I wonder if Apple will formally drop the word 'Macintosh, a word increasingly fussy and old fashioned? To all intents and purposes, it's gone. Try searching on the word 'Macintosh' on any of Apple's Mac pages.

But what about Macs of the future?

After Steve Jobs died, it emerged he had set in place Apple product roadmaps covering all devices for up to four years into the future. If it's true that the four top blokes - they are all blokes - at Apple each encapsulate a fundamental part of the late cofounder's character, coupled to a strong roadmap means, it's possible we could well see Apple soldiering into the future in the manner we have come to expect.

And that's in the Jobs' manner. After all, this is the man who brought the mouse, touchscreens, the Micro SIM, Thunderbolt and GPS to the masses. Oh, plus Wi-Fi, USB, trackpads and more stuff we almost all take for granted.

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I think it's funny when people brandish their Androids at me and say 'This does everything your iPhone does for cheaper!' I say 'yes, and you can thank Apple for that'.

Apple devices famously need less setup time and 'just work', but that means there's very little instruction out there for frustrated new users, or those droves of 'switchers' abandoning their Windows PCs.

Of course, they can always read my mac.nz blog, and sign up for my free tips newsletter.

And professionally, it must be said, I do tend to meet people who need help, so I guess it's not surprising that someone could own an iDevice for months before realising (or someone like me told them) that it was all controlled by iTunes, and you needed to plug it in and get configuring.

However, that's gone. iCloud has made all that unnecessary. Now, with iOS5, you don't need to plug your iDevice into anything, thanks to online backups and sync services. This is the 'PC-free' era that Jobs himself ushered in back in June at WWDC.

I don't know whether this abrogation of instructional responsibility was a factor in the launch of Apple's iCloud, but it begs the question: has Apple given up trying to educate people of even the most basic of facts to concentrate, instead, in getting them using their devices? Despite very little knowledge, if any, of process?

Manuals stopped appearing with Apple devices a long time ago. There is helpful material online, and it's excellent, but some of the people I meet don't even begin to know how to find it, or even where to look. In fact many - usually switchers - don't know the difference between searching on a device itself, or online.

So to me it feels like 'the cloud' has been where they are for quite some time already, except it's been obscuring everyone's vision. It may be tribute to engineers and designers that people like this can still communicate via email, and do a lot more besides, despite their jarringly small knowledge set, and I suppose that has to be a good thing, despite the eye-rolling of the IT boffins.

There is help built into every Mac, by the way, but I am often mystified that people are either not aware it's there or are too scared to use it.

Look, everyone, it's the rightmost menu in every application on Macs. And it is actually helpful.

But anyway, present Apple method leads to two distinct types of users - those who know a bit about what's going on with their device, and those in the far larger category. They know virtually nothing.

It's a bit like cars - the new-to-NZ ones are virtually all automatic now, creating even more of a divide between what's happening and the user as they burn their fuel to add to traffic. Many have never checked the oil and water and don't know how to change a tyre.

I have often, myself, made the point that you don't need to be a mechanic to drive a car, and I think that's mostly fine (otherwise millions of people would not be driving cars, which might also be fine.) But I wonder how much sophistication is being channelled into making device ever more seamless and, at the same time, their users ever less knowledgeable about the most basic aspects of them.

For a developer's view of what all this means to the Mac and OS X, Andy Ihnatko's blog on the subject on Macworld makes a good read.

But sleeker devices that are ever more impenetrable is what people seem to like. Apple saw the biggest gain in this year's annual Interbrand report of the world's most valuable brands, with an estimated value of $33.5 billion and growth of 58 per cent measured year over year.

Apple's rise propelled it to eighth overall, a spot previously occupied by Nokia. Nokia's brand value suffered, causing it to No. 14. Microsoft also fell (down three per cent), and it is now ranked third, and Google fourth.

The counter argument to sleek design over open machinations is, of course, not having to stop and tinker with your device all the time to keep it going. Which makes you more productive and creative. And that's hard to argue with.

Until the apocalypse, anyway.

And then, who's going to need an iPad?

Apple has a solar domain at www.ipodsolar.com, so maybe there is actually a dystopian future for the iDevice. Until the screen breaks.

Speaking of the apocalypse, Acer, which glumly watched the iPad devour its Netbook market, is now forecasting that consumers will turn from tablets to Ultrabooks in 2012. "Such talk could go into the same category of the Mayan calendar foreshadowing the end of the world," writes Ed Sutherland on Cult of Mac.

You may need to realise Cult of Mac is, strangely enough, a 'Mac fan site'.

Ed also says "The idea of tablets isn't to replicate the functionality of notebooks ..." but in fact, iOS5 and the cloud making iPads more standalone actually does make them more like netbooks, in my eyes.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 4S reception might have been lukewarm at best, in the writings of jaded old hacks like myself, but that hasn't stopped it beating the, er, blighty out of all sales records.

The iPhone 4S sold more units during its launch - four million - than all the previous four models of iPhone launches put together.

The sky is falling. Siri told me so.

- Mark Webster mac-nz.com