Apple’s drive towards an autonomous car

Over the past few years, rumors of a self-driving car have swirled around Apple with more intensity than almost any putative product since the iPhone. It remains unclear whether or not the company will build an entire car, but the fact that the company is interested in technologies that support a self-driving car is no longer under dispute.

In a Bloomberg TV interview posted this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the company views autonomous systems as a major area of interest, describing it as a “core technology.”

If in fact any such product does surface, it will likely be more than a few years from now. But looking at the announcements out of last week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, it’s not hard to point to a few seeds that might eventually blossom into such a project.

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iOS

No need to reinvent the wheel with iOS 11

Way back in 2010, when the iPad first debuted, I called it the third revolution of computing. It was an opportunity to start fresh, without the 30 years of baggage of the personal computer—to build a new device that was simple and easy to use, the same thing the Mac tried to do back to the PC back in the '80s.

So it's more than a little amusing to me that, of the many features announced for the iPad in iOS 11 this week, the most welcome have ended up being the ones seemingly pulled from the very devices the iPad was trying to leave behind.

That's not to say that there isn't an iPad spin on these features—it's not as though they've been lifted whole cloth from the Mac and dragged and dropped onto the iPad. But it turns out that maybe, just maybe, Apple got some of these things right the first time around, and that the company didn't need to reinvent the wheel when it came to the future of computing.

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WWDC 2017: One more big thing

When watching this year’s keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, I implore you to do one thing: think big.

I don’t mean big as in a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, or big as in the number of features packed into this year’s annual iOS or macOS software updates. I don’t even mean big news, like the rumored Siri Speaker the company might announce.

No, I mean think big picture. After all, while Apple may be a huge company made up of disparate units, products, and platforms, it has always promulgated the idea that it brings all of these resources to bear towards one unified goal. And I think that if you look at the big picture of what Apple ends up announcing next week, you’ll come away noticing a couple major themes in that overall strategy.

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Home is where the HomeKit wants to be

Since it first introduced HomeKit back in 2014, Apple has been dancing around the idea of the smart home and automation. Since then, it’s expanded its offerings bit-by-bit. It added the Home app in 2016, finally putting a front-end interface on controlling smart home tech and adding the ability to use the Apple TV as a home automation hub.

But despite those improvements, HomeKit has yet to really catch on. It’s still missing more than a few pieces, but with the annual Worldwide Developers Conference just over a week away, it’s possible the company has something up its sleeves to finally turn the smart house into a smart home.

The home hub

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The computer as an appliance: Moving beyond the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Siri

Over the past few decades, computing has trended towards the personal. We’ve gone from the age of desktops to the age of laptops to the age of the smartphone. And even though that newfound mobility has brought with it freedom and flexibility, it’s not without its costs.

For one thing, we are, more than ever, entranced with our own personal screens, in the same way that we don our headphones and tune out the world. Computing has become a siloed affair, with each of us involved in our own personalized experiences—even if they connect us with other people across the world, all on their own devices.

But part of me wonders if the pendulum is beginning to swing back to a model where the technology we use at home is linked to a particular location. That’s not to say such a device would supplant the smartphone or tablet, or even the laptop. But maybe the time is finally upon us when the computer becomes a home appliance.

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Why Apple’s next killer app is health

Over the past few decades, Apple has revolutionized the personal computer, the smartphone, and digital music, just to name a few. But the company’s next target might be its biggest yet: human health.

That should hardly be a surprise at this point. Those who have been paying attention have seen Apple heading in this direction since before Tim Cook took over as CEO. Probably, not coincidentally, since around the time that Steve Jobs was first diagnosed with the illness that eventually took his life.

Mortality confronts us all at some point. But, to paraphrase the old expression, nobody ever does anything about it. Apple, however, is using its broad expertise in a number of realms to push forward its health agenda.

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Why Apple’s laptops could use a little less innovation at the moment

As a company, Apple’s philosophy is often about pushing the envelope. And that’s great. It’s how we got the original Mac’s GUI, the iPhone, and other products and features too numerous to name. Apple likes to play up this revolutionary part of its history, and how it’s constantly trying to create world-beating products and not just move the needle slowly forward. It’s not to imagine the late Steve Jobs summoning forth the adage often attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Of course, the philosophy of innovation can go awry. Apple was so concerned about transforming the 2013 edition of the Mac Pro into an elegant, radical piece of machinery that it lost sight of what made that product appeal to its users. In a rare moment, the company even admitted it had taken the wrong approach.

But what about Apple’s portable Macs? With this week’s announcement of Microsoft’s Surface Laptop—of which there is very little that’s radical—it seems as though Apple’s notebooks may have missed a beat by being too focused on pushing the envelope. Maybe what we’re looking for is a faster horse.

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