Apple’s Email App is in the Coffin Corner

Apple EmailApple’s current email app is one of those strange breeds. It’s designed to be easy and fun for most all Apple customers, and yet it can never live up to the demands of professional users or even technical columnists. So it’s constantly ripped, and Apple constantly wants to do nothing except tweak it. Apple mail is flying in that aviation term called the coffin corner*.

The problem stems from the history of email on the Mac. There was a time when Apple was too small and too preoccupied to worry about writing an email program. As a result, other companies took up the challenge. There was a time, in the late 1990s when people either logged on to AOL or CompuServe to read their email, or they used a client for sale, like Fog City’s Emailer (E-m@iler) or Eudora by Steve Dorner.

As things tend to go, Claris acquired Emailer and Qualcomm acquired Eudora. Those were the days when we could feel affection for an email client, but that was because we and the apps were immature. Claris Emailer could never stand the test of time and spam. But we remember the love.

In time, Apple came out with Mac OS X in 2001 with built-in email, derived from NeXTmail. Because it was free, and good enough for many, it undermined the commercial email clients. Qualcomm eventually threw in the towel on Eudora, beloved by many, and even today there are, I surmise, thousands of self-proclaimed “Eudora refugees.”

Efforts to carry on the heritage of Eudora have also faltered or sunk into obscurity. Steve Dorner told me that he’s seen very little uptake and so not much effort is being put into Eudora OSE.

Apple’s View

The mail app for OS X is a fine email client for casual use. It meets the needs of most Apple customers, and when Apple thinks about enhancements for a new OS X release, IMHO, they probably think about cool things, features that make it look or feel friendlier or has social media components.

Enterprise users and technical professionals, columnists and bloggers work in a different environment. Monstrous spam must be dealt with on the server side, client side or both. There is institutional knowledge buried in emails that needs to be organized, preserved and searched. Some emails have corresponding deadlines and/or action items. The public nature of a writer’s email causes a sea change in the technical needs, and we often feel as if Apple isn’t attending to those needs. So we, the vocal minority, whine. (I’m not here to whine.)

One solution is Microsoft’s Outlook for Mac, and I know that some Mac writers use it. But Microsoft? Seriously? At least Apple mail uses a Unix standard file structure. However, if you must… I was even thinking of doing that for awhile, but blinked when Outlook had some teething pains with Lion, and I never resumed the task.

The bottom line is that there is still no money to be made in email clients for the Mac and Apple isn’t motivated to make the mail app more capable, more modern, let alone think about breakthrough technology. So many of us just flop about, use the Mail app or some other aging favorite or perhaps even Zimbra or Gmail on the Web with a browser, waiting for Godot, waiting for something to change.

* An aviation term. At high altitude, for some aircraft, the difference between stalling and going supersonic is only a fews tens of mph. Too much either way is bad. The U-2 flies in that coffin corner.

Tech News Debris

Netflix is a company that started out being widely loved. The company provided a good service for a modest fee and perfected the art of mailing DVDs to and from the customer. Stories are legion about families reaching for a red envelope on Saturday night and making popcorn.

For the first time, there’s a discussion about how Netflix may not survive, and that gives us pause because many of us are aware of the early competition with Apple TV — and nowadays, some measure of cooperation. If you haven’t noticed, content owners are trying raise fees on carriers, and from time to time, the result is temporarily lost channels on satellite or cable while the battle rages on. And infuriating customers. In that light, here’s an article that says, “The huge increase in TV content price inflation has caused Netflix’s content amortization costs to increase from 12% of revenues to 50% of revenues, according to the ‘TV Everywhere Stock Report,’ release by the National Inflation Association.”

If that goes on, eventually carriers will all be squeezed out of business and we’ll see the end of cable and satellite and even Netflix as content creators perfect the art of going directly to the customer and cut out the middle man. It’ll take a few years more though. If Netflix gets squeezed out like this, how will that affect Apple’s HDTV efforts, if at all? I wonder if Apple is rethinking the prospects of buying Disney.

What to you get when you showcase your iOS developer expertise by building an app that notifies fellow students when a desired class opens up? Probation, that’s what.

Is cord cutting becoming rampant? Why is cord-cutting such an appealing idea to promote in articles? Is it because techie journalists are out of touch with everyday TV viewers? It may well be. Articles like this get blasted by the experts, like this.

Are teachers getting the most out of Twitter? Jeff Goldstein, an educator and astrophysicist believes that the social water cooler of the 21st century can be a powerful teaching aid. After all, as they say, you are who you follow.

I’ve written before about Dish’s Ad Hopper and its DVR, “The Hopper.” Apparently Dish is trying to drum up pre-trial public support by pointing out much its customers love the Hopper. (and they should). “Dish CEO on Ad-Skipping DVR: ‘We Have Already Won’” Maybe Samsung will try that next against Apple. I have a better idea. How about a little black box that sells me streaming content on a per-item basis sans commercials. Oh, wait…


Image Credit for Apple Mail: Apple