Apple Needs To Get Into The Fold And See Where The Galaxy Of Computing Is Heading

EDITORIAL: 02.22.19- Apple, Inc. has long been rumored to be putting into its pipeline of possible products a touchscreen enabled computer with an operating system to boot that may (or may not) be in unified form, melding the best of MacOS and iOS, and the unveiling of a new foldable smartphone by Samsung should paint the roadmap as well as give hints to the Cupertino, California-based tech giant on where the future of computing is headed, making now the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and innovate like no other as it has done many times in its history by finally moving forward with its release of that fabled hybrid Mac.

The new Galaxy Fold, a foldable smartphone that when unfolded becomes a tablet, was unveiled on Wednesday by Samsung. (Photo: Samsung Electronics)

Samsung, the Suwon, South Korea-based electronics company and overseas rival of Apple, on Wednesday took the wraps off its latest innovation, the Galaxy Fold, a device that when folded is a smartphone and when unfolded turns into a tablet computer. The underlying technology, dubbed by the company as an “Infinity Flex Display” was first teased back in November of last year in a prototype of what was presumably brought into the fold (pun intended) for its final version of the product.

The technical specifications of the Galaxy Fold, according to a company press release, are a 4.6-inch cover display when folded and a 7.3-inch main display in its unfolded tablet form. (No screen resolutions were provided). This aspect of the new device further blurs the lines of mobile computing and negates the need for a separate smartphone and tablet.

Does this move by Samsung signal the trend that mobile computing is moving towards, or more so, the wave of the future for personal computing in general?

When Apple released the iPad in 2010, making tablet computers mainstream and ubiquitous shortly thereafter alongside smartphones — following the debut of the iPhone three years earlier which reinvented the phone and created the model by which competing manufacturers would copy for all smartphones to come — people had a separate smartphone in addition to a companion tablet. It took the same experience on the phone but brought it onto a bigger screen. Then, as a first step into blurring the lines as a go between, the phablet was created, a fusion of the two devices giving consumers a smartphone that doubled as a pseudo tablet.

The problem with a phablet, however, is that it is not quite a smartphone in size as you can’t easily fit it into your pocket due to its larger footprint compared to previous average-sized devices that were formerly the norm. Also, it is not quite a real tablet with its diminutive screen size — as large as it already is — compared to regular tablets.

The iPad mini 4 with its 7.9-inch screen is the smallest, compact, and ultra-portable tablet that Apple offers. (Photo: Courtesy of Apple)

Take for instance the iPad mini 4 which has a 7.9-inch screen, the smallest, compact, ultra-portable, and full-featured tablet that Apple currently offers. By comparison, the Galaxy Fold is, when unfolded has a 7.3-inch screen — very close to the screen size of the iPad mini 4 — which when folded, makes it a device that will fit nicely and easily into one’s pocket, albeit twice as thick as a regular smartphone. In between that spectrum is the recently released, roughly five months old, iPhone XS Max which is the largest smartphone Apple currently makes. With its 6.5-inch screen, it is a phablet that is at odds with itself because it’s not a pocketable smartphone nor is it a full-featured tablet.

Samsung has addressed that conundrum by looking to the past and simultaneously moving forward into the future. It has taken the concept that cell phone makers previously did when shrinking their devices into smaller more compact flip phones that folded to half its size when not in use and opened up into a a full-sized phone when unfolded. Then of course, with the advent of the early smartphone which was half screen and half physical keyboard (e.g., the Blackberry), it would evolve into the all-screen devices we know and love today, thanks to the iPhone and Apple innovation, which would eventually turn into today’s phablets. The new Galaxy Fold solves this first world problem we have bumped into with phablets by the simple past innovation of folding the 2-in-1 device in half, making everything come full circle!

Consumers these days are looking for an all-in-one solution that can do everything and Samsung has answered that call with its new Galaxy Fold. As the company said in its press release, “Galaxy Fold is in a category of its own. It delivers a new kind of mobile experience allowing users to do things they couldn’t do with an ordinary smartphone. Users now have the best of both worlds… .” And by doing so, they have beaten rival Apple in the process as far as the next generation of smartphones and mobile computing goes.

So, how can Apple answer back?

First, which is the easy route, Apple can always borrow from the playbook of its competitors and simply turn on the copier machines and come out with a foldable smartphone of its own. Just as Molly Wood, a contributor at Wired magazine, said in an opinion piece about the lack of innovation by Apple as of late when she wrote, “And then there’s the final option for innovation, one that Apple has availed itself of many times in the past. As Steve Jobs often said, quoting Picasso: ‘Good artist copy; great artists steal.'”

Wood went on to mention that the iPod was born of existing MP3 players, the iPhone improved on clunky, ugly smartphones already on the market. Furthermore, we have MacOS and the computer mouse which were developed to maturity after being invented at Xerox PARC (speaking of copier machines). Or, just like, in another instance, the iPad after rival Microsoft tried for several years beforehand to put a tablet computer to market and failed, an example she did not mention herself.

The second idea would be to take things to the next level and to create a brand new device along the lines of the Galaxy Fold being a smartphone that turns into a tablet. Computer users are everyday more and more moving towards tablet computing — like myself but it is more out of necessity more than want due to my disability (which I have written about here in my column in the past) — and maybe it’s time for Apple to create or release, if it already has such as in prototype form, a hybrid touchscreen enabled Mac but not just an iMac that has a touchscreen display, mind you, but something much more innovative than that which can serve as a true replacement for a typical desktop or notebook computer but in tablet form when folded and when unfolded becomes a full-fledged computer.

How great would it be to have a device like that, that was created and designed in California by Apple? That idea is not so farfetched as you might think!

While not hard evidence at the moment, on one hand, you have the report last year from business news site Bloomberg which revealed that Apple would be ditching Intel in favor of its own processors for its computers beginning in 2020, those chips being the company’s ARM processors. In addition, on the other hand, you have “Project Marzipan” where Apple is making all iOS apps able to run seamlessly and simultaneously in the MacOS environment (and apparently vice versa with Mac apps compatible for use on the iPhone and iPad), something that was first reported back in 2017, also by Bloomberg, and just this past Wednesday — coincidentally on the same day the Galaxy Fold was unveiled by Samsung — was reported by the business news website to be happening by 2021.

According to a story written back in 2012 on the website Cult of Mac — ironically about why you’ll never own a Mac with an ARM processor —currently, Apple’s chips are optimized for a mobile operating system like iOS and a desktop operating system like MacOS, at least in its current state, can’t yet run natively on the ARM architecture. In fact, there was a top secret project dating back to 2010 where Apple was already beginning to explore porting Mac OS X to ARM processors, the most notable piece of information there being the year: the same as when the iPad made its debut. The project which was shrouded in secrecy was given to an intern who was assigned the task of running Snow Leopard (Mac OS X version 10.6) onto an ARM processor.

Putting two and two together, if you read the proverbial tea leaves, what does this tell us? Logic would dictate that the first product that could come out of the assembly line from Apple in 2020 would be a hybrid Mac which would most likely be a notebook computer with an ARM processor, a touchscreen display, and running an operating system that is itself in hybrid — or unified? — form which melds the best of MacOS with iOS.

It’s no secret that the late co-founder and former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, back in 2010 expressed his feelings against putting a touchscreen display on a computer, whether a notebook or desktop, because he felt it wouldn’t work. He said, “We’ve done tons of user testing on this and it turns out it doesn’t work. Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical. It gives great demo but after a short period of time, you start to fatigue and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off. It doesn’t work. It’s ergonomically terrible!” However, that was almost a decade ago and times have changed and the melding of the technologies found on MacOS and iOS both on the hardware and software side are an even better concept and prospect for Apple to consider today with the trend being seen as illustrated by consumers and their current computing habits.

More recently, in an article on the BGR website written by Yoni Heisler in 2017 featuring a concept of a MacBook touch, Heisler wrote that over the years, Apple executives have made their position on a hybrid Mac incredibly clear. Apple CEO Tim Cook is quoted as saying, “… we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.” Echoing Cook’s sentiments was Apple senior Vice President of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, who is quoted as saying, “… to make the best personal computer, you can’t try to turn MacOS into an iPhone. Conversely, you can’t turn iOS into a Mac. So each one is best at what they’re meant to be – we take what makes sense to add from each but without fundamentally changing them so they’re compromised.”

However, those things said, with the tech giant’s focus on its iOS ecosystem — from the software to the hardware that runs it — as of late, it just makes sense for Apple to unify its two operating systems into one — with a hybrid Mac to boot — something of which is a point of contentious debate among the Mac user community whenever it is brought up.

Despite unequivocally denying the company’s efforts to unify MacOS with iOS anytime soon, even Cook himself said during the Apple special event last September — which saw the unveiling of its iPhone 2018 lineup — that iOS has had a profound impact on our lives and it had sold its two billionth iOS device. Granted, although sales of the iPhone currently make up two thirds of the tech giant’s profits, according to statistics provided by the Wall Street Journal, those two billion iOS devices are a combination of iPhones, iPads, and the iPod touch.

We only need look to the latter device on that list, the iPod touch, and its waning popularity due to practically everyone having a smartphone these days which is capable of playing music through streaming subscription services, like Apple Music (or Pandora), as well as the old school way of purchasing and downloading songs from iTunes. As another example of consumer preferences dictating the market, Apple finally pulled the plug on the original iPod line — from the classic, to the nano, to the shuffle — in 2017 because the days of having a separate phone and MP3 music player are long gone. It would seem that the days of having a separate smartphone and tablet are drawing closer to an end what with users clamoring for even larger phablets, and now, Samsung coming out with its own hybrid smartphone/tablet device: the Galaxy Fold.

Could the dawn of the day be upon us where a separate tablet and computer is no longer necessary? Plus, just what is a computer in modern terms anyway? Computers are no longer the machines that live on our desks or rest on our laps. Computing these days can mean the smartphone and tablet in — or even smart watch around — your hands.

In 2017, writer John C. Dvorak wrote on the website of PCMag magazine in a commentary that the notion of modern computing by Apple along with its focus has already changed based on evidence he gleaned from an iPad Pro commercial that asked the question: what’s a computer? In it, a young girl using an iPad Pro is asked by her mom what she is doing with her computer and the girl responds with “What’s a computer?” Dvorak’ analysis of the commercial is that Apple in its product ad is highlighting its attitude towards computers symbolized by the young girl rejecting the idea of a computer itself and separating her iOS device from what we think of as a personal computer. He also gave the example of another Apple ad that touted the iPad Pro as not close to being a computer but something better and more modern.

Furthermore, he posited, on the end of the Mac as we know it, that Apple won’t continue to support two separate operating systems and that iOS is poised to replace MacOS. He wrote, “Apple mentions the Mac less and less at its big events. The company knows that the machine is a drain on resources that detracts from its new core business, iOS and its mobile devices.” Interestingly enough, it is worth pointing out that Dvorak also mentioned that Apple had been making strides to leverage its ARM processors putting the focus on the iOS ecosystem of hardware and this was approximately four months before the aforementioned report from Bloomberg that Apple would be moving its chip production in-house.

The end of the Mac as we know it? Or, an evolution, a transformation, such as an iOS device that transforms into a Mac, much like the Galaxy Fold with its smartphone turning into a tablet?

Whether Apple decides to come out with its own foldable smartphone that becomes a tablet or create a hybrid Mac in the form of a tablet that turns into a computer? Now is definitely the time for the company to “Think Different” — to quote from the iconic print ad campaign used by Apple in 1997 — and move forward into the future of personal computing, innovating as it always has done but this time, taking Samsung’s lead with its new Galaxy Fold as an example because if it doesn’t, it will be left in the dust with others leading and it trailing behind. And that, in turn, would spell the end of Apple.

Are you planning on getting the new Samsung Galaxy Fold and ditching your iPhone or will you wait for what Apple comes up with next to match? And how do you feel and where do you stand on first, a hybrid touchscreen Mac, and second, the melding of MacOS and iOS into a unified operating system? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Simply leave a comment below (you must be logged in to your Facebook account to do so) or drop me a line at: j.leo@macprices.net.

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