In his latest article, Hey Apple, Where’s the Fire?, Joe Cieplinski talks about something I’ve been mulling over for a while now. I’ve never liked discussions about ‘what Apple should/shouldn’t do’, and I’ve refrained more than once from writing articles and contributions along those lines. That’s because I like to think that, considering what Apple has achieved in the last ten years or so, there are many people at Apple who know how to do their jobs, and are certainly more knowledgeable than me (and you) about what the company should or should not do.
But that doesn’t mean that all Apple products, hardware and especially software, should just be accepted without criticism. I’m a long-time Apple user, and over the years I’ve been consolidating my workflow mostly around first-party software. (It makes sense when you think that on a daily basis I use a variety of Macs of rather different vintages, and with versions of Mac OS X spanning from 10.3.9 to 10.8.3). And I must say I’ve been feeling increasingly disappointed in the quality of certain pieces of Apple software. Just to make a quick example I have before my eyes right now: how can it be that an application like iBooks Author should lack a basic feature such as handling footnotes? Good grief, isn’t it an application for creating books!? But as I said, this is just a tiny example.
Apple has introduced some incredibly cool technology over the past several years that hasn’t come close to reaching its potential. FaceTime, Passbook, iBooks Author, iCloud—just to name a few—were all so promising when they were introduced. But most of them have failed to be completely successful, not because they aren’t great ideas, but because Apple isn’t doing a whole lot to either improve or evangelize them.
If the pattern used to be “release, then iterate, iterate, iterate,” it seems like Apple is not giving itself enough time for the “iterate” part of that process. It’s being pressured to move on to the next thing. And that leaves us with a lot of half-baked products and a ton of unrealized potential.
And this paragraph from his conclusion is where I agree most with him:
If Apple took the year and worked on half of its existing products rather than trying to introduce new ones, they’d be doing themselves and us a much bigger favor. If they spent the year fixing the unbelievably sloppy bugs that still exist in iOS and Mountain Lion (I’m talking boneheadedly simple things like drag and drop on the Mac), rather than bringing five new half-baked apps like Podcasts to the platform, our phones and our laptops would be better at surprising and delighting us.
There isn’t much talk about iOS 7 and Mac OS X 10.9 at the moment, and I’m seriously hoping it’s because Apple is doing with them what Cieplinski and I are wishing: taking a step back and fixing things. I don’t have particularly exotic wishes or feature requests for either operating system. I’m not craving for new eye-candy stuff in iOS or Mac OS X. I want both to be robust improvements over their respective previous versions. Unlike others, I don’t ask Apple to innovate all the time and at all costs. And let’s be frank here: the kind of ‘innovation’ some are really asking from Apple is the mindless feature creep that has always characterised the approach of other tech companies, not Apple’s philosophy.