Apple's newest incarnation of iOS will be released on Wednesday, September 18th. This latest version will debut a completely new user experience and over 200 new features. For the average iPhone user, that would be exciting enough news.
But for those who follow technology trends in the industry, the release of iOS 7 sets the stage for a major paradigm shift that could dramatically affect the mainstream PC market for the next several years and result in a major market expansion for Apple laptop and desktop products.
The key elements to examine are the combination of iOS 7 and the introduction of the A7 processor for the new iPhone 5s. This same A7 chip will undoubtedly be the foundation processor for the new iterations of the iPad and iPad Mini as well.
The magic behind the strategy is this: the A7 processor uses a 64 bit architecture and iOS7 is written for a 64 bit processor and that shift has the potential to be the game changer that positions Apple to introduce a unified operating environment that neither Windows or Android will be capable of competing against.
Apple observers have been watching the convergence of iOS and Mac OS X for a couple of years now. Apple's soon to be released OS X Mavericks is starting to display some remarkable similarities to a user interface so familiar to iPhone and iPad users. In a February 2013 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Tim Cook hinted at such a strategy admitting that both mobile and desktop devices from the company could run on the same processors.
Let's examine some potential outcomes to such a convergence. Imagine having a consistent hardware and software architecture across the entire Apple product line.
A single processor family would dramatically streamline the hardware design process and the infrastructure necessary to support it. It would expand economies of scale for processor production as well. A single operating system across the product line would have a similar streamlining effect on development and testing.
But there is a much more compelling series of benefits that are the real payoff. To understand how this works, we need to explore a couple of key concepts. First, people don't buy computer hardware for its own sake. No matter how cool or beautiful a device is, people buy it because of what they can "do" with it. In order to "do" things, you need software. The more software that is available, the more people can "do stuff" with their devices.
With over 900,000 app in the App Store and more than 375,000 of those apps native to the iPad, people can "do" a lot of stuff with their iPhones and iPads. According to sources, as of June 2013, the Mac App Store only had a little over 15,300 apps available. Granted, many software developers that write products for both Mac and Windows don't sell their product on the Mac App Store.
In anticipation of iOS 7, developers are busily converting their apps to 64 bit using a developer ecosystem that Apple rolled out earlier this summer that makes the process 'trivial' in the words of several iOS app developers. Over the next few weeks, large numbers of apps will be converted and future apps will be developed to take advantage of all the capability that the new hardware and software architecture provides.
While no one knows exactly how many software programs are available for the Mac, introducing technology that would allow Apple to increase the number of available apps by 375,000 overnight is a stunning development. And that is exactly what the migration of iOS 7 to a 64 bit architecture could do.
Many software industry pundits believe that Windows on laptops and desktops has become far to pervasive for Apple to have enough impact to result in large scale migration from the Windows to Apple.
Apple has introduced several key factors that might just be enough to make all but the most hardcore Windows users consider a switch.
First, there are now over 575 million iTunes users with Apple adding around 500,000 new users a month. To buy apps or music, you must be an iTunes user which means there are a lot of people that have been exposed to the Apple environment.
In June 2013, Apple announced that they had sold over 600 million iOS devices.
Imagine every single one of those users knowing exactly how to operate their new Apple laptop or desktop with virtually no learning curve or downtime when they make the switch.
Imagine those users now having their favorite apps available for use on their laptop or desktop. Imagine seamlessly being able to access your information on your iPhone, iPad, MacBook or iMac using the same app.
This is a far cry from trying to make your Android and Windows devices play well together. Not to mention that Android and Windows come from Google and Microsoft respectively. The two companies emphatically do not get along as the Microsoft ad campaign "Scroogled" demonstrates. In addition, Microsoft and Google are both software companies and have spotty track records in their hardware ventures. Finally, most of the hardware their respective products run on are made by literally dozens, if not hundreds of different companies. It is impossible for them to optimize for all the various hardware architectures they must run on and applications they must support.
Apple's unified approach to hardware, software and movement towards a common user experience will be very appealing to the less technical user who doesn't want to 'fiddle' with hardware, software, network configurations and device integration.
They simply want something that provides them with a way to get their work done without a lot of muss, fuss and aggravation. If the solution they can get is also elegant, intuitive and fun to use, most users are willing to pay a premium for that experience.
Jony Ive expressed Apple's design philosophy when he said, "We believe that technology is at its very best, at its most empowering, when it simply disappears."
With the release of the A7 and iOS 7, Apple has taken the first steps towards doing just that...making the technology behind the solutions offered by Apple transparent to the user.
I think the average technology consumer will be just fine with that...and will beat a path to Apple's door.