We all have different expectations from the companies that have helped define our lives. My hopes for Apple revolve around the tools that the company created or helped popularize over the years. Many of those innovations let me do things that I could hardly imagine.
With me it started with an Apple II+, AppleWriter II, and an Epson MX-80 dot matrix printer. Then there was the Mac, Pagemaker, and Illutrator, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD. While not all of these came from Apple, their initial releases were tied closely to the Macintosh. Since the announcement of the Mac, the Mac desktop has been an important part of my life. Today I still use the Mac, just not as much. Linux has won a significant piece of my desktop.
Even when I gave my desktop over completely to Apple, it was not always been a smooth ride. Products like Claris Emailer and iDVD were dropped. Some things like iPhoto's integration with the Cloud and web pages have changed for the worse. Perhaps iWeb was the best indication that Apple never could quite understand that to be successful on the web you need to divorce the device from the data. Google certainly understands that. I would even argue that Microsoft is better at it than Apple. Then there is an application like Pages which took me a long time to embrace for a few things only to watch Apple decide to ignore it. I might not agree with Microsoft's direction on Excel, but I doubt they will ever ignore it.
Apple's misunderstanding of the cloud imight someday be looked upon as a major mistake. Still there is no question that Apple remains a money machine. What I am wondering is can Apple still innovate in a way that really matters. It is not a new question. I found this August 18, 2011 article by Brandt Dainow, Why the iAd was a failure, an interesting read. I especially like this quotation which refers to an earlier article of his.
The thrust of my criticism was that if Apple creates aspirational and innovative new products, but then restricts access to them, it forces others to create competing systems. By refusing hardware manufacturers such as Samsung and Nokia access to the iOS system, Apple forced them into the arms of Google and Microsoft. I argued that, just as the Mac had gone from 30 percent market share at its peak to less than 3 percent today, so would the iPhone go in the mobile market.
While the Mac has gotten up to 10% or so of market share, there are those who are now arguing that it has peaked.
It turns out that a lot of what Apple has done throughout its history is to create innovations and then to try to wall them off. There was a time before Windows 7 when many computer users would have loved to have the more secure and capable OS X running on their Dell or HP. Apple was sure that letting OS X into the wild would destroy the company. It turned out that Apple's success was not destined to come from OS X anyway. It was going to come from the iPod, iPhone, and iPad and related services which now make up close to 86% of Apple's revenue. I always thought that it was funny that I had to buy a third-party add-on for iPhoto just to do something as simple as put my photos in Google's Picasa web albums without resorting to a browser.
In a sense Apple is now trying to use OS X to drag along those of us still creating content with Macs. It likely will not work. The web is changing everything and Apple's walled worlds are showing some huge cracks. Android may be as unstoppable in the mobile market as Windows was in the desktop market.
Android runs on a lot of hardware from different companies. I like to compare the sharing options that I get when viewing an image on the Mac with what I get when viewing an image in the gallery on my Android phone. There are twenty choices on my LG Spectrum phone instead of the seven choices in Apple's Preview. Of course Apple is not the only guilty party in limiting our choices. When I want to share a photo from my Amazon Cloud Drive using my Kindle Fire, I only get four choices. That lack of choice has a lot to do with my decision to make a Nexus 7 my main tablet. I get more choice on a lot of things.
By trying to control everything, Apple limits our choice and opens the door to innovation from others. But if the limitations that Apple forces on us are severe enough, then the market is guaranteed to respond with other choices. Some of the choices might not be goods ones, but then again some of those choices might be really good ones like the Nexus 7 that I'm using.
While some argue that the only way for a good user experience is to let Apple control everything, my experience has shown that Apple cares little about the user experience except to want to use it to prod me towards their vision of a pure world with only Apple products and services.
It will be interesting to see how well Microsoft's experiment in using their operating system to prod us toward tablets and the Surface Pro will work. Actually the operating systems of both Microsoft and Apple are not very high on my list these days. I am moving towards a roll your environment using virtualization. Look for my upcoming article on it at readwrite.
For now I would like just one sign that Apple cares about my user experience. I will nominate bringing back the "Escape" key in iPhoto as a way to return to the library instead of clicking on the annoying "Photos" button. I doubt we will see that since the march of Mac OS X towards iOS likely will accelerate instead of slow down.
In truth, it does not matter. I have found a new solution, Adobe's Lightroom. Guess what? The "Escape key" works like it should there. A better sign for me to pay attention to is Frank, our great egret from Canada.