Apple’s Email Tinkering is Unwanted

Apple has tinkered some more with the in Mountain Lion. This time Apple has decided that we no longer need to see some of the header text labels for email fields like “Subject” and “From.” This kind of tinkering with standard email protocols is suspect.

Take a look at the header of an email message in OX X 10.7.4, “Lion.”

Lion email


Now take a look at OS X 10.8.1 “Mountain Lion’s” New and Improved email header:

Mtn Lion Email

Instead of labeling the data so as to avoid ambiguity, it seems that Apple expects us to infer the subject and from lines by their content and placement, creating an additional cognitive burben on some while removing it for some others. Plus, we must look in a new place for the date, which wastes time. Also, note how the string “Re:” now looks like a header when it isn’t. Presumably, this is one of those simplifications that Apple is bringing to OS X so that its customers needn’t be bothered by tiresome old conventions, like RFC 2822.

TinkeringMy concern here is not about the concept of change. I live and breathe change daily. If I didn’t embrace change as a technical writer in this field, I couldn’t function. That’s not the problem.

What annoys me is that Apple believes that it has the liberty to fundamentally alter email customary usage for its own agenda, namely some kind of fanciful notion that by forcing artificial change without consent or preferences, life will be better for all its customers. And then Apple will, thereby, become more successful. In the largest, most profound ways, in the Spirit of Steve Jobs, Apple succeeds at that brilliantly. But when it comes to the little things, it’s just fiddling around for sake of being annoyingly cute.

Another way of saying this is that email is too important to be left to Apple.

I have written previously in this column about how it’s unlikely that Apple will take up the true challenge of creating fundamental breakthroughs in email technology. There’s no money in that, and it must be left to new entrepreneurs of vision. Instead, Apple — who has the luxury of being the responsible caretaker of the default email app used in OS X — does the easy stuff: declutter the screen by removing labels that serve to disambiguated the presented data. Okay, now, enough.

My search for an alternative, professional, technical email program not driven by this kind of tinkering continues.

Tech News Debris

This week’s collection is not so much about deep analysis as it is about modern technology nuances.

I think this article made somewhat of a splash on the Internet this week. That’s because, for me, the highlight of the article is the analysis of the predictable patterns people fall into when constructing passwords. These pseudo-logical, obsolete approaches to password construction have long been figured out by the hackers, and it’s time to rethink how we create them. Start with Dan Goodin’s seminal “Why passwords have never been weaker—and crackers have never been stronger.” Then follow it up with our own Jim Tanous’s article: “How to Create and Manage Strong Passwords.

Have you ever been traveling and wondered how you might find a place with free Wi-Fi. Off course, we all have some off-hand ideas, like Starbucks or Panera Bread, but here’s a more organized list that might help in a pinch. “How to Find Free WiFi When You’re Traveling.

Scott Kelby, a professional photographer, just bought a new MacBook Pro with Retina Display. But, for him, there’s something very important and very missing. “Something’s Missing From My New MacBook Pro…

Retina MBP

Retina MBP Image Credit: Scott Kelby

Does it seem to you that when the iPad came out, and there was a rush to produce the iWork analogs for the iPad, suddenly the updates to iWork ‘09 stopped? Alexis Kayhill ponders the situation. “Whatever Happened To Apple’s Answer To Microsoft Office For Mac? Remember iWork? As In iWork ’09?

It’s easy to overlook the full power of an iPhone or iPad. It seems that once some users achieve a certain level of proficiency, they stop learning new things. But then a tip comes along that rocks their world, and they happily add it to their repertoire. Here’s a column by the charming Katherine Boehret that will provide plenty of those “aha” moments. “What You Might Not Know About Your iPhone and iPad.

Finally, Jim Dalrymple explains to those dubious of the 7.x-inch iPad what a pickle it puts to the competition in. “A 7-inch iPad Presents Challenges to Apple’s Competition.

What Mr. Dalrymple doesn’t talk about is the timing. Certainly, with Apple’s manufacturing resources, a 7.x-inch iPad could have been produced earlier this year. But I think there are two reasons to wait. The first is a technology gate. Apple may have been waiting for one or more components that they deemed essential to obliterate the Kindle Fire 2 and Nexus 7— and  that would put those guys in a serious bind. After all, its expected that Amazon will come out with a Kindle Fire 2 at Christmas, so why go head to head with slightly obsolete components. Secondly, related to that, Apple knows that a 7-inch iPad, with a price of, say, $249, is more likely to be a gift item. Why not release it near the gift-giving holidays and take the wind out of the sails of the Fire 2? Hit ‘em hard at just the right time. What do you think?


Tinker image via Shutterstock.