Today Apple announced the new version of its iLife software, the new version of its Mac OS ("Lion"), and two new MacBook Air products. (I recommend PC Mag for great live blogging coverage.) I'm seeing five takeaways for product strategists of devices and content:
- Software rules. It’s notable that Apple started off its conference talking about software, not hardware. It’s what you can do with the device that matters. Also, software is now officially known as “apps.” Software doesn’t come in boxes anymore, which make initiatives like HP’s new Download Store look outdated already.
- Synchronization drives affinity across devices. Apple is smart to launch the App Store for Macs with apps that sync with iPads and iPhones. In doing so, Apple is trying to maximize the value consumers get from buying more than one Apple device. Companies that are trying to figure out how to compete with Apple on tablets should use their strengths in other product categories to drive their tablet strategies forward. RIM is already planning to do this, by creating the PlayBook as a Bluetooth-tethered device to a BlackBerry. Companies like Toshiba, Lenovo, and Sony should do this as well, bundling tablets with PCs (and TVs and game consoles, in Sony’s case) and have content sync across devices.
- The next wave of PC design will be inspired by mobile devices. This isn’t just about apps, it’s also about the experience of using the device. Including a solid state storage drive (SSD) in new Macs give the devices the nearly instant-on, long battery life that consumers have come to expect from mobile devices but struggle to get in a PC.
- Content needs to get touch-friendly. With mobile devices, and now with Macs, multitouch experiences are becoming more commonplace, but they’re limited by content that’s designed for the precision of a mouse, not the imprecision of a finger. Look at most Web sites: There’s too much content on the page, targets are too small to be activated with a finger, and now-ubiquitous slideshows aren’t swipe-friendly. The growth of multitouch experiences (and soon, off-the-glass experiences like the Microsoft Kinect) will be held back until software catches up.
- One size doesn’t fit all. The new MacBook Air screens are 13” and 11”, though at a $999 starting point you can’t really classify the 11-inch Air as a netbook. We’re seeing diversification in PC form factors, and we’ll see more in the tablet space—each consumer will have a personal assemblage of devices that work for that individual–some big, some small, some in-between.