Posts tagged "apple"

Everyday Convenience

Benedict Evan’s “Cloudy” take on WWDC has dovetailed with a number of thoughts I’ve had over the last few months:

I’ve described this before by saying that Apple is moving innovation down the stack into hardware/software integration, where it’s hard for Google to follow, and Google is moving innovation up the stack into cloud-based AI & machine learning services, where it’s hard for Apple to follow. This isn’t a tactical ‘this’ll screw those guys’ approach – it reflects the fundamental characters of the two companies. Google thinks about improving UX by reducing page load times, Apple thinks about UX by making it easier to scroll that page.

In particular, this excerpt reminded me of Fred Wilson’s recent comments about Apple not being a “top three” technology company by 2020 because they don’t get the cloud. Over the last couple of years, it has been arguable that Google is getting better at what Apple does faster than Apple is with Google’s core competencies. Whether it’s user experience, design, or even a more platform-centric approach, Google has advanced those fairly quickly compared to Apple’s mastering of the cloud.

So, yes it was a year of Apple having the cloud—including what Benedict calls the “personal cloud”—underpin a number of their key initiatives. But with Google getting better at some of Apple’s strengths, will Apple’s “dumb cloud” approach be able to compete with the likes of Google Now?

I would guess that many consumers would still choose using SMS or taking phone calls from their Mac—features powered by OS X Yosemite and iOS 8—over being told when to leave for an appointment. Clearly each of those kinds of features appeal to a specific demographic but Apple continues to cater more directly to everyday convenience where Google’s AI and machine learning are attempting to solve bigger and more complex problems. Obviously Google Now is just one example but self-driving cars and drones also come to mind.

Put another way, Apple continues to optimize for the relatively near term. Each year they make consumers lives just a little bit better. What they bring to the market may not appear as lofty as Google’s future initiatives but as John Gruber notes, Apple knows how to ship. These aren’t concepts, they’re products that scale to the mass market.

Of course, Apple has their own future-focused, mind-boggling roadmap, which is what has allowed them to launch market-transforming products like the iPhone or iPad. Still, I’ve wondered if Apple is not focused on the future enough. The corollary may be more pressing for Google: optimizing too much for the future will continue to reduce the impact they can have on the present. Apple may not have self-driving, concept cars but there’s no company that can compete right now with their ability to deliver incremental, everyday convenience to the mass market each and every year.

Working with Multiple iPhoto Libraries

When I threw my father a surprise 50th birthday party a number of years ago, we had to scour our family to find decent pictures of his childhood, teenage, and early adult years. In the age of cheap storage and phones that double as many people’s only camera, today we have the opposite challenge of past generations: we have way too many photos.

My wife’s MacBook Air is a testament to that. Her iPhoto Library has grown to over 125 GB, causing her machine to be resource-constrained while iPhoto is open. Between the birth of our son at the start of 2012 and the advancements of the iPhone, she went from snapping around 1,000 or so photos back in all of 2010 to nearly 7,000 just through October 2013 alone.

While a second stage will be to move significantly older photos off of her hard drive, step one was to make iPhoto more manageable by reducing the overall size of her iPhoto Library. My approach was to group photos by year into multiple iPhoto libraries. Beyond speeding up iPhoto usage, this felt like a nice way to browse photos and just as importantly ensure there was no longer a single point of failure by having a single, massive iPhoto Library.

iPhoto does natively support the ability to have multiple iPhoto libraries but as usual, the simple solution is not as simple as it sounds. The main issue is that the easiest way to get photos from one library to another will cause the important metadata associated with the photos to not be maintained. That’s where Fat Cat Software’s iPhoto Library Manager comes into play. While iPhoto Library Manager does much more, what I mainly used it for was to copy photos from the default iPhoto Library into ones associated with each year.

The best part about this app, is that it actually uses iPhoto itself to do the work. After you create the library and choose the photos (and videos) to copy, iPhoto will systematically open and close in the background. Unlike the “easy way” of moving photos mentioned above, iPhoto Library Manager automagically employs the importing functions multiple times to maintain event info and other metadata of the photos. Doing this manually would take a considerable amount of time and could also introduce copying errors.

iPhoto Library Manager also has a nifty find duplicate photo feature—even across libraries—that I’m sure will be helpful at some point. And if I ever want to eliminate certain libraries, there’s also a merge function. For now, problem solved…no more fans kicking off when iPhoto is open. iPhoto Library Manager is well worth the $29.95 price tag.

It’s Time for a Change

To write that the 2013 WWDC keynote was monumental would be an understatement. From the changing of the OS X big cat naming convention to the complete redesign of iOS with iOS 7, it was a significant day for Cupertino.

What surprised me most compared to last year, is that while OS X Mountain Lion was all about unifying Apple’s desktop and mobile platforms (e.g., bringing Reminders and Notes to the Mac), iOS 7 widens the gap considerably. iOS 7 is indeed the “fertile ground” as Marco Arment writes. It’s again a brave new world for designers and developers.

Meanwhile, from a design standpoint, OS X Mavericks will seem out of place and maybe even old or outdated relative to its iOS 7 counterpart. Arguably, it could have been better for Apple to introduce its new design language across iOS and OS X at the same time. OS X Mavericks is an extremely solid update but from tabs on the Finder to tags, it’s an iterative update and not the paradigm shift iOS 7 is. Looking at the developer preview of Xcode 5, however, it’s clear OS X will see a similar overhaul in the not so distant future.

It’s hard to not compare iOS 7’s buttonless, typography-driven interface to what Microsoft introduced with Metro two years ago (see Chris Millr’s observations). Similarly, Google’s iOS apps in particular have been much flatter over the last year. Apple often is a tastemaker and leader in driving design trends but iOS 7 seems more like the first iPod than the first iPhone: it’s an Apple-take on an existing trend, not an Apple innovation. That’s not a dig on Apple, it’s more a compliment to Microsoft and Google.

I’d like to believe that what we’ve seen and experienced in iOS 7 will be different than what consumers install on their iOS devices later this year. That’s not because of the bugs expected in beta software but rather that iOS 7 does not look or feel worthy of Apple quite yet. To that end, I found Frank Chimero’s words comforting when he wrote that iOS, “lacks nuance, but has courage” and that he’s hopeful for its future. I’m not confident that iOS 7 itself will have that nuance because once Apple unveils something, they usually only iterate on it after it goes to the market. That could mean the nuance returns in iOS 8 and I’m certain that Apple would be fine with that.

The analysts have stated that Apple has lost its ability to innovate. Anecdotally, I hear comments from friends and family that the iPhone is no longer new or cool, with regular questions about whether to buy an iPhone or a Samsung device. So, whether your initial reactions to iOS 7 are of love, hate, or indifference, iOS 7 is exactly what Apple needs right now. It’s exactly what iOS designers and developers need right now. And it’s exactly the kind of change only Apple is insightful and bold enough to both recognize and make. It’s time for a change.

Paid Apps Are NOT History

A sensational title on BGR that is a testament to a single reality: games are the most popular apps on mobile platforms. More specifically, games continue to thrive under the freemium model. So, it’s no wonder that the highest grossing charts are filled with free game apps.

The good news is that to survive on the App Store (or in app stores in general), it’s not necessary to be on the overall top grossing chart. And at least to this point, the freemium model is largely unproven in the non-game market. Thus, a better title would have been,

Paid Game Apps Are History