published Friday, October 29th, 2010

Jenkins: Apple continues to blaze computing path


by Donnie Jenkins

Star Wars creator George Lucas once made the comment that he had become what he had always battled, the corporation. I wonder if Apple's Steve Jobs ever feels that way.

Apple, more than any company, arguably created the personal-computer revolution. It actually shipped finished devices rather than parts that hobbyists would assemble into computers. At the time, it wasn't a given that personal computers would find a large market. It seemed that only Apple's Jobs and Steve Wozniak, as well as Microsoft's Bill Gates and Paul Allen were confident in the personal computer's future.

Apple's success soon led to IBM releasing its first personal computer, and the race was on. The IBM PC and the included Microsoft MS-DOS, and later Windows software, created the standards that most of us use today.

When Apple introduced the first Macintosh in early 1984, it did so with a now-famous commercial during the Super Bowl. The commercial seemed to compare IBM to the dictator Big Brother in the book "1984" and themselves to a beautiful woman in the spot who freed all the "clones." This commercial is still recognized as one of the best and most-effective ever created in branding a company.

Ever since, Apple has declared itself the liberator of computer users from the bondage of IBM-style PCs and especially from Microsoft Windows, which came to dominate computer sales. Its main complaint centered on uniformity and uninspired design, and certainly no one could successfully argue that PCs were not becoming commodities that were basically boring in their sameness.

It's well known that Jobs left Apple for some time and then basically saved the company from ruin when he returned. His vision and leadership have been phenomenal. The company now has moved into markets such as mobile and musical devices, all of which have created a new standard for their kind.

The iPhone in particular has changed everything we thought we knew about cell phones, especially in how it uses apps or dedicated programs to do its work. Apple has apparently even trademarked the phrase "There's an app for that."

Apple tightly controls the sales of apps for the iPhone, and more than once it has had controversy over rejecting one app or another. The control it has over that process has some people worried.

Last week at the Apple event, Jobs and his crew previewed the next Mac OS, to be called Lion, due to be released next year. One of its main features will be a total change in how programs are installed on Mac computers.

The company is moving to an App Store model for the Mac that is much like that of the iPhone. When you buy an app, it will download and install itself all in one process with no user input needed. This is a sign that Apple is going to lock down the Mac OS as much as possible in the way it has done with the iPhone and iPad, at least as far as apps go.

The reaction online has been divided between those who can't wait to see the iPhone approach on Macs and those who see this as Apple becoming IBM and Big Brother. This story will be one of the most interesting to follow over the next couple of years as the market changes. Use the force, Steve.

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