updated 03:44 pm EDT, Sat April 5, 2014
Shows interest in Apple TV, MobileMe improvements
As a byproduct of the patent trial between Apple and Samsung currently going on in San Francisco, a number of previously-confidential Apple emails have seen the light of day. Some talk about how to react to Samsung's marketing bombardment, since it outspent all rivals but Apple combined on advertising its smartphones; others reveal additional details on things already known. A 2010 email from Steve Jobs, shown in court, reveals a little of how Apple works to improve itself.
The email (seen below), submitted into evidence by Samsung attorneys because of the mention of a "holy war" against Google over its "stolen" Android makeover (that changed it from a BlackBerry-esque mobile platform to a strikingly iPhone-esque OS just a year after Apple introduced the iPhone), has since been referred to by Apple SVP Phil Schiller and others as an "outline" document intended for presenters and others, including progress from various department heads, but not a company edict.
However one interprets the document, there can be no doubt that Jobs -- famous for his prescience on industry trends -- was still at the top of his predictive game in 2010, even though the health issues that would eventually kill him were already a significant issue. In the memo, he notes both the "Post-PC era" and the importance of cloud computing, saying that "the PC is now just another client alongside iPhone, iPad, iPod touch," even though the iPad at the time (October 2010) had only been on the market for a little over six months.
As he often did, Jobs planned to tear down the "Digital Hub" concept Apple had championed (which put the Mac at the center of digital lifestyle) a year or so earlier and "catch up" to Microsoft and Google in cloud technology. He actually mentions the "Innovator's Dilemma" of hanging on to an idea one has invented too long and watching competitors build on what was achieved as a primary reason for the meeting, along with all the ways in which the company would use 2011 as a year to match and more effectively compete against Google, which Jobs saw clearly as replacing Microsoft as Apple's main threat in the marketplace.
"Google and Microsoft are further along on the [cloud] technology, but haven't quite figured it out yet," Jobs notes, inferring that Apple has the tools to create a complete "eco-system" to further lock customers in. His outline for the "top 100" meeting includes plans for what became the iPhone 4S, interest in ensuring that LTE compatibility would arrive by mid-2012 (in fact this was achieved in September 2012), and mentions the new camera and antenna design that would mark the iPhone 5.
The notes also make mention of a desire to create a "low cost iPhone model based on iPod touch to replace the 3GS," however Apple ended up keeping the 3GS around (and likewise did so with the iPhone 4) for an extended period as an entry-level model instead. The memo also makes mention of the in-development iPad 2, which Jobs describes as having "amazing hardware and software before our competitors even catch up with our current model" and that Jobs wanted the cellular version to handle both GSM (UTMS) and CDMA ("Verizon") in one model.
Later in the memo, Jobs mentioned that the Apple TV would become a "must have" accessory for iOS devices -- a vision that has largely come true. Apple has successfully incorporated the device into its iOS ecosystem, using AirPlay to transfer games and screen mirroring to HDTVs without complicated setup. Jobs foresaw the expanded content that has been steadily growing in recent years, and a future offering of TV subscriptions (possibly for services like HBO Go, Global iPlayer and the like), the ability to run some apps natively on the device, a web browser and a "magic wand," possibly a considered "Wii-controller-like" device Apple had patented but which hasn't, to date, come to market.
The email goes on to outline areas Jobs would like to see the company "catch up and leapfrog" competitors on, including MobileMe (now called iCloud). The document talks about using cloud storage and Photo Stream, and notes that (at the time) Google was "way ahead of Apple in cloud services for contacts, calendars, mail" and also notes that (again, at the time) the company need to "catch up" to Android "where we are behind (notifications, tethering, speech) and leapfrog them (Siri)." The memo is fairly remarkable as a largely-accurate blueprint for what Apple has focused on in the past three years.
Jobs' notes propose making MobileMe (then $99 a year) free for new iPhone, iPad and iPod touch buyers, and mentions what became iCloud's iOS backup feature and a "new iDisk" for Mac that hasn't yet appeared (iCloud does offer 5GB of storage space for free, but doesn't match the functionality of the previous iDisk feature from MobileMe as of yet). Also mentioned was the eventual "iTunes in the Cloud" feature and ways to make it easier to discover new iOS apps -- in all, strong evidence that Apple had been working on these ideas years in advance of their debut -- and even in areas where the company saw itself as lagging against competitors, was determined to go beyond just "catching up" and innovate its way ahead of rivals.