Apple: Master of miracles

Apple's track record in the past 10 years reads like fiction. So what's next?

I really wonder if Steve Jobs had all of Apple's master plan thought out back in 2003 or so. He is truly a genius if he did. The thought process is so surreal:

  1. Develop a new smartphone that shatters the status quo, introduce millions to a certain way of working with mobile devices
  2. Profit
  3. Develop a thriving application distribution model that brings in billions while being incredibly lucrative for good development shops of any size
  4. Profit
  5. Develop the first realistic tablet computing device the world has ever seen, sell millions, and change the game all over again
  6. Profit
  7. Wrap all that up seamlessly into the Mac and Mac OS X with a whole new method of application distribution
  8. Profit (probably)

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman gives you the full rundown on Mac OS X Lion. | Stay abreast of key Apple technologies in our Technology: Apple newsletter. ]

Each one of those steps seems like a pipe dream for a company of any size. In fact, every company from Microsoft to Samsung, from LG to Google has been trying to do exactly that since their inception. But Apple makes it seem so easy. Of course its first entry into the MP3 player market would change the entire industry. Of course its first entry into the cell phone market would completely change the entire industry. Rinse and repeat for just about every device it's introduced over the past decade, except for the Apple TV -- so far. Its stock price has increased over 4,200 percent in the past seven years.

The introduction of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion last week was obviously interesting, but it also seemed equal parts novel and obvious. Of course Apple would meld Mac OS X and iOS this way. And of course it would be starting another application store where it gets 30 percent of every application sold. Of course.

There are two ways to think about the coming changes in Lion. On one hand, this is likely to be yet another significant revenue stream for the already wealthy company, and it is likely to greatly simplify how Mac users find and use applications on their computers. On the other hand, it's probably going to kill general-purpose freeware development for Mac OS X -- and that might not be a bad thing.

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