Apple is holding its annual developer's conference in San Francisco today. And as is always the case whenever Apple prepares to announce anything, Apple fans are on the edge of their seats.
The big news thus far is that Steve Jobs will appear <http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-icloud-2011-5> . Jobs has been on medical leave since January, and given the deterioration of his health over the past couple of years, many people were concerned that he would never return. The fact that he has been seen on Apple's campus in recent weeks, and will appear again today, is great news, for Apple and the tech industry alike.
Apple will also announce something called "iCloud" which is the next generation of the company's Internet-based storage and synchronization service. This service will likely replace Apple's "Mobile Me," which got off to a rough start but has still accumulated 3 million subscribers. iCloud will also likely have facilitate Apple's next-generation of music and movie distribution, either by syncing iTunes' libraries automatically across all devices, or by streaming the media directly to users' phones or Macs or iPads wherever they happen to be.
Apple passed an extraordinary milestone last week, when its market value exceeded that of Microsoft and Intel combined. This would have been unthinkable a decade ago, and it shows how powerful and wealthy Apple has become.
The big strategic question for the company going forward is the same as it has always been: Whether the company can continue to succeed with a "closed" platform (Apple-approved media, Apple products) when competitors like Google are increasingly succeeding with more "open" platforms like Android. Android's market share of mobile phone platforms in the US has blasted past Apple's in the past year, and some analysts are concerned that Apple is just repeating the same strategic error that almost killed it in the 1990s: Trying to maintain complete control with integrated hardware and software (and now media) products, while other companies share a common platform.
There are important differences between now and the 1990s, however, and Apple has obviously learned from its prior mistakes. In the accompanying video, Aaron and I discuss where the company is today and where it is likely headed.