With hindsight, this week was not the time to go on vacaction. At least, though, it has given me the chance to sit back and read through all the initial impressions and the reasoned in-depth reviews of all the new features of iOS 5, rather than shooting from the hip as usual.
For me, by far the most interesting aspect is the introduction of a free iCloud service and the removal of the need for iTunes synchronisation via cable. The latter is not only logical, it is a bold step by Apple in ensnaring customers into the eco-system.
Every one of the millions of new iPhone and iPad customers will in future sign up for free sync and email. The number of Apple IDs will soar, as will the count of @me email addresses and the database of credit cards. This is probably Apple’s number one objective in developing the overall ecosystem and making a change to a competitor less likely.
More important, for the first time it is possible to make the most of an iOS device without having to own a computer. The iPad is already cannibalising the PC market and the trend will continue as more people find that the tablet can do all they need. They can buy with the knowledge that there’s no need for a computer in the background.
For many, a computer is bought solely for web browsing, emailing and, perhaps, storing photographs. I am continually surprised how many people never consciously save a file or use other than the basic software that comes with their PC. For them, a tablet is a wise choice.
And as iOS matures, even more sophisticated computer users are discovering that an iPad can cope with almost all on-the-road tasks just as effectively as, say, a lightweight portable computer such as the MacBook Air. The addition of over-air syncing of applications, such as Apple’s own iWork suite, will make it even easier to keep on top of workflow without needing to open a laptop.
As we get used to this “it-just-works” method of syncing we will be even more receptive to changes in the desktop OS, starting with Lion in a few weeks’ time. Gradually we are seeing convergence between the exclusively touch-oriented iOS and a desktop OS that is adopting many of the better features of iOS, including gestures, probably eventually touch, the home screen with folders and many more similar ways of working. The Mac is moving away from its roots as a geeky computer into the mainstream and will surely become more attractive to the new hordes of iPhone and iPad buyers. This is all part of Apple’s master plan to take over the world.