Apple's upgrades to the Mac OS X and iOS platforms and its move into the cloud may have grabbed headlines, but analysts are split on the long-term effect on the company's customer base.
Steve Jobs expounded on a post-PC future in his Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, and showed that Apple was moving heavily into the cloud sphere, as well as increasing the similarities between its desktop and mobile operating systems.
The replacement of the much-derided MobileMe commercial service with a free iCloud account signalled that Apple has changed its plan with the cloud business, Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester, told V3.co.uk.
Instead of charging for the service, Apple would derive value from the ancillary benefits.
"When you look at the overall value that iCloud brings, the kind of seamlessness of content and backup, then you can see some upsell for Apple," he said.
"For loyalists, when ther time comes to upgrade or buy another device for someone, they are much more likely to buy Apple, and this carries over to non-Mac users. This is really going to help the Mac, because there are more people out there with iPhones and iPads than Macs."
Apple had little choice in the move to the cloud, he pointed out, given the moves made in the field by its competition. Overall the personal cloud market could be worth $12bn by 2016, Forrester predicts.
There was also a valuable revenue stream to be had from Apple's iTunes Match application, but for the record companies rather than for Apple, he said. Updating ripped music with iTunes should provide a new revenue stream from reformed pirates.
"Where is most of this pirated music? It's in people's iTunes accounts," he said. "If you look to make revenue out of it then you have to go through iTunes."
Other analysts agreed that iCloud would help spur Mac adoption. Gartner research vice president Carolina Milanesi pointed to anecdotal evidence that this was already happening. She knew of several people with iPhones and iPads who chose to buy a Mac rather than PC when the time came to upgrade home systems.
Ovum analyst Nick Dillon agreed, pointing out that the iCloud announcement showed that Apple is all about using services to drive device sales, rather than the other way around. But he pointed out that Apple is not above using those services to disrupt the competition.
"With the launch of iMessage, Apple has given RIM and the mobile operators something to keep them up at night," he said.
"IMessage bears more than a passing resemblance to the successful BlackBerry Messenger service, but without the service fees which are split between RIM and the mobile operator.
"In addition to these fees, operators also stand to lose revenue from SMS as iOS users switch away from the operator managed service to the IP-based iMessage for their communications."
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