Clean and concise, futuristic; sheen. Perfect white pods straight from a Kubrick set. Flawless ease.
This is the image that Apple offers us. This is your life, and these are your tools; beautiful in their simplicity. Tools for a life that “just works.”
And it is an image that nearly everyone is attracted to. We’ve bought in, or we’re looking on with interest. Their company is large enough that it has spawned fully tangental careers for an entire category of people.
And yet, watching, as most of us are, from the outside looking in, what has been emerging in recent years, is a picture of a company that is growing so fast, it is struggling to keep up with it’s own awkward pubescent transformations. What is troubling many of the people in the industry, and what many have been concerned with (but not always finding the best words for) is that Apple’s growth has occurred so quickly, their structural fabric is stretched to the seams, and those seams are pretty clearly visible.
Edit: The bug related to the following account was later suggested by Apple to be an intentional change within the 9.3 beta wherein the Pencil no longer controlled UI interaction. This has since been reversed/resolved in the more recent releases.
Today, while in the middle of a painting session on my iPad Pro (using Astropad in conjunction with Photoshop on my MacBook Pro) I wound up in a conversation about astronomy. (Yes, ok, but this is what happened) I was positing a loose theory on the speeds of planetary rotation based on absolutely nothing scientific, and found myself wanting to back up my concept with some research. I pulled up Safari, jumped into a search, and began reading an article on the lengths of various planetary days. When I reached the end of the visible text, I naturally reached down with my hand, still gripping the Pencil, and motioned a swipe of its tip to scroll the content.
Safari sat, insolent, immovable.
The same paragraphs of text stared back at me.
A moment of rather pregnant, stunned silence ensued.
And all at once it was very clear. The frustrations that everyone is experiencing to various degrees; all the complaints of spamming iTunes password dialogues, the half-baked interfaces that fully upset people and the lack of support for features that used to work, the awkward transitions between supposedly seamless experiences. It could all be traced back to a problem of growth, and a lack of fully polished integration.
In short, Apple’s own products do not fully support their own lineup of their own current products.
The individual product teams (for the most part, we won’t name any names here) appear to be firing on all cylinders. But when it comes to the integration between worlds, things begin to fall down pretty severely.
Yesterday I recieved an automated email about iCloud storage. I have refused to buy in further than the defaults on this system because performance has not impressed me thus far (so I stick to frequent, manual backups and make sure there’s enough room for the essentials to stay in tune across devices), and I am constantly getting fun nag messages about the limits of my iCloud space. While that’s annoying, that’s not the problem. The email? It contained instructions for the steps to take in iOS 8.
I don’t know about you folks, but even my work iPad, which I pretty much leave alone for the company to update automatically as stable releases are pushed, is running iOS 9.2. My personal devices are running the 9.3 betas. Which means Apple are regularly sending out automated emails, the body of the text of which has not been updated since at least September 9, 2015 (the iOS 9 gold master was released on the 9th).
Now you can argue that this is just an email, what’s the big deal? But I would counter that the big deal is that Apple are promising perfection, and yet they are beginning to appear as a sort-of absent-minded professor who you forgive because of their talent, but who always has their fly down, or just taught an entire hour’s lecture to the wrong class.
And this is where that idea begins to scare me just a little.
Apple are rumored to be producing a car.*
In my opinion, Apple have a moral obligation to rectify this before they ever release something as full-system as a car.
The concern here is a simple one. If I’m entrusting my physical safety to a company, I better not be running into feature barriers where one development team stops and another begins. I picture an autopilot mode that doesn’t always let you assume control when you need to if the digital console was set to the wrong display setting, or is asleep in a power-saving state.
I’m sure Apple would think we’re not being fair, since they seem rather impressed with their own progress. And they should be, it’s been a fantastic ride so far. But when you’re taking on people’s entire life as a product, you better be prepared for what that means, and what we’ll expect in return for our buy-in.
That’s a tall task you’ve taken on, Apple. You need to be up to it, and you have to stop making excuses for yourselves when something fails. Otherwise you might be surprised with how quickly people can lose faith.
*don’t worry, I realize that’s not news