Over in the Reaper / marketing / pricing thread I made a comment about my doubts about the future of Mac and PC. I'm starting a new thread because I don't want to derail the other very interesting and helpful conversation over there.
The relevance of this topic to AM is whether there will be a viable base of people using Mac and PC in 5 years to use AM. When I say "Mac and PC" I'm talking about traditional desktop computing on desktops and laptops -- we might still have something called Mac and PC in 5 years but I doubt they'll look like they do today.
I'm feeling a bit like this is a "rumours of death grossly exaggerated" thread already but since strunkdts asked:
> Where would one get the idea tha Mac or PC will
> be dead in 5 years? Please, i want to hear more.
I don't have a cogent argument, but here's some thoughts:
1. Closed platforms are not PCs in any traditional sense
With Lion, Apple has radically transformed what used to be an open platform into something much like an iOS device that sits on your desk. Among other things, a DRM protected closed platform with tight restrictions on what software runs on it and where you buy it from. For some examples of how restrictive this is, even today, read this:
This is just for Apps in the App Store of course, but many are wondering how long it will be until the App Store is the only delivery mechanism on Mac OS X. From a business standpoint (except for Anti-trust risks) I think it makes sense to close the platform down, and simplify it further. Lion appears to be a step in this direction. If that happens (and its easy to argue that Apple will push it in this direction) I don't see Mac as continuing to be a general computing platform -- certainly not in any sense we've understood that term up to now.
Perhaps MS will follow suit with their personal computing offerings. I'm less sure about that.
2. Windows 8 hybrid/tablet direction
Probably it's less likely that MS will dump "enterprise desktop" as a market segment but they have been trying to converge laptop and tablet operating systems for a while and Windows 8 is clearly going to be a new direction in consumer computing. Combine this with the next point and I don't see a huge market for traditional "PCs"
3. Rise of mobile platforms
It's no secret that mobile computing is where it's at these days. Apple is making most of their money from iOS, Microsoft is in bed with Nokia, and Google bought Motorola. Office computing is increasingly done "in the cloud."
Convertible Android tablets are already viable alternatives to netbooks (something like ASUS Transformer). Increasingly I am reading about people using tablets as their only personal computing device.
There have been rumours of the Mac Pro being discontinued for a few months now.
4. Low power devices == ARM CPUs
ARM CPUs appear to be the future. Intel has been unable to deliver a low-power competitor (one reason Microsoft has been holding off on tablet computing). Power efficiency is increasingly a concern in data centres as well as in the mobile space. The switch to ARM CPUs (already with iOS and Android, and coming with Windows 8) is a major disruption to business as usual. Windows 8 for ARM will be the first incompatible instruction set migration Windows has ever seen (Apple successful migrated twice). No old Windows software will run natively on ARM, so it's a rare opportunity for Microsoft to change tack and make something that isn't tied to 15 years of Windows legacy software.
There are rumours of MacBook Air on ARM. You can imagine it -- lower power, smaller battery and/or longer battery life. With a simplified Mac OS that's more like iOS.
5. Increasing irrelevance of the PC form factor
In light of the above it is easy to imagine that in a few years the only reason to buy a real (powerful, configurable, open) PC will be for specialised tasks. Perhaps serious audio, gaming, professional creative production, not sure what else. These are all relatively small niches and the likelihood that Apple or Microsoft would see it as good business to develop a desktop operating system just for these niches seems small to me. It's also quite possible that many of these tasks will make total sense on what we currently consider to be "underpowered mobile devices."
I don't think Apple has any interest in professional computing, they have been pushing the "we're a consumer electronic company" line for over 5 years now. Apple are not reluctant to dump old technology and put the past behind them. Perhaps Windows in it's traditional guise has a longer lifespan because of the massive inertia of the installed base.
Those are the main lines of thinking. I don't know where this leaves hardcore PC gaming, Adobe Creative Suite, Digidesign etc.
I don't see any of this as a bad thing for AM. But I do think that change is in the wind. I've always been interested in making PC (and Mac) software because it's a platform that many people have access to -- you can make music on hardware that you already have. Increasingly I think PC and Mac will be specialised hardware that less people have.
Right now the obvious contender for a viable mobile platform for music making is iOS. Unfortunately, technical challenges aside (and they are significant), I have ideological misgivings about the closed and vetted Apple marketplace, and Apple's approach to developer "support", so have no plans to release music software for iOS.