Apple has reached a critical point. It has grown a lot, but with growth new problems arise. So Apple has to fix itself to deal with the pitfalls of its growth, to make its products and itself "Apple" again and to have a future.
Steve Jobs is missing on many levels and many people still wake up wondering what the world would be with him. Could a million fans fill the hole Jobs left in Apple?
This is our public letter to Apple!
As fans we want Apple to survive and discover their blind spots.
iPhone Killer Application
The hype for smart phones is over, it's mandatory to have one and the latest spec make little difference for many. Yet the flagship prices have just been raised to new heights.
Here is the problem: To rationalize the purchase there has to be at least one use case that makes it worth it. The prices are like the iPad Pro or a Mac, both of which fulfill professional needs. The iPhone however is a little overkill for a few snapshots, ToDo lists … many great tasks, but none where the latest iPhone is actually needed. It is a fun project to use the iPhone as a film camera, but for a dedicated job there are better choices and I cannot see what the $1000+ give in every day life. It is a great phone – but what is the latest power intended for?
Apple's core has always been building things for a purpose, not technology, but applying it was what made Apple products great.
Apple please find a (or many) killer usage that makes it worth spending more than a $1000 on an iPhone.
iPad as a Work Machine
The iPad Pro has been one of the most amazing product in 2018. It is without a doubt the weapon of choice for an artist from drawing to Music creation and even video editing thanks to LumaFusion. Yet Apple promotes it as a PC alternative - the press disagreed, unless it's a very specific workflow.
Here is the problem: A touch UI has much bigger challenges showing the same amount of options than a Mac UI. The screen is smaller, the touch is more imprecise, there is no context menu, there is no menu. iOS does not even have a proper file handling alternative. And then there is the chicken / egg situation, where there is not market there is no software which again cannot create a market of new users. Apple solved this in the past by themselves, they created the first great software that we developers can extend and attach to. But all they produce is software for everyone, nothing for the pro user of the iPad Pro. And honestly they don't take the iPad Pro serious enough, look at the Apple keyboard. It is made to fit the iPad Pro but not in a quality they would sell with a Mac.
Apple delivers software and hardware that works together, but in this case it is only partly true, they deliver hardware and an OS, but many missing tools make this product incomplete.
Apple please find a way to make the iPad Pro a PC replacement. Find the magic solution that makes a touch OS versatile enough for professional tasks, offer software that shows us how you imagine the Pro situation. Deliver what your advertisement promises.
Maps has come to a place where it's working ok in most driving situations, but once you leave your car it's another story. Most paths end where cars cannot drive and while there are huge empty areas in maps, Apple is building indoor maps giving the impression they are onto the next frontier, instead of fixing the problems at hand. Maps is still at an "ok" state and that is a word that should never be used with an Apple product.
Here is the problem: On the one hand maps comes from Tom Tom which is mostly made for cars, on the other side Apple is horrible when it needs social support. But a map system for the whole world is something where you need people involved or satellite analysis or something that fills the holes. I fully understand that Apple can never take care of every path out there, but e.g. in my last trip to the Netherlands there was nothing useful in Apple maps as the country allows you to hike and bike everywhere, but if is it not a street for cars then Maps considers it non existent. 80% of the paths I was on did not exist. If you compare Maps to OpenStreetMaps they have found a way to fill wholes fast, they have even the tiniest trails. And they had to ask people to improve their maps by recording walking. If Apple solved their anonymised data collection, the millions of users could quickly fill the holes.
I hate leaving Apple Maps, it is fast, uses minimal bandwidth and is visually pleasing, yet I am regularly forced to leave it. Most leave Maps for Google Maps to use public transportation or bike navigation. Apple public transportation is extremely limited and how can Apple care about health, but then not even have bike navigation. Not having bike navigation means people will have to get used to other navigations and why not just stay there (and discover the strength of another eco system ?!? 😬) …
Maps is an unusual product for Apple as it was delivered without a new benefit and even in sub-par quality. It's time to make Maps an Apple product. 3D cities are nice Apple-like features, but they feel weird in an incomplete product.
Apple please, if you want to continue Maps, find a way that people participate easier and make it a complete solution. As long as you know people have to leave Maps in normal situations, you are doing something fundamentally wrong.
A Future Product Line
Apple's focus was always on the next big thing. We have been on this rollercoaster from the Mac to laptops, to iPod, iPhone, iPads and Apple Watch. We would love to be on this ride for the rest of our lives, but it seems the ride has changed.
Here is the problem: With the growth, the different sections needed more focus. Some parts for less attention like the Mac and Apple developed an eco system. however it seems like the eco system is their end game. If we look back, the iPod has come and gone in a little bit over 10 years. Maybe it was a stepping stone towards the iPhone. Now the next decade is over, the question is what the iPhone was a stepping stone for? The iPhone has become a mature product, but so was the iPod and along came the iPhone and made it obsolete. The Apple Watch felt like the next step, but it still is just a side show. The whole situation feels like Apple has become too lazy to challenge the status quo – or simply too distracted? Another answer could be that not enough cool technology has been developed to be exploited for a great product. We all know the Apple Car is in the works. But doesn't it feel like the AppleTV? In the end the "I solved the TV problem" could not be implemented without the guidance of Steve and it seems the Apple Car will have an even worse problem. If autonomous driving is here, the car becomes all about comfortable chairs. Is there something we missed all these years and even an Elon Musk did not find? Should getting from A-to-B be that different to sitting down and enjoying your time (assuming you don't have to be involved with driving any more).
The seat of a Steve Jobs needs to be filled, for Apple to stay "Apple". Apple needs zero-based-thinkers who ignore what exists, ignore the status quo and dare to ask what is the actual purpose humans tried to archive – and were misguided by technology. This question allowed him to imagine the iPad more than decade before the technology was ready. And while it's hard to imagine what is not there for most (we humans tend to base our thinking on what we know), there are many people out there with that ability. That is a bold claim and I dare to say this because I do not mean a full Steve Jobs, just this one ability.
Apple always showed the industry what the next big thing could be. There has been no revolutionary new product in a few years. Apple's innovations to existing products are still leading, it's only the future pipeline that is worrisome.
Apple please find a way back to being a company that has time for the next big thing while serving customers to evolutions of existing products. I believe all you need to do is find zero-based-thinkers and give them a voice. Steve Jobs secret was that he combined his thinking with the ability of pushing through walls. Apple can push through walls so you don't need a new Steve just new different thinkers.
Clean Coding Instead of Bug Fixing
People are complaining about the amount of bugs in Apple releases, but what they might not have noticed: There is a reason for it - those are no regular bugs, those are bad coder bugs.
Here is the problem: Apple had to hire many new coders and each of them probably a genius in their field, however clean coding is nothing where there is a standard. Many companies or departments come up with their own rules. It seems Apple does not have an appropriate "acclimatization" for new developers. (As a simplified explanation: Clean coding means bugs have a specific shape and fixing one bug in clean code often fixes many other bugs at the same time. The opposite "hacky coding" often means fixing one bug can cause new bugs.)
I actually learned my clean coding in big parts from Apple's/NextStep's-APIs. The APIs taken over from Next Step have survived decades without changes for a reason: They where well thought out and then implemented. In comparison quite too many new APIs are changed every other year.
To give two examples: While on iOS scenes/screens are nicely encapsulated in View Controllers, the navigation controller is only partly encapsulated and instead needs direct manipulation, meaning it could behave differently depending where you are coming from and thus destroy the purpose of encapsulation. This caused bugs in many apps including Apple's own WWDC app where for a while after searching and watching a video you had to force quit the app to return to the previous page. Another stranger bug is in German autocorrection where words are replaced with words using Umlauts even if the original word was correct. This bug has been removed and reappeared at least 5 times (I noticed) over the last years. A typical example where the bug is fixed but has other consequences so someone else change it back.
At least since the purchase of Next Step APIs and bug freeness was a central part of Apples work. On macOS Snow Leopard still is considered to have been the most stable OS. Bug freeness starts at the bottom in the OS, currently it feels like we are heading for macOS 9 again which was the last of a slowly dying OS.
Apple please instead of looking for bugs find a code of coding you want in your company and teach this to your own developers. No testing can ever compensate for bad coding.
App Store, Music Store/Apple Music and Movie Store they all have grown huge and follow similar concepts: Presenting in section to users what is hot.
Imagine a real store like that. Let's say the biggest Macy's you could imagine. And now let's build it the Apple way:
- Remove every thing from the shelves
- Only build presentation areas
- If people want something that is not presented, they have to ask for it and ask for it using the right words.
Here is the problem: The whole meaning of browsing has been destroyed. Even though the store is supposedly huge, any section is so limited, not worth browsing for long or even returning. In a real store you have your favorite section, you return to it every time you go there and you always discover something new. Maybe something no one else has discovered before, something great, something amazingly useful to people like you. You would not believe how many gems are on the App Store. Many of which are never discovered. The same goes for music and movies. Your taste has been reduced to the main-stream. You have no more choice. The fun part is, this almost destroyed an industry. And Apple suffers the consequences. Apple was telling the great stories of successful developers, but failed to mention less than 0.1% can actually live from what they do. And this number was already predicted many years ago.
So to me something big has to happen. Not another fix onto a fix onto a fix. This is what Apple has done with their changes in the App Store over the last years. They are missing a Steve Jobs that sees the "solutions" as what they are. The Today section is nice and increased revenue, but it does not make the App Store more of a store. It bubbles some apps to the surface, but you as a user have to be at the right event or you miss it and still you cannot discover the world of apps, you have to wait for Apple to present it. The stupidest solution of a hierarchy of about 30 items in a list with a depth of 6 categories would allow you to present almost a billion apps. Same for 60 items with a depth of 4 categories. This is like going to the right floor, the right section, the right cupboard and looking into the right shelf. But I honestly expect something smarter than that. A new way to unfold the depth of their catalog. E.g. where the longer I search the more specific the apps become. I want to make discoveries. I want to have my section, where I like to browse. Something that allows me never to miss my favorite artist, movie or software company. In the current situation try to get a list of all audio plays (or Soundtracks) on Apple Music, it can't be done – I guarantee, whatever you find you will miss at least 3 you would love and maybe you will never find them in this life – or at least not in an Apple catalog.
Apple is a major player in all three industries and typically they are for their innovations. Currently it seems they are because of 3rd party content and the actual Store needs yet to get its Appleness.
Apple please find a way to make your stores browsable. Your job is done when every product can be reached by clicking/touching and not typing.
Make Spotlight Work Again
I very much remember the beginning of Spotlight in 2005. The power of that tool was mind-blowing at this time. Between you and me, it was the one I used the most to make fun of my Window's friends when they were visiting me. I was showing demos of its power and beside the jokes, it was indeed quite impressive for them, too.
One of the demos was to open a Spotlight window, make a search for "whateveryouwant", then create a new TextEdit file containing this same "whateveryouwant" and the file was instantly poping-up on the Spotlight results. Changing the content and the search was updating the same way.
As many other Spotlight features, those could integrate on a real professional workflow, but most of all: they were "simply working". Period.
Nowadays, I'll not —ever— risk myself on such an /Windows joke.
I've made so many searches now, where I figured out that a file that should have shown up on the results was not… How often, to test, I specifically searched for a file —right in front of my eyes on the Desktop—, and Spotlight —never— spotted it… I'm sure, those experiences have been shared by many of you. Every time, the feeling is the same: embarrassing…
It is that simple, my today spotlight usage is —only— to make basic math operations. I know, it's seriously pathetic… To search for files, I'm using EasyFind, which I thrust.
Apple please make Spotlight a serious tool again.
Reconsider Not Abandoning Major Server.app Features
In 2014, I bought the new and fastest Mac mini to use it as my dedicated server.
My clients are visiting and filling their underdevelopment websites, it's also my home server, etc.
Server.app used to be a very powerful tool, but updates after updates, it have been trimmed out, badly.
Now, Apple simply wants me to give up the integration and simplicity of 7 services they are dropping out of the 10 I'm using 24/7. And most of them are major services, like Websites, DNS, VPN, Mail.
How am I supposed to see my future workflow now? I'm self employed, where do I find the time to learn, test, migrate, so many services that are actually very well integrated to the OS (like Mail Server Inboxes with server users)? Will my clients appreciate the downtimes or lost of services? When do I work for them if I've to invest my time into new services, since the one I was counting on are vanishing… Or perhaps, I could simply stop updating my Server and risk security concerns… how do you like this idea Apple?
Apple please reconsider your move on Server.app's future. Many of it's users are like me, small companies, seriously relying on it.
Fix Maps Code
I'm living next to Paris. If I open Maps, type in Papeete and validate without picking any suggestion, Maps will be stupid enough to select a restaurant in Paris rather than the real city "Papeete". Worst, the selected restaurant is —not— named Papeete, but "La Palette"…
This behaviour is one among the —many— where Maps totally fails and this is quite frustrating.
- Set your map to a location of your choice (not using the search), by panning and zooming.
- Go to the search field and type in "restaurant" for instance, validate. At this point, —as a human being—, I'm expecting the app to display results based on "the on screen area".
- Maps will change your view to somewhere else and display some results (ultra irritating).
- Right now, do not touch anything and hit search again: it will display another set of results… really?
The consequence of all those usability issues is that people are dropping those Apps, and Apple still wonders why… Actually (and sadly), beside basics car directions, Maps (and mainly on Mac) has become for me a tool to simply enjoy browsing world areas, with no dedicated purpose.
Apple, please make the obvious working…
Siri is a bit like Spotlight to me: It used to be practical and powerful at some point. Now, it becomes quite stupid… like very stupid.
About every single day and multiple times per day, I've to contact my friend Christoph (whom I'm sharing this article with). The number of times where Siri effectively increased my irritability level is countless…
- [Me] “Hey Siri, FaceTime with Christoph Vogelbusch” (in French in fact, but the point is that the sentence and the last name of Christoph were perfectly well written on screen, so Siri did "understand" me).
- [Siri] “What Christoph do you want to call?” --> listing all Christoph from my address book and of course including my friend Vogelbusch.
This is typically the kind of issue that I simply cannot understand (even technically speaking). Same when Siri perfectly writes the sentence “Tell Marion I'll be sightly late because…” and end up asking you “What do you want to say to Marion?” (at least, Siri caught the name…
- [Me] “Hey Siri, reminds-me Monday at 9 to call my insurance”
- [Siri] --> Content of the reminder: “Monday at 9 to call my insurance”… without alarm. The day and the time are literally written down on the reminder.
The next time, you don't know why, speaking it the exact same way, the reminder will be perfectly set.
Or [Me] “Hey Siri, alert me in 10 minutes”, which indeed is set a countdown, but you'll NEVER hear it, because the previous night, you used your timer to "stop music" and not trigger an audible alarm…
Or [Me] speaking to my Watch: "Hey Siri, new message to Mary saying "John could get a new barbecue for it's birthday"
[Siri] text for review: Message to Mary AND John(!!!): "John could get a new barbecue for it's birthday"
You realise the kind of situations that may happens if you do not —perfectly— review your message?
All of this contribute in loosing thrust on the tool first, then on the company who made it.
Apple please make Siri more reliable.
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