Tag Archives: Apple

Apple’s September 9th 2014 Announcement Predictions

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Over the years, I’ve become known as a fan of Apple’s hardware and software solutions…and it’s true, I am overly fond of the way they do things. This isn’t to say that I’m not critical of them, as I do think they make mistakes (iPod HiFi anyone?). But I’ve been following them for many, many years and have a good understanding of their predilections.

On September 9th, Apple will be holding a press event that is promising to be one of the most interesting in many years. September is always their biggest press event of the year, as it’s when they introduce the newest model of iPhone, by far Apple’s most important and popular product. There have been lots of rumors and discussion around the Internet that seem to point to this year being particularly revolutionary. We don’t have the whole story yet (no one holds their cards closer than Apple does) but here are a few of the things that seem like good bets, and that might be interesting to Libraries and Librarians.

The first is the new iPhones. Yep, that’s plural, since it appears that Apple will be launching two new phones, for the first time in two different screen sizes. All of the rumors point to Apple releasing a 4.7 inch version and a 5.5 inch version of the iPhone this time around, marking only the second (and third!) time they’ve changed screen sizes with their phone. The original iPhone through the iPhone 4S were all 3.5 inch screens, the iPhone 5, 5C and 5S are all 4 inch…and now it looks like we’ll get 2 phones that are larger than that. This isn’t a huge surprise, as the overall cell phone market has been growing their phones for years now…the newest Samsung Galaxy 4 has a 5.7 inch screen, for instance. For Apple, growing screen sizes is harder, because the iPhone human interface guidelines insist on appropriately sized touch targets for the interface, and increasing the screen size while also increasing the pixel density can be hell on developers trying to make apps that work for every device. The best guesses yet for the resolution of these new phones comes from Apple blogger/journalist John Gruber, who puts the 4.7 inch screen at 1334×750, or 326ppi, with the 5.5 at 2208×1242, which works out to an incredible 461ppi, more dense than a printed magazine page.

The new phones will also undoubtedly be thinner and faster, most likely running a new A8 chipset that was designed by Apple. The A7 that debuted in the iPhone 5S is a remarkable processor, giving an insane amount of processing power at efficiencies that are hard for other devices to match. If they’ve improved on that, the A8 is likely to be a breakthough, giving desktop-level processing power in a mobile package.

It also appears that there is something happening with the new iPhone and a payment system for the real world. Bloomberg and others have reported that Apple has reached some type of deal with all of the major credit card companies (Visa, Mastercard, et al) and the rumor that they will finally be including some type of NFC technology in the new phones (my money is on a new, software-based system that allows for on-the-fly programming of the NFC communications protocol) that would allow for tap-to-pay interactions at all of the vendors that support such.

Add all that (new sizes, payment system, new processors) on top of the announcements that they made back at WWDC regarding iOS 8 and the massive changes that it will bring to the platform…it’s gonna be a big day for the iPhone. iOS 8 brings the most radical changes to the platform since the introduction of the App Store, including the introduction of true inter- and intra-app communication abilities (to the extent that apps can even have functionality that extends INTO another app, for instance one photo app “loaning” a filter to another totally unrelated app for use). It’s not exaggerating to say that iOS8 will change how the iPhone can be used by people, adding huge amounts of additional functionality. I’m perhaps most looking forward to custom keyboards (one of the aspects of Android that I most miss on the iOS platform), but I’m excited to see what developers come up with, because Apple is handing them a whole new suite of toys to play with.

If that were all that Apple was announcing and showing off, it would be a huge deal. But it seems like they may have finally chosen this as the time to announce their Wearable computing platform. Exactly what that means, only Apple really knows, but all of the rumors seem to point to some sort of wristwatch-like object that does…something. It’s really a mystery, but one Apple reporter quipped that the so-called iWatch is going to be a watch in the same ways that the iPhone is a phone. Whatever it is that they announce, it’s almost guaranteed to be interesting.

The other thing that’s pointing towards this being a big day for Apple is the choice of venue. Apple is using the Flint Center for this announcement, which they have only used 3 times in their history. Once was for the original announcement of the Macintosh in 1984, and once was for the return of Steve Jobs and the original iMac. To be fair, the third was for the iMac SE, which was a much smaller deal, but the two others are among the biggest announcements ever from Apple, ranking with the launch of the original iPhone in how important they were to the history of the company. It appears that Apple has built an entirely new building just for the announcement of their new products at the location of the Flint Center, and this is shaping up to be quite the September for Apple.

iOS8, two new iPhone models, a wearable device of unknown purpose and type, something that requires an entire building to show off….this Tuesday is gonna be really interesting. Join me at 12pm Central on Twitter @griffey for the annual live-tweeting of my thoughts. See you then for all the excitement!

Addendum

One of the refrains I often get in the library community when I do posts like this that focus on gadgets, especially specific gadgets, and even more especially Apple’s specific gadgets is “But how does this relate to libraries?”. As if libraries didn’t, oh…help patrons navigate their gadgets every single day or have dozens of electronic resources that need to interoperate with these devices. Perhaps there are even a few librarians that use these devices to help patrons in the real world. I don’t really have a single answer as to why librarians should be interested in the most popular hardware that runs the second most popular operating system used to access the Internet. Perhaps not all librarians need to be completely aware of this stuff, but someone certainly does, hopefully someone in your library or library system.

The Reason for the iPad Mini

From: The Reason for the iPad Mini – Main – iamconcise.com.

The Reason for the iPad Mini - Main - iamconcise.com

Really great analysis about why, come October, we’re likely to see a smaller-form factor iPad from Apple. The current betting pool looks like it will be a 7.8 inch screen, and given this chart, you can be sure it’s going to fill in that lower-end range for Apple.

My guess? They will probably have an 8GB version that starts at $199, and extends to the $350 or so range at a range of storage sizes. I’m curious what that means for the iPod Touch, long-term…but for now, I think they will likely just maintain the line. If anything, it might put a bit of downward pressure on the Touch price. I can see Apple dropping the lowest spec Touch down to $99, and the going up from there.

Apple is very, very good at taking the oxygen out of a market.

Photos, backup, iPhone 4S

Over at Librarians Matter, my friend Kathryn wrote a post about how to deal with removing photos from the Camera Roll on your iPhone when they become burdensome. In her case, it was 3000 or so photos from her recent jaunt around the world. Here’s an easier way to deal with photos on any iOS device, make sure you have plenty of space on your iPhone for more pics, and make sure that you have backups of all of your photos.

What you need: an iOS device with a camera running iOS 5 or higher, a Mac at home running the most recent versions of iPhoto or Aperture, and…well, that’s it, really. Oh, an iCloud account as well. But if you have an iOS 5 device, iCloud is a no-brainer.

Turn on Photostream on both your iPhone and inside iPhoto on your Mac (on iPhoto, it’s an option in the preferences). Anytime your iOS device is attached to a wifi signal, it will send any photo that is in your Camera Roll to your Photostream. From there, your Mac running iPhoto (just leave iPhoto running while you’re out) will grab the Photostreamed pics and save them to your computer. I assume that you are backing up your system in some automated way, including your iPhoto or Aperture libraries, so…as soon as the pic you take shows up in Photostream, it should be safely in the hands of your home computer and part of your regular backup process (I backup my Aperture library and other important files from my desktop automatically using Crashplan)

Your iPhone will show you your photostream, so you can actually check to make sure that the photos in question are uploaded (photos don’t show up in the “photostream” section of your Photos app until they are uploaded). Once they are in your Photostream, you can safely delete them from your Camera Roll.

If you are a techno-traveller and have a laptop with you on your travels, you can use it as a first-stop backup (sync your iPhone to it), and Photostream as a safety net. But in practice, Photostream seems to work amazingly well. During our trip to Disney World this past October, I took somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 pictures with my iPhone, all of which were waiting on me when I got back home to sync to my home computer. With iCloud and Photostream, you technically never have to plug your iPhone into your computer at all to get photos off.

Things that can go wrong

If your computer at home isn’t online for any reason (powers down, loses connectivity, etc) or if iPhoto or Aperture closes for some reason, your photos won’t be saved locally. They will still be in the magical land of Photostream, however, which holds the last 1000 photos that you took. So you’ve got a thousand pic buffer before you’ll chance losing anything. If you are never in a wifi area, and instead rely on 3G for all your data needs, your pics will never be uploaded to Photostream in the first place.

So while it’s not 100% solution at all times, I’m betting it’s a 99.999% solution for most people. Give it a try…iCloud and Photostream are free from Apple for this purpose, so there’s no downside.

Because without impermanence

Emptiness is impermanence, it is change.
We should not complain about impermanence,
because without impermanence, nothing is possible.

I am not a spiritual person. I do not believe in a God, or a spirit, or an afterlife. But I can see the beauty and truth in the above Buddhist quote, and I feel its weight. It is incredible to me how emotional I have been tonight after learning about the death of Steve Jobs. It is fortunate for the 21st century that we had Steve as long as we did, but I will not complain about impermanence. It is what allows the future to happen.

Thanks for showing us your vision of the future, Steve. I look forward to seeing what is possible next.

Apple Thinks Different, Part 1

Apple Think DifferentIn 1997, Apple Computer launched an advertising campaign that asked people to “Think Different”, a slogan that some believe is a play on the classic IBM motto “Think”.  Apple has become infamous over the years for pushing change onto its users, even when the commonly held belief was otherwise. Apple was the first to manufacture a home computer with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) with the Lisa, the first to ship a home computer with only USB ports (the first iMac), the first to drop the floppy drive, the first to pioneer the multitouch mouse, and they appear to be pushing the demise of the physical external media completely with their new Macbook Airs and Mac Minis. With the launch of the iPhone and the iPad, it’s pretty clear now that they have revolutionized one industry and created another. Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, is maybe the only corporate head that could claim not one, not two, but four revolutionary products under his leadership (the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, and now the iPad) and in the meantime he helped reshape the music industry as we know it with iTunes and the art of making movies with Pixar.

I didn’t write the above to gloat about Apple’s success, or to cement the “fanboy” status that I’ve been labeled with at times. I wrote it to put some context and history behind this statement:

If handled properly, iCloud and the “file system” changes in Lion may be the biggest change in personal computing since the GUI.

icloudiCloud was one of the big announcements at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference on June 6, 2011. In most of the writing that’s been done on iCloud around the web and in print, it’s described as a “syncing” solution for data. I think this is the wrong way to think about iCloud. If it’s handled the way I believe it will be over the next few years, iCloud is going to solve a lot of user problems, and refine how we interact with data on computers. It will also introduce a ton of problems for IT administrators unless Apple has something up its sleeve that it hasn’t shown us yet.

So what is iCloud? iCloud is Apple’s answer to services like Dropbox, Box.net, and others who attempt to answer the the problem of dealing with data across multiple machines. Anyone who is involved in knowledge work (and I would argue this includes nearly all librarians) is probably dealing with more than one computer at some time during their working life, and thus must contend with the problem of either moving their personal data around with them or having everything in a central location online (The Cloud) and accessing it as needed. In their usual fashion, Apple looked at the problem, and are suggesting a solution that is at once elegant and remarkably different than any before it. Apple wants to destroy the file system.

The whole concept of iCloud seems to emerge from the lessons of iOS. Make things easier, more intuitive, less cumbersome…in other words, remove friction….and people will flock to your product. One of the criticisms of iOS devices is, I believe, actually its secret sauce; you don’t have to understand a file system. With the release of OS X Lion and the introduction of iOS 5, it’s clear that Apple wants alll information to be application driven. That is, any piece of data lives in the app that can deal with it. You can read a PDF on an iOS device, but you can only interact with it while using an application to do so. There’s no “saving” the file to a location in a file system (the “desktop” or “documents” folder) on an iOS device. There is just application, and data, and no other metaphor. This is what iCloud and Lion are bringing to the desktop, and where Apple has the potential to push us towards yet another new metaphor of computing.

Apple is making the iCloud infrastucture available to anyone developing applications for either OSX on their desktops or for iOS on their mobile devices. The way iCloud will work is that you will create a document/spreadsheet/image/presentation…any piece of data, really…using an iCloud-compatible app. That piece of data is automatically pushed to iCloud servers, and available anywhere you call it. With the new file management tools in OSX Lion, you never have to hit the save button, you never have to choose where to put the file, the data is just saved as soon as you start creating it. Close the program, open it on the same computer or on your iPad or iPhone and the same file, and the same data is just there.

At the WWDC announcement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that “the truth is in the cloud.” The cloud is going to be the definitive place for your data, and the local access to it via your applications will be just a window into that truth. While the newest version of OSX doesn’t do away completely with the file and folder metaphor, it does its dead best to get you to stop thinking about folders and organization. By default, when you open a Finder window in Lion, the sidebar doesn’t even list your hard drives…and the topmost option in the choices for viewing your data is “All My Files”, a completely non-hierarchical view that organizes your files by type (Images, Music, Movies, etc). Once Lion gets fully integrated into, it will vastly decrease the importance of local storage.

I’ve posted in the past about how different a touch-based interface is than a mediated user interface. Changing the metaphor does more than just alter our perceptions of the use of a computer…it actually changes the uses themselves. New and different interactions are possible with touch that would never have been possible in a mediated interface (and, of course, the reverse is true…interactions are possible with mediated interfaces that aren’t with touch). This move from a desktop metaphor (folders and files) to a new one (data lives where it can be accessed) is going to provide new abilities to programs, new workflows to users, and new and different ways to think about our data.

I’ve a bit more to say about this as it relates to libraries and public systems, but for that I’m going to throw you over to ALA Techsource and my post there. Please excuse the blatant cross-promotion. :-)

Really excellent discussion happening over on Friendfeed around this post. Embedded below.

Predictions for WWDC 2011 and iCloud

This coming Monday, June 6th, Apple will give their annual keynote at the World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) 2011. This is traditionally the stage for announcements about software and operating systems…things that developers for the Apple platforms (iOS and OSX) are centrally concerned with.

This year, in an unprecedented move, Apple’s press release for the WWDC keynote includes details about what they will present, and it centers around three things: the next version of OSX (code-named Lion), iOS 5, and a brand new offering called iCloud. From the press release:

At the keynote, Apple will unveil its next generation software – Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OS® X; iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s advanced mobile operating system which powers the iPad®, iPhone® and iPod touch®; and iCloud®, Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.

Practically nothing is known at this point about iCloud. There has been speculation that it could be everything from an enhanced media locker in the vein of Amazon Cloudplayer or Google Music Beta to something like enhanced syncing API’s for developers. Apple has been making deals of some type with the major record labels, which means that some form of music sync/streaming is likely, but details will make all the difference about whether it’s more compelling than the above services.

It’s no secret that Apple’s success with web-based services is almost the exact inverse of its success with hardware…nearly every web-based service that Apple has launched has sucked.  From iTools, to .mac, to MobileMe, in every case the promise has been much more impressive than the delivery. For each of the pieces that make up MobileMe, other online services provide the service better. Calendar syncing and eMail are both done better by Google, online storage and public web access is done better by Dropbox, and MobileMe gallery is outdone by YouTube and Flickr. Services that are uniquely Apple’s, like Find my iPhone, are well done, but even in this case it’s not universally good…for instance, Back to My Mac is only great when it works. Which is almost never.

I love nothing more than putting on my “make shit up” hat, so I thought I’d give prognostication a shot for what Apple is doing with iCloud. How can Apple move in the right direction with its online services? Here’s what I hope to see from iCloud:

First off, I expect that iCloud will be a suite of services in the same way that they have chosen to brand their iWork and iLife suites. iCloud will be analogous to these local services…the branding for all of Apple’s online offerings. I’m hoping that the reason that Apple is choosing to announce iCloud at the same time as Lion and iOS 5 is that they are all tied together. Or, rather, that iCloud becomes the glue that ties iOS and Lion together, merging a number of local services from iOS and OSX and allowing for seamless data transmission and interaction. Think Dropbox, but deeply integrated into the filesystem, allowing for documents to be edited on any platform, music to be played anywhere, whether mobile or desktop.

If they do this, and then further allow access to the service via API so that app developers can tap directly into your iCloud for file storage, Apple will seriously have changed the game. Not only would it solve syncing issues, but it could also theoretically be a solution for backup…all of your documents and settings for your desktop and mobile devices could be backed up as they are synced. Even better for things like games, iCloud could enable syncing of game states, so that you could play Angry Birds on your iPod Touch, then pick it up on an iPad and have the game pick up just where you left off.

One last prediction…if this is the route that Apple goes (and I hope that it is), one thing that I would love to see in iOS 5 is the addition of account management/multiple accounts on iOS devices. Syncing only works if it’s tied to an identity, and it’s very hard to manage identities on shared mobile devices without some form of account management. There’s no technical reason that iOS can’t support multiple accounts on a single device, and it would actually simplify some parts of the syncing issues for Apple.

We’ll find out everything on Monday…I’m looking forward to seeing if I’m right about any of it.

iPad HDMI adapter

iPad HDMI

Had a chance today to test the iPad HDMI out adapter (otherwise known as the Apple Digital AV Adapter) on my iPad 1, with some interesting results. While the iPad 1 won’t do full iPad mirroring like the iPad 2 does, the HDMI out still has some interesting tricks.

It does work with any app that supports video out, including Netflix, AirVideo, and YouTube. It also supports audio over HDMI, which means no need for any extra audio connections. Even better, it does so for audio-only apps, so if you just want to play audio over your home stereo system you can still use the HDMI out to do so. For those of us who travel frequently, hotel rooms often now have hookups for connecting mobile devices to the TV in the room, and this makes an iPad with the HDMI connector a great option for entertainment on the go.

Apple intentionally hurting eBook stores

Apple announced the terms of their in-App Subscription Service this morning, and it does indeed look like they are shooting directly at Amazon. What I’m concerned about is the fallout from these new rules on other apps…here’s the paragraph that causes me issue, with the pertinent passage highlighted.

Publishers who use Apple’s subscription service in their app can also leverage other methods for acquiring digital subscribers outside of the app. For example, publishers can sell digital subscriptions on their web sites, or can choose to provide free access to existing subscribers. Since Apple is not involved in these transactions, there is no revenue sharing or exchange of customer information with Apple. Publishers must provide their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app. However, Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app. In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

To summarize: publishers are allowed to sell subscriptions on their own websites, but if they do, they must also allow for in-app purchase of said subscription, and there has to be pricing parity between the two methods. This means that, for instance, a newspaper couldn’t offer a subscription on their site for $5, but make the in-app purchase $8…this prevents publishers from variably pricing things higher in the App in order to pad the price to take into account Apple’s 30% of the sale price. So far, so good…it’s that last sentence that really worries me:

In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Notice that in that sentence, Apple stopped talking about subscriptions and now include content generally. This single lline is the one that, I think, kills eReader software on iOS devices. This means that Amazon can’t keep the Kindle app the way it currently works, which is to tap a button inside the app that then takes you to the Kindle store in Safari. That’s not allowed given the above. That will apply to Barnes & Noble’s Nook software, as well as any other eReader software that I’m aware of on iOS. eBook providers like Amazon and B&N almost certainly can’t afford to move all their sales to in-app purchases because of the 30% Apple “tax”. This means that either they raise prices and move into Apple’s ecosystem, or they stop allowing purchases of books at all on iOS devices.

The rules appear to allow Amazon to sell Kindle books for iOS on the Amazon website directly (obviously Apple can’t do anything about that) but it seems to break any connection between the app and said site. This intentionally damages the user experience for this and other eBook apps, and is the main reason I can’t believe that Apple is pushing this as hard as they are. This is much different than other limitations that Apple has placed on the development of Apps…this isn’t hardware based limitation (multitasking) or anything like that…this seems to be purely a “show us the money” limitation. I’m really disappointed if this is the way that Apple chooses to enforce this, because while they are guilty of many things, intentionally hurting usability has never been one of them.

What I’m really curious about is this: Is Apple going to push these requirements for any App that allows for any purchase…like, for instance, the Amazon app that allows you to shop on Amazon directly. Or Zappos, or Ebay, or any number of other apps that act as a front-end for purchasing goods. If that’s the case, I think that Apple is in for some real trouble and pushback from companies, and possible legal repercussions. Seems like it can’t possibly be legal for the manufacturer of a computer (which is what the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch is, after a recent legal decision) to require that anything purchased on that computer provide them with a cut. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one.

Once more the Apple apologist

I’m feeling more and more like the library equivalent of John Gruber these days.

UPDATE 2/1/11 1:18pm: website The Loop is reporting that they received a statement on the matter from Apple:

“We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines,” Apple spokesperson, Trudy Muller, told The Loop. “We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

This is a change from previous Apple requirements, and will require existing apps to make changes to the way they behave. It also puts Amazon, B&N, and other retailers far more under Apple’s thumb in regards to pricing and profitability. More than anything, it puts them in a confrontational position with other retailers, instead of being simply a competitor. It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out.

There has been general alarm this morning on the Twitter and in the blogosphere that Apple is going to start killing off non-iBook eBook stores. Phil Bradley blogged about the New York Times article on the rejection of the Sony eReader app by Apple, saying:

Well, this is an interesting development. Sony have had their iPhone application rejected by Apple. Moreover, they’ve been told that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.

That is what the NYT article says as well:

The company has told some applications developers, including Sony, that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.

But if you read the next two lines:

Apple rejected Sony’s iPhone application, which would have let people buy and read e-books bought from the Sony Reader Store.

Apple told Sony that from now on, all in-app purchases would have to go through Apple, said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division.

Notice that Steve Haber did NOT say that non-in-app purchases were disallowed. I can’t tell from the sloppy reporting if that second clause actually came from the Sony interview, or from other sources. So here’s the deal: Apple has never allowed in-app purchases that bypassed Apple. It’s the reason that when you are in the Kindle app, and you go to buy a book, it pushes you out of the app and over to Safari and the Amazon website.

There seems to be no indication that the Kindle app is in jeopardy…Phil’s headline notwithstanding. It works exactly the way that Apple has told people it wants apps to work, and if Sony submitted an app that didn’t follow the rules, they knew good and well it would get rejected.

There is another explanation…Apple might be warning app developers behind the scenes that things are going to be changing. Tomorrow marks the announcement of The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s new experimental tablet-only newspaper. With it is expected to come a new method for in-app subscriptions, which might signal the availability of a new infrastructure for app developers to take advantage of (and for Apple to force the use of).

But for now, this story is nothing but poor reporting on the NYT’s part, combined with a bit of over-excitability on the part of librarians. Amazon’s Kindle app, along with the literally thousands of other apps that rely on web-based purchasing and then web-based updating, isn’t going anywhere. Apple would have many, many, many more problems than Amazon if they just eliminated outside purchases wholesale.

Responding to the Shifted One

So my previous post definitely got some responses, as I thought it might. Among them was a great, lengthy response from Jenny Levine (@shifted), and it was detailed enough that I decided to just repost the bulk of it here, and respond directly to the issues she raises. Here goes! (Jenny’s text is blockquoted)

As you can probably guess, though, I’m still going to disagree with you. I think Apple makes design decisions that you take for granted that aggravate the average user. For example, why the proprietary cable on the iPhone when they could have helped standardize on mini-USB? Why no right-click button on Macs when that would clearly help users? And don’t even get me started on the VGA dongle-thingy-that-everyone-forgets-at-home. My technophobic aunt wouldn’t know what to do with the apple icon in Mac OS, nor would she understand the command key. Best for n00bs? I don’t think so. Better than some other systems for some people? Sure.

2nd generation iPod connectionI think that the vast majority of Apple’s design decisions have a lot of consideration and thought behind them. Why the proprietary cable? The 1st and 2nd generation iPods didn’t use a proprietary cable at all (I assume here you refer to the 30 pin dock connector). They used a firewire port, standard at the time on Macs but largely missing from Windows machines of the era (2001-2002). By the 3rd generation of iPods, Apple had a problem…they needed to support their legacy products that used Firewire to sync and charge, but they wanted to move towards the now-solidified USB 2.0 standard (keep in mind, USB 2.0 was only ratified in 2001, and the first Apple computers to have USB 2.0 didn’t appear until 2003). So how do they do that elegantly? They design a cable that handles both protocols, and can connect to both USB 2.0 and to Firewire…not a simple thing, technically. The two protocols have different charging standards, and Apple did what, at the time, was the simplest thing they could…one cable for any user. It wasn’t until the 4th generation of iPod hardware that sales really started taking off, and as sales grew accessory manufacturers began to license the connector in order to interface with the iPod. Now Apple had two problems: they needed to continue the march to USB and they had an existing set of accessories that they had to think about. So they kept the 30 pin Dock Connector…and didn’t switch to Mini or Micro USB.

If you ignore all that history, it’s easy to say “why do they maintain a proprietary connector”. But if you look at the timeline of the development of the technology, there’s nearly always a reason for seemingly silly decisions. It is also true that by licensing the dock connector (to which they hold the patent) they make additional money from accessory makers. But I think that’s a side effect, a happy accident on Apple’s part. I think they got here by trying to do the right thing for existing customers.

Why no right click? I’m sorry, but every time someone busts out this canard, I laugh. Apple has had right mouse button functionality built in since OS 8.6, over 10 years ago. And the fact that you assume that right-click helps users only illustrates your point made later, that everyone who is familiar with a technology assumes it’s the right way to do things. Right-clicking is a UI choice, and it’s one that Apple downplays, on purpose. If you’ve ever had to walk a new computer user through the “no, that’s a left click…yes, now that function is a right click” dance, you’ll understand why Apple makes the decisions it does on the OSX interface. But if you want, it’s there, and has been for a decade now.

The VGA dongle annoys me. But it annoyed me the same amount that having a VGA connector and needing a DVI connector does on non-Mac machines. I don’t fully understand why Apple chose to go down the mini Displayport route, but if I had to guess, I would guess it had something to do with aesthetics, and keeping the profile of their laptops where it is. But on the scale of computing annoyances, it’s pretty low…and I use the dongle all the time. Most laptop users never hook their system up to an external display.

And after all, if Apple truly is designing the best experience for the average user, why deliberately price their products in a way the average user can’t afford? I think Apple fails to understand that the average user cares more about the cost of the data plan than having the highest number of pixels on a screen.

This is another point where I think you underestimate how non-fanboys feel about this issue. You say yourself that you honestly don’t care about cost, and that’s fine. But I don’t believe that’s how most people feel. I realize you’re giving your opinion here, but it’s the statements that imply “best for everyone else’s purposes” that I think cause those misunderstandings.

I’ve never said that “I don’t care about cost” end-of-sentence. I’ve said that cost isn’t a function of what I judge to be well-designed on the user interface front. I think that the en toto user experience of a 2011 Jaguar XK is probably objectively better than the user experience of the Honda Civic that I drive. The fact that I can’t afford the Jaguar doesn’t effect my ability to identify that it’s a better car, in a specific set of ways that could be enumerated, than my Civic. If you asked the average person which they thought would be the better experience, I think most people would choose the Jaguar. And if you had the ability for people to drive each of the two cars, I think that more people would say that the Jaguar was easier to drive, more pleasant, and that they like it more. All of those things are independent of whether or not a particular person can actually afford the Jaguar….and if you don’t like Jaguars, insert your car-of-choice into the equation.

As for the AT&T piece, if you want to talk about a revolution, Apple blew the telecom one big time by limiting the iPhone to AT&T. That’s more my complaint than the crappy networks in big cities. Apple could have opened up all cell carriers but instead chose its traditional path of high-end, expensive monopoly. That’s their choice, but we don’t all have to agree that its the best one they could have made. So while they’ve innovated in some areas, they’ve hurt innovation in others. Like any company, they’re good and bad but I’d hardly call them the best, certainly not for everyone. Ask your friends on Ping how they feel about that “best” or “innovative” label. ;-)

No, as a matter of fact, Apple could not have “opened up all cell carriers”. Apple didn’t limit the phone to AT&T…as a matter of fact, Verizon turned Apple down when it was offered to them. Apple’s decision point had nothing to do with which carrier to offer the iPhone on, it had to do with shaking up the traditional balance of power in the mobile industry.

In the US, all of the power in the cell phone equation once lay with the carrier…the carrier, whether it be Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, decided what features the phones they offered could have, how those features were implemented, and what limitations could be placed on them. The manufacturer of the phone had to bow to the wishes of the carrier, because otherwise they couldn’t sell their phone at all. Verizon was once legendary for this behavior, forcing handset makers to limit the bluetooth stack on their phones to prevent customers from being able to connect and retrieve the pictures from their phones without paying Verizon a fee for doing so! When Apple, a complete upstart in the mobile phone world, went to the carriers and said no to the usual demands for limitations on the phone hardware. Cingular was, at the time, the only carrier who agreed to Apple’s demands…most people forget that it was Cingular that actually got the iPhone contract, and that it purchased AT&T Mobility and changed it’s name afterwards. Apple signed a deal with Cingular/AT&T precisely because they were the only carrier who would let them make the phone they wanted…a phone without the crapware, without the custom UI skins, and without logos emblazoned all over it.

Re: Ping. I never claimed that everything Apple does turns to gold. They’ve had some real flubs in the past…iPod HiFi anyone? Ping isn’t likely to go anywhere without Facebook support, and they are still working that bit out. But to list Ping as an indication that Apple isn’t innovative? Come on…you’re kidding, right?

I’ll also reiterate what Josh said. Using market cap as a criterion is a little crazy. By that measure, Microsoft was a better company than Apple until this year. Is that really the point you want to argue? I sure don’t, least of all because I don’t see how that can be considered “objective.”

I wasn’t using Market Cap as an illustration of the better company. I was using market cap as an illustration of whether or not people believe the company is doing a good job of the thing that company does. I would never begin to argue that Exxon-Mobile is a morally good company. I would, however, argue that they are very good at what it is they do…that’s why they are worth what they are worth. Microsoft was, for many years, better at what they did than Apple was…but I don’t think they were at all doing the same thing. Market Cap isn’t a measure of Apple’s actual innovation, but it is very much an indicator of what the public qua public believe about Apple. And clearly they believe that Apple is doing a good job at what Apple does. We can bicker about what it is that Apple does, however, which is what we are doing with the rest of the discussion. :-)

If you want to argue it is, then let’s talk about how quickly the Android OS is catching up to iOS. If it overtakes Apple in the smartphone market, are you prepared to acknowledge that more people think Google is a better and more innovative company than Apple? You made a prediction earlier this year that the $99 iPhone would blow everything else out of the water but it hasn’t, so I would counter-argue that a lot of people *disagree* with you, too.

Apple has never been concerned with being having the highest market penetration rates for their hardware….and I don’t think anyone paying attention would disagree that Android is going to dominate the cell phone market. It already is! Android is winning the overall market in the same way that Microsoft did for the PC market in the 1980’s: it’s providing a hardware-agnostic OS that will run on just about everything. Consequently, just about everything is running it. As well they should…Android is a phenomenal operating system. I said before: I wanted to buy an Android handset instead of the iPhone 4. But I couldn’t because the good handset was on another carrier (sound familiar?).

I’m obviously not daft enough to argue that numbers alone decide the best in anything.

I think the second-to-last paragraph started out to be your strongest (well, except for the market cap detour), and I wish you’d fleshed out some of the additional “and another thing” pieces, because I think that would help address the “blind fanboy” label. This post still comes across as “yay Apple, best company ever,” rather than as a balanced critique. Each of your main points above still ends with a “but Apple’s still awesome and right and releasing unicorns into the world.”

I am, honestly, completely agnostic about Apple qua Apple. I don’t own Apple stock. I think that they have some incredibly talented people…Jobs is a mad genius, and Jon Ives is a brilliant designer. When Apple still had DRM on the music they sold in the iTunes store, I couldn’t stand it…so consequently I didn’t buy things from the iTunes store. Still don’t, for the vast majority of things, because I prefer the Amazon MP3 store. But what I didn’t do was conflate the issue that the iPod was still the best MP3 player I could buy, even though I didn’t like the store attached to it. I really disagree with the rules associated with developing for the App Store, and have publicly told libraries that have asked me that they are better off developing for the web than for a given private platform. But I can believe that, and still think that the User Experience for an iOS device attached to the App Store is best-in-class. As Whitman said: “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Whew. If you’ve read both these posts, thank you. I’m tired of writing about Apple now. Maybe I’ll curl up with my iPad and read some more Whitman. :-)