Opinion: The Finder is Dead, Replaced with Cloud Synced Apps

Posted on May 5, 2010 by

Former Apple employee and cofounder and CEO of Posterous, Sachin Agarwal, thinks that the Finder is dead.

He has two main points:

  1. We will no longer interact with applications or files on a desktop PC
  2. The central point of syncing your data will no longer be your PC, it will be Mobile Me (the cloud)

It’s an interesting article worth reading.  I agree that the way we store and manage files on desktops and laptops will change, but I’m not sure if it will be to the extreme we currently see on the iPad and iPhone.  As far as Agarwal’s second point, I already do this to some extent.  I use MobileMe to sync my bookmarks, calendars and contacts between all my computers and devices.  I use iDisk for some of my storage, but since Apple is stingy on storage space, I’m not able to use it for my photo library, music or videos.  Besides unlimited storage, another improvement I’d like to see is the way iDisk works on the iPhone and iPad.  There is currently an iDisk app built for the iPhone, but it doesn’t let you do anything with the files except view them.  Apple needs to make it easy for apps to give an option to store or retrieve files from your iDisk.

From Sachin’s Posterous:

The Finder is dead. Soon, a PC won’t have files, folders, or documents. It will have “apps” like an iPhone

There’s a major shift occurring in the way we interact with PCs, applications, and files. It’s being led by Apple with the iPhone, the iPad, and I predict, the next major version of Mac OS.

1. We will no longer interact with applications or files on a desktop PC

When you launch iTunes, you see your music. When you launch iPhoto, you see your photos. When you launch Mail, you see your email. Where is it all stored? Who cares. Apple stores these files on your Mac in a folder or “package” that isn’t meant to be examined or manipulated.

People resisted this model for a while. For some reason, users wanted to manage their files on a desktop, a paradigm that was revolutionary back in 1984. But I always loved Apple’s model. It makes everything easy to organize and backup. I don’t want to deal with the details, just make it work.

Apple used this as the de facto model for the iPhone. Each application has its own sandbox of files and data. The user isn’t aware of or troubled by the concept of files or storage.

The iPad works the same way, and for most people, so will their next PC. In just a few years, everyone but pro users will be using a device centered around “apps” instead of files. If you aren’t a developer, designer, or video editor, this simpler data model is all you need for the web, email, and media.

2. The central point of syncing your data will no longer be your PC, it will be Mobile Me (the cloud)

Right now you sync your iPod, iPhone, iPad, and AppleTV to your computer. Why is the computer the central point of all this? As these other devices evolve and become more powerful, we’ll use our PC less and less. The central point of sync should be the cloud, the internet.

I want to be able to access all my data on my iPhone, iPad, and iCar. And I want them all to be in sync. I want the data to be managed automatically, backed up, secure, and fast. If I buy a video on my iPad, sync it to my TV instantly. If I take a photo on my iPhone, sync it to my iPad. Don’t ask me anything, just make sure everything is everywhere.

The cloud will be the hub for everything, and each device will sync to it. When you want to replace the battery on your iPad, Apple will simply replace your entire iPad. Why not? Just resync all the data.
Back in 1998, Apple killed the floppy drive with one fell swoop. Killing the PC desktop won’t be as quick and easy, but Apple will do it over time. It started with the iPhone, and in a few years we won’t even remember the Finder.

Say goodbye to the desktop.

Follow me on Twitter here.

Update: Interesting points after discussing with Nils:

  • The Finder hasn’t been updated with anything sexy in years. I think this is because Apple doesn’t want to devote major resources to something that should die. Expose, Dashboard, Spaces, and Spotlight are all hacks to make the final years of the Finder tolerable.
  • Apple built the iLife media browser so you can access your media between applications. This makes sense. We will need to share things, but not through generic files on the desktop. It will happen through richer tools like this one, with metadata and deep integration.

Comments (2)

 

  1. steve jobs says:

    That’s the most idiotic article written in a while. Just because that douche bag only has text documents and low res images on his drive doesn’t mean that other people don’t actually use their computers for something worth while. I have 8TB of storage at home 75% filled, 20TB at work (near capacity) and 200GB+ in the cloud. What he’s talking about only applies to netbook and ipad users (people who dont know how to burn cds, print documents, or change the oil in their cars)
    Chrome OS is what he’s talking about. But until Apple makes it, well, it doesn’t count. Right?

  2. eli says:

    He’s not talking about people like you, he’s talking about basic computer users. Read it again.

    “The iPad works the same way, and for most people, so will their next PC. In just a few years, everyone but pro users will be using a device centered around “apps” instead of files. If you aren’t a developer, designer, or video editor, this simpler data model is all you need for the web, email, and media.”

    He’s talking about a lot more people than netbook and iPad users though. Just about every student at the University I work at would benefit from a simpler file storage model like the one he talks about. Students are always bringing Windows 7 computers that have been taken over by malware. When I tell them we’ll need to reinstall Windows and ask where there files are located that need to be back up, they say “my music is in iTunes, my pictures are in Picasa, and my documents are in Word.” This is the new generation of computer users. None of these users ever backup their files because they have no idea where they are really stored. I see students cry all the time because they’ve lost their entire photo collection. Cloud based storage would fix this problem.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.