An Apple a Day

Things are heating up, folks. When I originally posted about Apple’s move towards a unified payment system united under the iTunes umbrella, I was thinking pretty big picture, but there’s even more possibility here that I hadn’t considered. Run with me.

Recently, I was turned on to a company called Green Dot (GDOT) that has made a name for itself supplying pre-paid reloadable debit cards, mostly on the west coast. I was intrigued by the company’s quick growth during a time of economic recession, and I realized that, of course, people are moving away from credit cards and more towards debit transactions. Green Dot allows people from a myriad of income levels to have access to all the conveniences that a credit card allows in the modern marketplace with the added benefits of security and anonymity. Awesome.

So when I predicted a near-field payment system, I wasn’t considering a marriage of the two ideas, but the notion seems even more powerful now that I’ve read this piece by Tim O’Reilly and this post by Peter-Paul Koch. See what’s happening here, in my opinion, is a sea change in the way people are going to be managing their money, and it’s going to be Apple-based.

This may sound crazy, but we’re running with it, remember? Apple will introduce a mobile payment system, with the hardware to support it being present in all new models of iOS devices going forward (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad). As these devices proliferate (even moreso than they are now), we’re going to start seeing adoption of devices with these NFC capabilities start to rise significantly as the older models are phased out (think 2-3 generations of devices, which is 2-3 years in Apple land) and the NFC-equipped models become prevalent and cheap. As people start turning to these devices as their mobile wallets, they will also start using iTunes as their primary hub of payment, again with possible banking/credit services being offered by some new branch of Apple (not likely, but possible). As NFC becomes a de facto standard, people will start to see the iPhone as part of their lifestyle to a greater degree than they do now. At present, people still view the iPhone as a luxury item, something that is generally incompatible with their budget/spending patterns, or something that doesn’t fit their image. This will change as the iPhone begins to shift from a high-SES indicator to a mainstream societal mainstay. Apple will undoubtedly continue to produce products that will hold a significant amount of mindshare and indicate a high SES, but the fact is that the iPhone, or, more specifically, owning an NFC-equipped iPhone, will no longer be out of reach for the majority of people in just a few short years. This will bring about a massive paradigm shift in our handling of transactions across the country, and possibly the world. It will be a beautiful thing to see people of all income levels and socioeconomic strata using the same device, deriving the same enjoyment out of it. This may even signal a societal shift towards a resource-based economy, but I believe I’m being a tad optimistic there.

As Apple continues to grow, I am still amazed that their innovation does not show any signs of slowing down. Get ready, folks, this will be an interesting two years.


On to the Next One

There’s been a lot of rumor and speculation recently surrounding the upcoming “iPad 2” that Apple is slated to release soon. Topping out the list are buzzwords and ideas like “Retina Display” (which apple coined last year when they released the iPhone 4), SD storage, and (as always) the polarizing issue of cameras (both front and rear, in this case) .

All this is fine and good. Apple will undoubtedly introduce some new technology, or at least integrate already-proven into the new wundertablet. The real kick here seems to be the high-resolution display that everyone seems to be all hot and bothered about. I say that this display is simply the next step, while others say it’s impossible. The arguments, however, are decidedly jargon-riddled and quite technical. The higher-resolution display will require a powerful processor/GPU/magic unicorn sparkles. There is technology under the surface of these 3,145,728 pixels, perhaps very powerful technology, but that isn’t the the issue here. Folks who own iPads aren’t concerned with resolution, floating point calculations, or chipsets’ model numbers. Folks who own iPads want to read books, magazines, and websites without eye fatigue. They want to draw, to view their pictures in a way that no other device can display them. They want to type documents and see the text on the screen with razor-sharp clarity. They want to show their clients presentations of their products and services with a level of clarity that hasn’t been seen even in Apple’s top-tier professional laptops.

Furthermore, I imagine that there are a great deal of print outfits out there who are aching to see their content blazing on over three million brilliant pixels. Can you imagine how National Geographic will look when that screen displays their new cover for the first time, almost indistinguishable from print with a 178-degree viewing angle? If real, that display will be so sharp that people all over the world will be heading into eye doctors for eyeball lacerations. Bad joke. Think about it though: the app is delayed, unveiling the new service is pushed back, the whole thing hushed until the coming of the benevolent iPad the second. Angels sing, and the trumpets herald peace on earth. Or something like that.

Even that, as amazing as it may seem, isn’t the point, though. The point is that it’s the right thing to do. We’re at a critical point in consumer technology (as we always are). Our books, libraries, magazines, physical media, phone numbers…virtually everything about the technologies that have defined our world for the past three hundred years is changing. In order to move gracefully on the shifting sands of the technological landscape, Apple has decided to improve on a device that introduced a new way of thinking about computing. They’re pushing it places that other companies haven’t thought about yet or even considered a possibility. They’re going to move things along and light a fire under the entire tablet landscape. Regardless of what screen the new iPad will use, or how many pixels it has crammed in its svelte frame, it will be the next step towards a paradigm shift technology as we know it.