Thirty years ago today, Apple pulled the curtains off a heavy, plastic cube that had the dazzling ability to display 2-D pictures. You could even use a mouse to click on stuff. It was called the Macintosh.
By today's lofty standards, the first Mac had all the horsepower of a pager or graphing calculator. A lot has changed, of course, and the Mac's considerable influence can be felt in just about every piece of technology you'll touch today, from the 20-something-inch screen you're reading on, to the iPhone or Android in your pocket.
To celebrate, Apple has a splash on its homepage that leads to a mini-site tracking the personal computer's evolution. And in an insightful interview with Macworld, Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, Bud Tribble, the company's vice president of software technology who was a member of the original Mac team, and Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, reflect on the history and future of the Mac. It's an incisive bit of storytelling that you should read in its entirety.
The trio drop a few salient hints about Apple's product roadmap for the future—the most interesting of which concerns the Mac and its relationship to the iPhone and iPad. While Microsoft and its Surface—and to a lesser extent Google with its puzzling Chromebook Pixel—are banking on touch screens soon becoming ubiquitous on PCs, Apple's shot callers seem far less convinced that mobile and desktop computing are on a collision course.
"The reason OS X has a different interface than iOS isn't because one came after the other or because this one's old and this one’s new," Federighi tells Macworld. Here's the key bit. (Emphasis added.)
Instead, it's because using a mouse and keyboard just isn't the same as tapping with your finger. "This device," Federighi said, pointing at a MacBook Air screen, "has been honed over 30 years to be optimal" for keyboards and mice. Schiller and Federighi both made clear that Apple believes that competitors who try to attach a touchscreen to a PC or a clamshell keyboard onto a tablet are barking up the wrong tree.
"It's obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience?" says Federighi. "We believe, no."
It's a fascinating revelation that, if taken at face value, would seem to dispel some of the speculation that a touchscreen MacBook (or an iPad with a Surface-like, almost-essential keyboard) was an inevitability. Adds Federighi: "To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let's just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a nongoal."