications directly to a Mac and vice versa. When you check out a restaurant on your Mac, the location information will be automagically added to the Calendar, along with a map, directions and notifications. All of this will automatically sync across devices. This Apple Ecosystem is approaching a seamless, integrated workflow between mobile and desktop computing environments.
The Mac advantage has always been about integration between hardware and native software. Apple hardware was and continues to be better than that from PC makers, and Mac users believe that the software is also way better than Windows. Those can be a religious debate.
However, it is with the combination of hardware and software as an integrated platform that we find the real Mac advantage. The Wintel model has never been able to approach the level of Mac integration, especially now after PC vendors have spent the past 5+ years driving to the bottom of a commodity market hole, the reputation of the PC platform is in sorry shape. Microsoft's OS strategy is both roiling and confusing the market. All this makes the Mac look even better.
Apple has spent years checking off the problems Windows users have expressed with the Mac:
Wintel compatibility. Migration to the Intel processor and support for virtualization let Windows users run their programs if they must. Only the Mac can run Windows, Linux and OS X. Check.
Niche platform. The installed base of Macs is now 72 million, according to Apple at WWDC. That's small potatoes compared with Windows but it's a secure and solid base. There are 6 million Apple developers with millions using Apple's IDEs. You can run your Windows programs or even better, Mac programs. Check.
Niche player. Sorry, Michael Dell, Steve Ballmer and company. Apple is the leading technology company in the world, even when its stock has fallen 30 percent in the past year. It sells products that people want and love. Check.
Before the WWDC announcements of OS X Mavericks and iOS 7 there were plenty of great reasons to buy a Mac. Now, the Apple Ecosystem integration and services must be at the top of that list. There's a new expectation that this fall, all of it will work better together. And much better than with the Windows competition.