I’ve seen the future of iOS and OS X, and it starts with iLife
In a recent well-thought out article about the iOS-ification of OS X, Frederico Viticci states, “This transition obviously started years ago, and in retrospect it’s hard to dig up the very first example of iOS-ification on the Mac.”
The fingerprints of iOS encroaching on OS X may be more tangible than realized. As I’ve watched Apple — in particular its video offerings — over the years, it occured to me sometime last year that if you want to know where Apple is taking OS X with regard to iOS, here’s a sure bet: Watch iLife.
Two things happened in 2007. The first is well-known. In January of 2007, Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone to the world, and the world hasn’t been the same since.
The other event was a bit of a PR nightmare for Apple. In August, amidst the wake of the June release of the first iPhone, Apple rolled out iLife ’08, which included, among its standard offerings, an updated iMovie. iMovie ’08 had been completely redesigned by one Randy Ubillos — originator of Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and now Final Cut Pro X.
Upon its release, David Pogue said, “iMovie ‘08 is an utter bafflement… incapable of the more sophisticated editing that the old iMovie made so enjoyable…”
And look at all the changes — no processor-intensive effects, no plugins, one project at a time, and support for a limited amount of codecs, revolving primarily around MP4, which even Final Cut didn’t support at the time.
As I mentioned last year:
[quote]I believe Apple, with a team headed by Randy Ubillos, redesigned iMovie around a core set of priorities, which were not primarily about editing, and therefore lost some of the editing tools in the process.[/quote]
Because it was a 1.0 program, the “missing features” distracted everyone from the big UI overhaul. It’s on the list, but I think it is primarily the UI that drove Apple to resort to, as Pogue says, “throwing away a fully developed, mature, popular program and substituting a bare-bones, differently focused program under the same name.”
So coming at it from a positive angle, let’s look at what was gained with iMovie ’08 over its predecessor: one project at a time with one video viewer at a time, MP4-based editing, large regions and formed scrollable windows within a single application framework with lots of dragging versus precise clicking.
In short, it was made to be touched, not clicked.
There’s been speculation about a touchscreen Mac for a long, long time. Back at D8, Steve Jobs famously spoke of how the tablet had been in the development stages for a long time, but advancements, primarily in touchscreen technology, caused Apple to opt for redirecting resources to the design of a mobile phone.
Today, the touchscreen Mac is really already among us — a quite capable personal computer running a version of OS X, albeit slightly different. We know it as the iPad. The touchscreen Mac of tomorrow may simply be an evolution of today’s robust iPad, handling tougher, more demanding processes and situations.
iMovie for iOS
Three years after the relase of that first iPhone, three years after the complete redesign of iMovie, we see iMovie for iOS — one of the first Apple-made, non-system, powerful apps for iOS that was built for the every day user. For you. For I.
And man, looking at iMovie for iOS during that keynote revealed one thing: the app looked a lot like that redesigned iMovie ’08 for the iLife suite. What started off as a surprising redesign that people like Pogue didn’t understand at the time began to make absolute sense. It was no surprise when we found out that the man behind iMovie for iOS was the same Randy Ubillos that redefined iMovie with the ’08 edition earlier.
If the iPhone is really five years ahead of the competition like Jobs suggested, that could very well mean that the concept of iMovie for iPhone and iPad could have been floating around as early as 2005, right about the time iMovie was not doubt being rewritten from the ground up. Think about that for a moment. Done? Can you see where this is all going? The picture is certainly starting to get a little bit clearer.
Near the end of his thoughts on the iOS-ification of OS X, Viticci asks, “Will Mac-only applications (and thus Mac-like from a UI standpoint) like Aperture, Final Cut and iBooks Author ever be ported to iOS, triggering an iOS-based rewrite and redesign? We don’t know yet. But soon, maybe?” He then proceeded to link the word maybe to potential specifications for the rumoured upcoming iPad 3.
My guess is that with new hardware on the way for both iOS devices, with iOS 6, and a new Mac OS already well into planning stages at Apple, porting the code for these programs will be a small, final roadblock, should the company decide it’s time to completely bring its professional applications to iOS. Heck, there’s even recent reports that a graduate student was working on testing OS X on ARM architectures while working on his thesis.
This brings us to the most iOS ready professional application in Apple’s portfolio — Final Cut. The UI changes in Final Cut Pro X really start to make sense now. I don’t recall anyone wanting FCP to look more like iMovie, do you? Few of the UI changes facilitate the other new conceptual designs of the FCP underbelly. My only thought is that — as I suspect with the iMovie ’08 changes — they must be preparing us for the inevitable touchscreen Mac.
With iMovie ’08, Apple found itself on the receiving end of garrish backlash from dedicated users. Pogue’s critique of iMovie ’08 sounds eerily similar to today’s critiques of FCPX. Now, Apple has no doubt fumbled the release of FCPX, but even if everything from 10.0.3 had been present back in June, there still would have been a mass outcry regarding the UI redesign. Once again, just like with iMove ’08, the limitations of an app have distracted us from seeing the potential future.
What about Aperture? Go look at it. It embodies the iLife-ification of Apple’s pro application lineup. It’s recent changes have mirrored iPhoto updated: face recognition, UI tweaks, bigger buttons, fullscreen modes, etc.
There’s no way this app was developed inside Apple without someone thinking about making the software touch-friendly So, where does that leave us? Look again at Apple’s first power apps for iOS — iWork — and their desktop doppelgangers, and iBook’s path to iOS is pretty clear.
Viticci contends that iCloud is the place to look if you want to know where iOS and OS X are headed. Obviously, I disagree. For the near future, sure. But I see iCloud as an extension of the operating system, a new part of it that doesn’t exist on your device. It’s huge technology that bridges the gaps between our existing day-to-day computing, and sometimes in small ways we now don’t even think about. Casual consumers aren’t taking notes about iCloud. iCloud is plumbing, only noticed when it breaks.
So, I still say, if you want to know Apple’s grand vision for the future, watch iLife.
We now have GarageBand on iPad and iPhone, the iOS Photos app has incorporated some of iPhoto’s editing capabilities, and no doubt a lot of learning from iOS can be seen in iLife ’11, as Viticci handily points out.
While maybe not what some might call the “core” of Apple’s business, it’s no doubt that the casual computer user (aka “consumer”) is the broad base that keeps Apple’s bottom line nice and cushy. Apple sneaks its newness into our every day lives in ways we don’t realize, bringing these new elements into our relationship with our devices; sometimes we don’t see it happening until we’re told that it’s actually occurring.
Tapping into the future
There are certainly many areas in which Apple is navigating the winds of an ever-changing technology industry and a demanding market. There are no doubt many occasions where us fanboys credit Apple with vision when in reality they are figuring it out as they go. I may be doing that here, but I firmly believe that a personally-interactive, wireless, smart, ultra-portable tablet was Jobs’ vision from the beginning decades.
Like a stereogram, the image before us today is beginning to come into focus. Jobs and Apple painted the picture a long, long time ago. It’s only now that it’s starting to make some actual sense.