Update: Apple iLife 06 products has turned out rather undone. Read the update.
In late-december 2005 I sat down and tried to guess what the future would be like here in 2006 - that is about a month ago.
Now, I was imagining that I was being bold, and that life had to, in some mysterious way, get just right for it to actually happen - at least in 2006 instead of 2007... or 2009.
One company changed several of my predictions into yesterday's news - only 9 days after 2006 had started. Nine freaking days...
That company is Apple.
I predicted things like "The internet as a pipeline is getting started - in the second half of 2006". But, with Apple's new photocasting it is already here. This allows you to work in a desktop based environment at both the start and the finish - all connected trough the internet. This is an amazingly good way to utilize the internet as a pipeline. It is also the future of web applications (more on that later).
I also predicted that "interoperability is the key", which is very clearly visible in the way Apple's new iLife applications work together - and more importantly, extends the capabilities of each application. This is a classic example of development on an exponential rate - add one thing and use it for two things (more on that later too).
Then there was the prediction called "simplicity is going to be replaced with right". Again Apple has shown what that is all about. They continue to extend their applications with the right amount of new additions. It is still simple, but not at the expense of right.
Not to mention "Web design standard is going to get a whole new meaning", predicting that we will see a turn away from individually designed websites and start focus more on content (using much better designed templates). Well, it is here too - called iWeb, and it is by far the most impressive website building application I have ever seen.
Apple has effectively given people everything they need. Flexible page generation, blogs, photo galleries, video publishing, artistic freedom etc. all within a general approach to website creating. And, in a way that requires absolutely no knowledge or exposure to any form of technicalities. You do not need to know about the web, image files/quality or video output settings. All of these things happen behind the scene - totally invisible to both the creator and the viewer.
Update: Several people have pointed out that iWeb is not the most impressive application in terms of technology and features. Blogbody points out that it does not have any support for comments or trackbacks (among other things). What Do I Know points out that the underlying code is "not so good" and go on to illustrate a number of problems.
However, this does not change my awe for the program. iWeb is the first web creation software to effectively hide the technical aspects and its features for both the creator and the user. Sure, it can be improved in many ways but that is not the point. The point is the concept behind iWeb. Hide the technology, features, settings, preference etc. - focus on creation. Turn web publishing into something as simple as your refrigerator.
In all fairness Apple is not the first company to embrace these things. Other companies - like Microsoft - have been talking about it for many years. We have been able to use products with a similar philosophy for several months. One is Microsoft Max.
Apple is the first company to publish final working products that are easy to use for everyone. All other companies' products (that have embraced this thinking) are either in beta, experimental or final products that can do it technically, but needs a lot of work to become really usable.
What Apple has shown is a glimpse of is the new internet. It is an internet that works as a connector between people. All the technical aspects are hidden, different parts (both online and offline) work together and extends your flexibility.
Microsoft is really going to push this into high gear when technologies like Atlas and Windows Presentation Foundation are released. Instead of working in a "browser-experience" we will be able to see internet-applications like this Netflix example.
This is a really interesting time because we are combining things that we cannot do in a browser with things we cannot do on the desktop - into a single "interdesktop" application that can.
It is a bridge between two impossibilities, and the results are stunning.
Note: Where is Google in all of this? Well, your guess is as good as mine. When looking at their latest offering, Google Video (Review), they are still embracing the old style internet thinking.
Note: Keep in mind that the Netflix example is a technology preview, not a usability preview. Although it looks pretty and seems usable it will need a different approach if it where to manage a larger video store.
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