What’s Next for Apple?

Guessing what Apple will do next has been a cottage industry for the mainstream media and tech punditry since the introduction of the original iPod started its reputation for radical, game-changing moves. One need only look back on the media frenzy in the six months leading up to the introduction of the iPad to understand how much predicting Apple’s strategy has become a news area in of itself. Sites like MacRumors and AppleInsider have made a name for themselves on just that one subject alone.

CultofMac brings an interesting perspective to the table with an article on Apple’s post-iPad plans. Anyone familiar with the history of the personal computer will recognize the name Xerox PARC. The Xerox Palo Alto Research Center was at the forefront of computing research and development during the late 1970s and 1980s. Among the many accomplishments of PARC in the 1970s were the creation of the first graphical user interface, the modern two button mouse, Ethernet, and a precursor to what we know today as email. Most of the GUI design incorporated into both Mac OS and Windows is derived from work started at Xerox PARC.

The CultofMac article discusses a Scientific American article from 1991 by researchers at Xerox PARC. The 1991 articles describes how the researchers feel the future is in three classes of computing devices: Tabs, Pads, and Boards. If you think about it for a moment you can guess what the Tabs and Pads are in Apple’s strategy; the iPhone/iPod Touch and the iPad. Is the next step for Apple the “Board”? The researcher describes the Board form factor as follows:

Boards built by Richard Bruce and Scott Elrod at PARC currently measure about 40 by 60 inches and display 1024×768 black-and-white pixels. To manipulate the display, users pick up a piece of wireless electronic “chalk” that can work either in contact with the surface or from a distance. Some researchers, using themselves and their coleagues as guinea pigs, can hold electronically mediated meetings or engage in other forms of collaboration around a liveboard. Others use the boards as testbeds for improved display hardware, new “chalk” and interactive software.

They go on to describe how they have used this technology practically:

We have built enough liveboards to permit casual use: they have been placed in ordinary conference rooms and open areas, and no one need sign up or give advance notice before using them. By building and using these boards, researchers start to experience and so understand a world in which computer interaction casually enhances every room. Liveboards can usefully be shared across rooms as well as within them. In experiments instigated by Paul Dourish of EuroPARC and Sara Bly and Frank Halasz of PARC, groups at widely separated sites gathered around boards — each displaying the same image — and jointly composed pictures and drawings. They have even shared two boards across the Atlantic.

Bear in mind all of this is happening during and before 1991. The technology existed then to make ubiquitous, large screen TV-sized touchscreen computers. If we follow the line of form factors in the article, as Apple seemingly has, it makes sense that Apple wants to move into this as yet unfilled space.

Imagine a large scale iPad you’d use instead of a TV as the information, entertainment, and gaming hub in your home. One that could interact with you and the existing devices in your home to bring a truly convergent experience. Is that what Apple’s aiming for next? If they’re not they should. They have the resources, operating platform, and money to bring what is essentially 20 year old technology to the masses.

Would you want Apple to take over a predominant place in your living room as well? Will an “iBoard” be the end game in Apple’s consumer technology strategy? Leave us a comment and let us know.

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