Ruminations on iPhone 4, iOS and mobile video

We're on the cusp of the post-PC era, and Apple is pushing us there.

“It’s a little bit like holding a high-definition television just inches from your face.”

— Travis Boatman, EA Mobile (talking about the iPad)

Follow the path that Apple has forged in creating a 100-million-device-strong iOS platform and ecosystem (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad).

Next, watch the seamless flow of tens of billions of consumer downloads from an iTunes and App Store marketplace that is backed by 150 million active credit cards.

Then, understand that behind the scenes, many tens of thousands of developers, writers, artists, musicians and filmed entertainment professionals are pretty much able to post, manage and monetize their creative vision within this same marketplace, guided by Adam Smith’s invisible hand and the “soft touch” of Steve Jobs and Co.

Simply put, whether you consider the emerging “it” a phone, a computer, a media player, a netbook or a gaming device, is it even a stretch to argue that Apple is on the cusp of completing the last mile to … something?

The “it” is, most basically, a domain where compute, communications, mobile web, gaming, media playback and media creation tools are literally and perpetually at your fingertips.

Now don’t get me wrong. PCs will continue to have a useful life for a decade or more. But make no doubt that Apple has irrevocably marshaled in the post-PC era.

I say “irrevocably” so Android devotees won’t accuse me of saying that Apple is destined to be the gorilla of the post-PC era. My point is more basic; namely, that win, lose or show, it’s game, era, on.

That said, a tip of the hat should go out to Apple for pushing the stage forward so forcefully. Lest we forget Apple’s supremely high customer satisfaction and customer loyalty rates, not to mention how much of a favorable departure the Apple approach represents from what came before it.

The mobile video studio arrives


One can see this truth in action with Apple’s inspired incorporation of iMovie into the new iPhone 4 (and ultimately, one suspects, other camera-equipped iOS devices).

For one, this speaks to the company putting a stake in the ground that iOS will be a platform for serious photo and video capture devices going forward.

Specifically, look at how iMovie overlays the iPhone’s video and photo functions with touch-based editing, theming, the ability to add music and photos into video creations, and the agility to wirelessly share the finished production with anything from palm-sized screens to big-screen HDTVs.

Now, think about how such a workflow could open up new forms of mobile programming, such as multimedia postcards, live and recorded shows, news programs, spontaneous broadcasts of “flash events” and FaceTime meetups.

Imagine a tripod attached to your iPhone. You can create click-by-click animation sequences just by moving physical items in, out or sideways on your desktop or whatever physical space you’re staging your video production from. Future versions of iMovie could facilitate green screen overlays and augmented reality sequences.

A creative mind could apply this cinematic vehicle to engage, entertain or educate by creating stories, asking questions or cultivating dialogues in new, media-rich ways.

If you think about it, the existence of iMovie within iOS-based devices opens a logical front for Apple to foment a revolution in digital content creation by doing for the consumer what desktop publishing did for the graphic design and print professional in the early days of the PC era.

When you see the fork in the road, take it

Fork-in-the-Road.jpgSo here’s a riddle: Apple’s supposed advantage over Android is that by controlling and shaping the end-to-end, it can deliver a consistent — and superior — user experience.

But, therein lies a conundrum. If the iPad is analogous to holding a high-definition screen in front of your face, and the iPhone 4’s Retina Display pushes optics to a whole other level … And if the next Apple TV is simply an iOS-powered Mac Mini viewed on a 60-inch big screen … Is iOS then still to be judged primarily as a communications device platform? Or, as a low-end gaming disruptor to Microsoft Xbox or Nintendo Wii in the living room? Is it a personal media library, home theater or something else entirely?

To fragment or not to fragment? To support a matrix of different form-factors and function sets (phone, camera, 3G, direct, touch-based input), so as to optimize around a broadened segmenting of “jobs” and outcomes? Or, to constrain device-type variants, so as to maintain the Apple credo of elegant simplicity?

And don’t forget the developer in this equation. We can talk about shielding developers from the added complexity, but I am here to tell you that such a scenario has the usual caveats attached to it. Nothing is free.

Then again, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?


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