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Stephen Hackett's weblog about Apple, Apple history, technology, journalism and design.

Rolling On

When reflecting on yesterday’s insane Apple keynote, I thought about John Gruber’s piece for Macworld in which he wrote:

This is how the designers and engineers at Apple roll: They roll.

They take something small, simple, and painstakingly well considered. They ruthlessly cut features to derive the absolute minimum core product they can start with. They polish those features to a shiny intensity. At an anticipated media event, Apple reveals this core product as its Next Big Thing, and explains — no, wait, it simply shows — how painstakingly thoughtful and well designed this core product is. The company releases the product for sale.

At first, I thought some of yesterday’s news — mainly the Mac Pro and iOS 7 — were in a departure from Apple’s normal way of doing things.

Then I thought about this image:

If you remember back to 2002 when Apple released the iMac G4, it was a huge departure from the G3-powered machines before it. However, looking at the whole timeline, it fits with the overall direction the product was heading in. The move to the LCD was a clear forerunner to the iMac G5, whose shape is still present in the iMacs of today.

When Tim Cook said that iOS 7 was the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone, he wasn’t kidding. The UI is of course drastically different, but things like background-updating and better car integration are huge changes.

However, once we can all zoom out a little bit, I think iOS 7 will be seen as an evolutionary change. A big one, perhaps, but one that shouldn’t be seen as all that surprising.

Yesterday was a big leap, but iOS is rolling on.

The Mac Pro is a huge jump forward, too, but it’s on a course set out upon but the machine at the far end of the product lineup — the MacBook Air. With on-board flash storage, Thunderbolt and insane cooling, this machine is a complete re-build from what came before, but the Air was the playground for many of these technologies.

When thinking about what a “next-gen” computer should realistically be like, the Mac Pro is the obvious, yet impressive, answer.

Yesterday was a big leap, but Mac hardware is rolling on.

Some think yesterday’s keynote was disappointing, or that it shows Apple’s insecure, but I think it’s great. iOS needed some changes, but despite all the newness, it’s still iOS. The Mac Pro is still the most powerful Mac ever built, but it still can meet the needs of most pro users.

The iMac G4 felt like a big direction change, but in reality, it was just a leap forward down the same path.

Both of these product announcements feel like big direction changes, but in reality, they are just leap forwards.

In hindsight — once 2013 is just a dot on a timeline — that’s how yesterday will shape up, I believe.