One Hundred Million is the Magic Number

At the Apple worldwide developer's conference, Steve Jobs talked about a lot of numbers at onstage. Apple talked about the 29% US market share of the smart phone market that the iPhone has achieved. Apple discussed the 58% market share of mobile Web browsing that it now has. Apple even talked about their 22% marketshare in e-books. The most important number, however, that Apple talked about so was 100 million. That's how many iOS devices are in the market as of this month. That's significant and it shows what Apple's long-term platform play is all about. Hint, it's no longer about the personal computer, at least the personal computer as we know it.

The very iOS name is significant. Think about it. When the iPhone was introduced Apple pointed out that this was just another iteration of OS X optimized for a phone. Over time, it became known as the iPhone OS and as of WWDC it now has name of its own. That's because iOS is a platform play and I believe this is the future that Apple is betting on. Betting on big time. In a world of connected devices and screens, phones are only one part of the equation.

Sure, Apple has 29% of the US smartphone market and that's not trivial and it is important. While no vendor is likely to achieve the dominant position in the smartphone space that Microsoft achieved with their desktop PC operating system, Apple has shown that it doesn't need to do that. If Apple can maintain a 30 to 40% market share in the phone business and at the same time maintain a strong position in the tablet business and of course the hand-held pocket-sized tablet that we call the iPod touch, Apple can successfully leverage iOS as the next-generation platform for connected devices. With Apple, it's not about three screens and a cloud but rather multiple screens and connected services within an applications ecosystem that's leveraged across each device.

At the D8 conference, Steve Jobs compared the PC to a truck. A useful vehicle for sure, but one that fewer and fewer people need each year even though there's still a market for them. It appears Apple's goal is to make the PC something they'll continue to build for those who need them but over time attempt to shift the market away from both Macintosh and Mac OS as well as Windows and Windows PCs as well. I note that this years developer's conference was the first one that I can recall where was no mention of Mac OS at all. Not a single slide, not a single update on the OS or Mac market. Nothing at all at the keynote. That wasn't an accident. (in the past, even when OS X was off WWDC from a dev cycle, it still received pretty prominent exposure). This year, it's all been about was all about iOS and iOS devices and the developer story behind them.

Apple iPhone 4 hands-on:

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While I normally don't speculate on Apple products, one can actually get a pretty good idea where Apple is moving. We've heard rumors over the last few weeks of the new version of Apple TV built upon iOS. That's looking more and more like a likely next product and I expect it could be introduced as early as next fall at the annual iPod refresh. Given the goal of a connected, next generation device platform it's also easy to understand why Apple might view Google as a greater competitive threat than old rival Microsoft.

While Microsoft talks about multiple connected screens, Windows is a PC platform and Windows Phone a smartphone platform. There's no unified model, architecture or evangelism to tie those products and services together just yet. Google on the other hand has articulated a similar strategy for Android, a platform for phones, tablets, TVs, netbooks and every other non-PC device. Expect to see more clashes in the months ahead between Cupertino and Mountain View and more companies to look to Microsoft as the new Switzerland for alliances and partnerships (Apple in fact did announce a Microsoft partnership at WWDC and the Bing search engine is now an option on iOS and Safari)

I think we're seeing a bold strategy in play. A recognition that the PC vs. Mac is a battle for the last century not this one. By marginalizing the personal computer, including Macintosh, Apple sets the stage for where the real battle of the future is and what life might look like in a post-PC world.

Looking for more on the iPhone 4?  Check out the SlashGear hands-on!