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Macs could be riding back seat - and that's ok

Yesterday's keynote announcements that showed off everything but a Mac and Mac OS X understandably struck some fear in those who worry about the future of Apple's computers. Don't get me wrong: while I question how easy it is to dial numbers on a virtual iPhone keypad (fellow former owners of Samsung's i330 and Cingular's 8125 know what I'm talking about), I still think the iPhone and Apple TV are going to be fantastic and popular products. I know - groundbreaking analysis.

Still, the surprising deletion of 'Computer' from what is now 'Apple Inc.'s' name, as Mat Lu pointed out, speaks volumes to the possibility that the Mac could be taking a back seat to what is Apple's obvious new focus on the broader consumer electronics industry. We saw nothing of iLife or *any* of Apple's software yesterday. Even the upcoming Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was a no-show, despite the fact that both sides of the OS fence are eagerly anticipating and endlessly conjecturing in light of Microsoft's release of their first new OS in nearly half a decade.

Now I don't use the term 'back seat' lightly, since Macs still being in the car for the ride is a good thing. That said, this lack of Mac and software announcements (heck, even the AirPort Extreme was a quiet release) from Apple at their key yearly product extravaganza can only say one of two things in my mind. First, and the worst: Apple could be on track to eventually stop the car and kick the Mac out to the curb in a few years because the consumer electronics industry is simply too juicy of a prospect. While there are plenty Mac enthusiasts who fear this as a worst case scenario, I think yesterday's Mac-less events betray some positive developments for our computers of choice that can instill a sense of security over the Mac's future.

Mac hardware is now on-par with the rest of the industry, while their design still more or less leads the pack. Apple is using the same Intel chips as everyone else, and the rest of the hardware under the hood is from the better half of the QA fence (generally speaking, of course) that everyone can pick from. On parallel, Mac OS X has evolved into a stable and mature operating system which is still trumping Microsoft's just-released Vista, even in its current 10.4 Tiger iteration. To me, this sounds like Macs and their OS aren't going anywhere, but they might not exactly be a top priority for the company right now - and that's not a bad thing. Instead of earth-shattering Mac OS X innovations with every press release, I believe we can look forward to at least a few years of logical, steady evolution in Apple computers, perhaps until it is time for Mac OS XI. With a solid software and computer hardware foundation to build on, Apple is clearly going to explore other industries that can benefit from the company's design sense and unshakable quest for ease of use. Even though they might not be sitting in shotgun, Macs are unmistakably coming along for the ride.

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