There's no doubt that Apple's iOS-powered iPad has been a massive hit, but with Microsoft and its hardware partners getting ready to unleash a multitude of Windows 8 and Windows RT powered hardware, can an OS X powered Apple tablet computer be far behind?
There's been endless speculation as to what Apple's next big thing will be. While many analysts, along with a huge number of tech pundits, believe that this is going to be an Apple branded television, I have to say that I'm skeptical. The television market is on its knees and unless Steve Jobs really did come up with the secret sauce to allow Apple to sell televisions by the millions, it doesn't seem like a good market for the consumer electronics giant to enter into.
So, if not a TV, what else?
How about an OS X powered tablet computer?
On the face of it, this might seem like a crazy idea. After all, the iPad is a highly successful tablet and given the tight grip that the Cupertino giant has on the tablet market, the company can ride the iPad for the foreseeable future. So far, the iPad's only real competition has been a flood of mediocre Android tablets. With Microsoft -- and countless hardware OEMs -- now stepping up to the plate, the iPad is going to face new, and possibly quite vigorous, pressure. Also, for the first time, Windows 8 will offer consumers the opportunity to experience a full-blown, touch-optimized operating system designed with tablets in mind.
Like it or not, Windows 8 is going to be a game changer. It's going to give people -- consumers and enterprise users alike -- a taste for tablets that feature a full-blown operating system. Is Apple going to let Microsoft and its OEMs define the full-OS tablet market?
This leaves Apple with a dilemma. Stick with the iPad and its cut-down iOS operating system, or offer a tablet with a more fully-featured operating system.
Joining the dots, I think that there's evidence to suggest that Apple is already preparing the way to put OS X on a tablet.
Starting with OS X 10.7 'Lion' Apple has been busy adding features from iOS into its desktop operating system. There have been small tweaks such as 'reverse scrolling,' which took the scrolling paradigm that mouse and touchpad users have become accustomed to and turned it on its head; and moving the content in the direction of finger movement, something that will be familiar to millions of iPad and iPhone users.
Then there's the Mac App Store, a mechanism of distributing apps to Mac users, bypassing the middleman and creating a digital distribution mechanism similar to the App Store present in iOS. Not only does this give Apple 30 percent of all software bought via the store, it gives users one-click access to the software they want. It also paves the way for iOS-like apps on OS X that would give users access to apps specifically designed for use with fingers rather that a keyboard, mouse, and touchpad.
Then there's iCloud. Local storage is now being augmented with cloud storage, and while none of the players -- Microsoft, Apple, or Google -- have nailed it down perfectly yet, the distinction between local storage and cloud storage is blurrier than ever.
There are countless other features from iOS that have made it into OS X, such as the Launchpad application launcher that allows users to fire off a program by single-clicking on an icon, a feature that looks a lot like the iOS SpringBoard or Home Screen interface. Launchpad makes a lot more sense on a touch device than it does on a system driven by a keyboard, mouse, and touchpad.
All this development work sounds like a perfect match for a tablet.
Microsoft has faced heavy criticism for making too many touch-related changes in Windows 8 too quickly. Apple, on the other hand, seems to have been making smaller, incremental changes in OS X. While some have rebelled against this iOSification of OS X, most users seem to be happy with the changes.
Apple, it seems, has been laying the groundwork for touch-enabled OS X systems for a few years, and now that Microsoft is preparing to make an assault on the tablet market, the time may be right for Apple to unveil its next-generation Mac -- the Mac Pad.
This certainly excites me more than all this talk of an Apple TV does.