How to read Apple's hidden plans.

If we look back, the story is simpler than we may think: Apple is not about computers, music players, tablets or phones. Apple business was always and will be always about the best human to machine interfaces in the world.

Not all innovation is equal

At first they took Rank Xerox idea about mouse and windows and turn it into the first PC. Then they replaced the mp3 players myriad of obscure buttons with a click wheel and the clumsy music sync software with drag and drop and the clarity of iTunes and they launched the iPod. Some years later, and this is important, while working on a new tablet, they improve the already existing multi-touch list scroll and when presented with the prototype, Jobs realizes the they have a multi-touch phone interface. So that they shelved the tablet and gone to radically change the phone interface by making it simpler and intuitive.

Of course Apple was also about brilliant operations, superb industrial design, cutting edge technology, better software and perfect business execution. But so are Google and Microsoft and Samsung, less the industrial design, most of the time. The real difference is in the way Apple was able to inovate on interfaces. Jobs real genius was to see clearly that the weakest link between smart machines and ordinary people was the interface, and to put all company's focus on executing the best, intuitive interfaces in the world.

How Tim Cook lost the way

Once Jobs was gone, they were a bit lost, maybe because Cook thought their business is about products and Ive thought it is about industrial design. They innovated more on form factor and less on the interface. They lost focus. Apple Watch didn't cracked properly "the very small screen interface" problem and this is why, while reasonably successful, it's not a hit. Siri may change things but the interface is, quite honestly, more like a Windows Mobile kind of product: cluttered and not really intuitive. While you see babies operating iPads you'll never see one playing with an Apple Watch. There you have it: a superbly executed piece of industrial design with a mediocre interface.

Siri is another story about Cook not realizing soon enough that a new interface — the voice interface — is really big and not just a spectacular gadget and so that he yielded initiative and lost momentum to Amazon's Alexa. (The war is not lost, however)

What really happened to the Apple Car?

And then, the Apple Car. Given the size and scope of the project, it was one impossible to hide, as Jobs did when they started with the tablet project and switched to the phone. So that it is quite clear there is a car project in the works and we may guess it started like all of the competitors, with self driving software. It is also reasonably clear something happened and it lost momentum. And it is quite obvious Cook started suddenly to talk a lot about AR.

What can we make of all this? My guess is that while working on a windshield display for the car they stumbled on the Augumented Reality gold mine. Not unsimilar to what happened to the multi touch scroll list, they realized their next product is not the car but something else. That is, a new human to machine interface based on AR. Maybe for existing cars or new glasses, who knows. But they hit the breaks on the car project and now there is a lot of talk about AR instead. (keep in mind, AR may look about image only but Siri can play a huge part in it)

So, the next Apple Revolution, if it is to be one, will be about interfaces, not about hardware.

Why Apple TV never took off

And, by the way, Apple never really cracked the Apple TV subject mainly because they never focused, after Jobs, on how to radically improve on the screen-remote interface. Instead they focused on content and iTunes and they lost because after the iTunes first years, the content industry never trusted them again. But they are still sitting on a gold mine and once they will realize that searching and browsing should be done on the iPhone and screening only should be done on the TV screen, they will get it. They will realize that the real Apple TV is a combination of the existing Apple TV box and a new kind of iOS app which brings the exisiting Apple TV big screen interface at your fingertips. Do all browsing and searching and setting up on the iPhone and then send the content to the big screen of your choice: TV, computer or iPad.

If you think about it it's really amazing that they never found akward to use an Apple physical remote, however smart and fancy, to browse content with arrow like movements, using "menu" as "back", and to enter text with TV keyboards, one letter at every 3 seconds. All this while you can browse and search Netflix and Prime video on your phone and only display the movie on the big TV screen. Using AirPlay, bien sur.

It's the interface, stupid!

So, if Apple is to be about only one thing, it is about brilliant interfaces. If they want to keep inovating like Jobs did, they should remember this. If they don't, this is where the new Apple, taking their place, will emerge from.