SkyServer Feature Article apple.com (click to enlarge)
The final straw for the PC was more than five years ago with the introduction of the iPhone. The iPhone encapsulated a vision that was many years in the making, the genesis of that vision happened decades before in the mind of Steve Jobs. Steve saw the future when he realized that people weren’t meant to be planted in front of a big clunky computer that was tethered to a desk. No, that was all wrong! He knew back then the potential of a personal computing device. And it wasn’t going to be realized in a shrunk down mainframe, it needed to be simple, powerful, friendly and mobile. And that’s exactly what the Macintosh was.
By today’s standards, the original mac was a brick, no a cinder block! But back in 1984 it was pure nirvana. The mac opened us all up to the possibilities, the freedom to express ourselves in ways we could never imagine before. I remember when I bought my first Mac, just two days after it was introduced. I would have picked it up sooner, I couldn’t contain myself once I read about it, but it had snowed that week and the tires on my 67 Buick Special were a shade on the bald side, and I needed to go to the bank to empty my savings account. I was a young engineering contractor, a consultant that bid for jobs, and there was a fair amount of competition for a young man like me, I was always looking for an edge.
Like Steve jobs, I was a college drop out, and found myself having to compete against engineers with advanced degrees. I was completely self-taught, yet managed to land incredibly interesting jobs, like working in research and development for a defense company, designing laser-based inertial guidance systems for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Yes, I was a rocket scientist.
When I read about the Mac, a computer that let you put text and graphics on the same page, I had an epiphany. I could create proposals that would stand out from the competition and me win engineering contracts by dazzling them with professionally illustrated documents. It was crude by today’s standards, there were no laser or ink jet printers, only this noisy dot matrix printer called the ImageWriter. That first Mac only had 128K of memory, no hard drive and a single sided floppy disk drive. You had to load the operating system with each boot up from the floppy, then eject the disk and insert another disk that held your programs and files. Back then there were only two programs, MacPaint and MacWrite, but that’s all I needed to create spectacular documents…again by 1984 standards.
If I didn’t have time to print out a proposal, I could bring my Mac, in my MacSack, right to the client’s office and dazzle them with an on-screen demonstration. It was a really tiny 9 inch screen, black and white with slick icons, a desktop and trash can, operated with a single button mouse. The clients barely paid mind to the content of the proposal, they were so blown away with the Mac, I could have shown them anything and I would have landed the contract. I won a lot of great jobs back then, the Mac freed me in more ways than one. From then on, I was a Steve Jobs disciple.
That was the first step, a revolutionary step that began the demise of the personal computer, before it was even a household item. If you’re old enough, you may remember the only competitor to the Mac back then was the IBM Personal Computer. Let me tell you, there was nothing personal about it. It was big, clunky, awkward, and ugly. And it wasn’t portable.
Just a few years after, Apple released a conceptual video called the Knowledge Navigator, it brought to life Steve’s long range vision of what personal computing could be. It featured a touch-based machine that was a combination laptop and iPad, and it was connected to a ubiquitous sky server. It had instant access to the world’s information bases and was a video communications device too. Sound familiar? This video, and my study of Steve jobs ideas, inspired me to name my consultancy, SkyServer. I used that name for nearly 15 years, right up until the time Apple asked me to do a special feature on the website under the small business section for their new operating system, OS X, and do it from a developer’s point of view.
I had recently left Sun Microsystems where I was a chief architect of professional services to go back to consulting, so I was all for the exposure. Apple brought a film crew out to the east coast and we filmed it at my brother-in-laws, Mac service company. It was for the Think Different campaign. It’s a long story why they asked me, but let’s just say I was a fairly well known Mac evangelist in certain circles. Here’s the video, and the Internet archive with the article from the Apple website, back in the fall of 2001.
You’ll see from the screen shots that the piece referred to my consulting business, SkyServer Consulting. I still held that vision, inspired by Steve, that someday we would have all our data in the cloud, this was well before the term cloud computing existed. I’m positive that was Steve’s vision from very early on.
Internet Archive pg 1
Internet Archive p2
So, back to the slow death of the PC. Steve was back at Apple, engineering the greatest comeback in business history. Everything he did, was based on his philosophy of creating insanely great products that people needed, that were simple to use, and elegant in every way. He started his comeback by simplifying the entire lineup of computers. There was the iMac and the PowerBook. The emphasis was on personal and mobile. These early systems had WiFi as standard equipment. The idea was to give people the freedom to move about, like people do, and deliver everything over the network.
Slowly, Steve did away with various extraneous things, like floppies, then optical drives; he made enclosures simpler and lighter. He kept up this concept of thoughtful reduction by making the machines simpler and simpler. All the peripherals would eventually become wireless. And of course during this time, the iPod was introduced, a truly personal device, and behind the scenes, Steve was also developing the iPhone. He was actually developing several kinds of touch devices, it’s just that the iPhone was the first practical incarnation of a touch based computer that he released, to get validation, then Apple would release more products and services to create a complete product line and ecosystem.
Slowly the personal computer was getting whittled away, more emphasis was being put on personal devices. Then the iPad was introduced, and or all intents and purposes it was the final nail in the coffin of personal computers. Steve saw this many years before, but even to this day, many pundits and major corporations don’t understand. Like Microsoft, HP, Acer and the rest of them. They’re starting to get it, reluctantly. The market gets it. That’s why this past quarter was such a bust for PC makers.
There’s going to be major fall out as these PC makers struggle to cope with this fast dwindling demand for their clunky boxes. They’re going to bleed cash trying to retool, and many are not going to survive. Big companies too, multi-billion dollar big. There’s going to be carnage, and it has only just begun. Now maybe you understand the wisdom of Apple to hoard such stockpiles of cash. There are few, if any companies in this space that are as well prepared as Apple, the ultimate prepper.
People ask me why I’m predicting a $1600 target for Apple, especially after a 40 percent decline in its stock price. And that’s because I have the same vision Steve had from the beginning. And that is, the PC is dead, long live the personal computer, the iPhone, the iPad, the Touch, the iWatch, the iRing and what ever else Steve has set the course for. Long live Apple.