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The five key decisions Apple must make

Macworld Staff | Oct. 8, 2012
Having a new CEO take the reins from an iconic co-founder has not seemed to cause much turbulence for Apple.

How much should iOS and OS X intermingle?

With the last few iterations of iOS and OS X, it's becoming increasingly clear that the futures of these two operating systems are closely intertwined. Over the last decade or so, Apple has become a company focused on its ecosystem, in which all of its products work together. Naturally, as that ecosystem has evolved, the exchange of ideas and features between iOS and OS X has increased. You might think that, in time, they'd eventually become the same.

But that's not necessarily the case. In a talk at the 2008 AllThingsD conference, Jobs made a distinction between traditional PCs and devices like the iPad by comparing them to trucks and cars. And that comparison seems to have remained largely apt. Obviously, there's a great deal of overlap between what the two types of devices can accomplish. But there are still times when a particular task calls for one or the other.

So don't expect Apple to do anything radical like abandon the Mac platform. If anything, Apple's recent release of two major OS X updates in the past two years shows that Mac development is as strong as ever. Borrowing features from iOS is just an indication that the old veteran OS X has something to learn from the fresh-faced rookie.

What about Web-based services?

Compared to Apple's hardware and software products, services are not the company's strongest offerings. iCloud is the fourth iteration of the company's online service, following iTools, .Mac, and MobileMe. If you're looking for evidence of Steve Jobs's flaws as a businessman, this is a good place to start.

But the increased focus on iCloud in iOS 5 and Mountain Lion has made that service essential to Apple, especially now that the price barrier to entry has been removed. That means that Apple must solidify iCloud, making it more reliable and more competitive with the many alternatives that consumers have. Most difficult of all, iCloud must escaping the stigma its predecessors left behind.

iCloud is, in its most basic form, the mortar that holds Apple's ecosystem together, and a wall is only as good as the stuff that binds it. Apple can't afford missteps like prolonged, unexplained email outages. If people are going to be wooed away from the likes of Dropbox or Gmail, iCloud needs to be rock solid and offer compelling features that users can't get anywhere else. The question is, can Apple provide them?


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