I don't suppose any company ever made money by consolidating its products, which is why we have proliferation in models, lines, and categories of virtually everything. But it strikes me that I now own and maintain four lines of products from Apple, and I probably only need one.
One that doesn't exist yet.
My four devices range from the largest and least portable to the smallest and most portable: a 27" iMac desktop computer, a MacBook Air laptop, an iPad Air tablet, and an iPhone 6+ smartphone. The cost of these assets is very significant (to me at least). And it hasn't escaped my notice that there's a fair amount of overlap in the functions of each of these devices with the one(s) next to it in the progression.
So naturally I think about how these four devices might look if they were consolidated into three, or two, or even one.
Even if the "thinking" is mere imagining.
Probably my least favorite device of the four—the laptop—is the one I need the most, because I need to have my computer with me when I travel.
And the most overlap is between the iPhone and the iPad. Of the two, the iPhone does more and is more critical, because it's a phone and gets cellular reception nearly anywhere. But my favorite device of the four is the least necessary—the iPad. I like reading on the 6+, but of course the iPad is much better for that, and I love the large touchscreen and its abilities as a photo viewer. My iPad is my e-reader. And my pal.
I think I could probably get by with a "super tablet." See what you think: I imagine an iPad of the future with sufficient power that I could use it as a desktop computer with the addition of a keyboard and mouse or trackpad—and which also works as a phone. (The iPad does work as a phone as long as I'm within Wi-Fi range.) Of course it would be much less portable than a pocketable phone, but maybe we'll be using our watches for mobile communication by then!
Power users of smartphones or laptops wouldn't be satisfied with such a compromise, but I think I would be.
The easiest way to pare down the number of devices with existing products would be to simplify to the MacBook Air and the iPhone 6+. While that would be workable, I'd really miss the large calibrated screen of my iMac and I'm sure I'd miss my iPad. I'm quite attached to the iPad...if I could have only one device and didn't have to take practical concerns into considerations, that would be the one.
And of course, as a hypothetical future device, a super-tablet would also be the best, most natural basis for a super-camera, the multi-lens computational photography camera that I suspect will one day surpass everything we have now.
Of course Apple might not like the "one device" idea nearly as much as I do. I'm sure the company would rather keep me as a customer for four separate lines of devices, all of which need to be updated regularly. When a company gets it hand into your wallet as effectively as Apple's gotten in mine, it makes sense that they wouldn't want to withdraw it voluntarily.
I'm looking forward to the possibility, in the future, of having just one device to replace the four I use now. I think it's possible. Even if it's not likely.
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Nicholas Dunning: "What you want already exists. Search 'Microsoft Surface Pro 3.' It is a tablet with the grunt of a laptop that you could plug into a larger display when you are home. It is also sexy like an Apple product."
Dave Levingston: "I have an iPhone, but I've used PCs since the days of the C: prompt, so I won't be switching to Apple for other things. I have a Kindle Fire that I use for reading and web surfing when I'm not trying to 'create' anything. It's OK for that. I do most of my photo work at my desktop, but also need a laptop for travel.
"I recently bought this laptop in the hope that it will replace my old larger laptop and my Kindle for travel. I have yet to see if that hope will be realized. There's a trip coming up next month, so maybe I'll find out."
Wes: "There have been rumors of an iPad 'Pro' for quite some time. I don't know that it would replace every device you have; but I can see it replacing the iPad and a laptop."
Mark St. John: "Re 'I don't suppose any company ever made money by consolidating its products...' Somewhat ironically, given that's your lead to talk about consolidating Apple products, but that is what Apple did back when Steve Jobs re-took the helm around 1997. And they made a ton of money doing it. Jobs took the dizzying array of computer models and configurations (and clones) and consolidated them into four easily distinguished products based on two simple parameters: Power or casual user, and desktop or laptop. The models were iBook, PowerBook, iMac or PowerMac. Simple. As you (used to) say, just sayin'."
Andy F: "I anticipate a lot of 'Microsoft Surface!' comments in response to this article."
Michael Perini (partial comment): "Everyone will have their own preferences for some way of working. So what you are really asking is for MORE overlap in functionality among devices so that you (and we) could pick the form factor first, and have the functionality be there."
Mike replies: Good point, and yes I think you're right.
Jamie Pillers: "To segue just a bit, this idea of having one device meeting all needs is just over the horizon for camera gear. With the advances in material sciences now upon us, we'll soon (I'd bet within the next 5 years or so) see a camera the size of a phone... maybe it WILL be a phone... with more megapixels than we need for anything and with very fast super-zoom lens. The recent patents in organic sensor design and materials capable of being formed into flat lenses are just a couple that come to mind that are going to continue the revolution in camera design we've all been living through."
beuler: "Don't forget to make an appointment to buy the Apple watch. Actually, this type of device proliferation is a reflection of where IT in general is going—multiple devices to access the same information, each device specialized by task or user environment."
Mas Young: "Exactly my thoughts Mike. This is how I consolidated late last year: Sold iPad, bought iPhone 6+. Bought Macbook Air 11" and hook it up to an external screen. The thing screams along and Photoshop CS is a breeze. The only thing missing is hard drive space which is easily solved with wheelbarrow loads of external drives. Happy camper down under."
Colin K Work: "But overlap isn't all bad—what happens when your all in one device breaks (which it will)."
Dillan: "I don't know how much of the future this will be, but I came across the 'Chromebit' and also the 'Compute Stick' today. They are computers which plug into a TVs HDMI port, like a USB memory key. These are fully functional Google Chrome and Windows 8.1 computers in a little stick that you can put into your shirt pocket. These just blew me away. I know they shouldn't; my phone is probably more powerful, but it just amazing what they can do these days. Imagine a tiny device which mates with a completely modular line of accessories. Plug it into a phone module, and it's a phone. Take it to work and plug it into your monitor and it's your work computer. Plug it into your TV and you browse the web on a 55" big screen, or play video games like a PS4. I'm just rambling here, but this is possible, and it's probably being worked on right now. Amazing."