Last week, the top story was the 30 year anniversary of the Mac. Apple celebrated it, along with everyone else. It seems I was the only one with a blog that didn't write about the milestone. I didn't really think of it as a mainstream story. It seems more like a geek story. Real people don't care about the history of computers any more than they care about the history of the hammer. They just pick one up and use it when they need to, and forget about it when they don't. Apparently, the Mac is an exception, and I want to know why.
It seems like every national and local paper ran some type of story about the Mac last week. The same was true for TV stations. Naturally, the tech press couldn't get enough of the story, whether or not they were Apple-centric. Windows has also been around for 30 years. But I don't recall the same public recognition of the event. The 30th anniversary of Windows came and went without the mainstream consumer batting an eye. In fact, I can't think of any tech products that get this kind of recognition when they reach certain milestones. This must drive Apple's competitors batty. Every year, there are post celebrating the anniversary of the iPhone. Not a single blogger ever posts a fond ode to the Galaxy whatever, not even the fans.
Apparently, for reasons the public finds difficult to put their finger on, the Mac matters in ways that Windows does not. It is not just a matter of which is more important. We need them both. The immediate loss of Windows means that the world as we know it would come to a scratching halt. However the immediate loss of all Macs would be equally apocalyptic. The world would go on, but it will have lost all music and poetry and beauty. It is easy to build more technology. But it is difficult to recover lost beauty.
But I am not writing this post as an ode to the past 30 years. The internet is full of such, and my story is no more compelling than anyone else's. What I care about is the next 30 years. In fact, the next 3 years are even more interesting. Consider Windows. No one cares about the next three years of that platform. We know exactly what it will be. Even now, the folks at Microsoft are backpedaling from Windows 8 as fast as they can. They are not moving forward to a brave new world. They are moving backwards to produce Windows 9 so that it is just like Windows 7. The past is the immediate future of Windows.
The Mac is the only mainstream, desktop platform with any forward-looking promise. We do not know what lies ahead. But we do know that Apple is not in the habit of reversing course on anything. If they make a misstep, that just incentivizes them to take the next step that much faster. They are in a relentless pursuit of the future. Yesterday is a vague concept that they barely understand.
At this years WWDC, I believe we will see a glimpse into Apple's future. Over the next three years, we will see inroads into touch, gesture, and voice. We do not know what Apple's take on these things will be. But we can be pretty sure that Apple will not forget about the human component of interface design. I don't believe we will be reaching up to touch a screen that is floating in front of us at eye level. That kind of interface is fun in the movies, but not in real life. At Microsoft's build conference this year, the most exciting prospects for developers is to see how Windows gets rolled back to what it used to be. And this is exactly why Apple will continue to own the heartshare and mindshare of the general public for the next 30 years.