Apple's fortunes have shifted from its traditional desktop market (Mac OSX) to its portable device market (iOS.) This began, innocuously, with the iPod and gathered major momentum with the iPhone, iPad and, most recently, the AppleTV.
The AppleTV was the really revealing move: in its first iteration it was based on OSX but in its second iteration it became an iOS product. Apple actually morphed a product from one line into the other. Very telling.
The most interesting piece of the iOS puzzle is the App Store. The App Store seems like little more than a neat way to funnel end user funds into Apple's ample pockets and, on the surface, it certainly was a huge success in that area.
However, the App Store represents far more than a simple attempt at increasing profit margins. The App Store has brought a paradigm shift to the way that end users acquire, install and manage applications. This shift is nothing new to the technical world of Linux desktop users who have long had simple software acquisition systems (which the App Store mimics). The App Store brings the ease of use of Linux's package management to the mainstream market and does so with a great revenue model.
The App Store solves the many issues surrounding software purchasing compatibility, security, etc. and makes finding new software much easier by offering a central repository. By doing this, Apple's customers are purchasing software at an incredible pace.
Apple has many reasons to look more favorably upon its iOS product family than its more traditional products. The old Mac lineup is, in reality, just another PC in a commodity market. While OSX has some interesting features compared to Windows, its hardly a majorly differentiated product. And with Linux rapidly cutting into the PC market in the netbook and alternative computing device space there is less and less room for OSX to play in.
The iOS devices, running on Apple's own A4 processor, enable Apple the unique opportunity to engineer their products from the ground up as a completely controlled vertical stack they control every significant piece of hardware and software, giving them unprecedented control. This control can be leveraged into awesome stability and integration as well as profit. Few outside vendors are getting a piece of the pie.
iOS offers this in a different environment. Unlike developing for Android or Windows Phones, iOS offers a highly stable and well-known ecosystem for developers to code against they can leverage more of the platform with less effort.
The power user market is all but lost and Apple quietly bowed out of their long-forgotten server market this past January. This takes Apple to the other side of the spectrum entirely, but one where Apple seems to really understand whats needed and what their market wants. Rather than being niche, Apple is poised to be a dominant player. Theres no denying that lower power consumption "green" devices will only continue to be important in the future.
Desktop computing may seem like an odd place for the iOS system to go, but if we really think about what Apple is developing here, it makes perfect sense. The transition won't be overnight, but it is sure to come.
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