I have enjoyed watching the launch of the new iPhone 5, but I am still happy with my Android powered LG Spectrum and the Kindle Fire my children gave me last fall. I am waiting for some Apple products to excite all of us who built our digital lives around Apple solutions.
With all the media coverage around the iPhone 5 announcement, I especially enjoyed the Jimmy Kimmel segment where some supposed iPhone users couldn't tell the difference between the iPhone 4S they were being shown and the new iPhone 5. However, perhaps that is a cheap shot. I'm not sure I could tell you the difference between my latest LG Smartphone and whatever new product LG has announced.
Beyond being the butt of a few jokes on late night comedy shows, there are some serious problems with Apple.
It is easy to ignore the issues if you just measure the company by their unbelievable stock price. Before I go further let me say that I still believe that Apple makes great hardware products, and perhaps the latest iPhone and iPad are among the best they have ever made.
The question for me comes down to this, can the Apple of today follow through with its direction without paying better attention to its computer and software roots?
If you are new to Applepeels and want some perspective on me before reading more, try this link to my Apple history.
Perhaps the most worrisome issue for me, is the health of Mac OSX. Having only recently taken the step to go to Lion, I still haven't upgraded to Mountain Lion. I normally don't jump on an Apple first release, and I was actually hoping that Apple would announce a new Mac Mini by this time. If that had happened I could take the step to Mountain Lion with new hardware.
Lion has been a mixed experience for me. Perhaps you need an iOS device to really see its benefits, but I get the distinct feeling that there are now far too many ways to do the same thing on OS X. I believe that some of the simplistic beauty of OSX has been lost as a layer of complexity has been added.
While I am worried about OSX, I am downright depressed about iPhoto. I was at Apple when Steve was focused on the release of iPhoto. It was a revolutionary program at the time, and it had the full attention of Steve.
I'm pretty sure that Steve would not be happy with the current user interface on iPhoto. One of the great things about the original version of iPhoto was the ease with which you could create a web album for your friends to see. In the latest version of iPhoto on the Mac we are stuck with photostream which seems to be an all or nothing solution unless you want to use Flickr or Facebook.
As a photographer who sometimes takes a thousand pictures in a day. I want to be able to quickly sort through the pictures, select the good ones, make some adjustments, put copies of the ones I like in cloud storage, and then create web albums of ones that I plan to show to more than a few people. That process used to be very simple with a Mac. That is no longer the case.
I now do my initial photo sorting and tune-ups on a Windows 7 laptop because it is easier with Picasa than it is with iPhoto. In a number of areas where iPhoto was ahead of Picasa, Apple has managed to dumb down recent versions of iPhoto. While this was happening Google actually made Picasa better and more efficient. While I have Picasa on the Mac, I have hung with iPhoto hoping it would get better.
While Picasa might not look as glitzy as iPhoto, you will get more work done with Picasa. On top of that Picasa easily puts one or dozens of photos on the web with easily controllable access. I haven't tried to find the extra cost plug-in that I purchased for my previous versions of iPhoto so I could directly load photos into Picasa web albums from iPhoto. Likely the reason is that I resent paying for something that should be there.It really is a final straw for me that in iPhoto Apple has built-in Flickr and Facebook support but has ignored Picasa web albums. I know they are doing this to spite Google, but users are the ones who suffer and Apple offers no solution of its own comparable to Picasa web albums.
An even bigger problem is that Apple seems to have fallen into the old trap of if it wasn't invented at Apple, it can't be good. The recent ditching of Google maps is just not something that will work out well for Apple over the long term.
I have no question that Apple has the money to create a great map solution, but I seriously doubt Apple has the management culture and the persistence to stick with their own mapping solution until it is a great product. It is not in Apple's DNA to incrementally upgrade software or a backend solution until it is a really solid product.
If you don't believe me, just think back to the original .Mac product and all its many iterations including iCloud which was going to change everything.
Actually it has changed everything, just not for the better.
Compare Apple's cloud solution with GoogleDrive, SkyDrive, or DropBox, and it looks like making a home grown solution isn't necessarily the best path for Apple.
Apple has a history of alienating partners and having to go it on their own. Maps is just a symptom of that problem. As an Apple employee once told me, you can't say the word "partner" and Apple in the same sentence. Let's hope that Apple makes nice with Microsoft so they don't pull the plug on Office for the Mac.
Even if Maps is a good idea, many good Apple ideas have withered on the vine for lack of attention. Does anyone remember eWorld, Apple's online world that was going to be better than AOL?And if that comparison doesn't ring true, just look at the history of Apple branded or backed word processors for the Mac and compare that to Microsoft which does have a history of banging its head against the wall and showering money on a project until they either succeed (Word & XBox) or fail (Zune).
Remember back to the introduction of the original Mac. It came with MacWrite. It wasn't long after the introduction of the Mac that Microsoft came out with Word. MacWrite after the Claris spinoff eventually became MacWrite Pro.
Then came ClarisWorks which eventually became AppleWorks before disappearing completely. Now we have Pages which will eventually languish like the rest of Apple's word processors. Word is still around.
The lack of a culture built around incrementally improving products as opposed to ditching them is a huge challenge in the technology world. While Apple might have mastered it with the iPhone, they have a number of other products begging for updates.
Beyond this I believe the biggest problem that Apple has is the wall that the company throws up between the company and its customers.
While Microsoft and other companies are working hard to listen to customers, Apple is busy listening to itself. If you are going to incrementally improve something like a map solution, you need a close working relationship with your users. I have sent Google a few notes over the years about problems that I have found on their maps. While I have never heard back from them, every problem that I found has been resolved.
I'm not sure Apple knows how to act similarly. Perhaps if Apple could develop a strategy to start reaching out to customers in a company supported blog, it might be a first step, but unfortunately the company's DNA would have to change before they started blogging.
As long as Apple can keep iPhones and iPads flying out the door, perhaps all these issues are irrelevant. But I do believe that Apple's OSX software is a strategic product and deserves serious attention that it is not getting.
If Apple does hit a blip, and it likely will, I suspect many of the customers who came to Apple's rescue in the past will be gone. It remains to be seen whether current iPhone and iPad customers will be as loyal or just jump ship for the next shiny trinket.
Just a few updates and I'm off to bed.
We spent a good part of the summer doing our final move from our house in Roanoke, Virginia. We have bid Roanoke adieu, and we will no longer be making our once a month trip from the coast to the mountain.
We are very happy to be living here by our inlet. The peace that I find in the wildness along the Southern Outer Banks has pretty well mended the nerve ends that were seared by Apple's winner take all culture.
If the fishing doesn't require my full attention this fall and if I don't fall under the spell of the area's blue skies, I hope to finally get the book about my Apple career published. It has been a bigger challenge than I thought it would be.