We’ve Changed and Grown. Apple’s iOS Hasn’t

| Particle Debris

Last week, I got carried away with my preamble and didn't have time or room for the week's technical news debris. So, after a short preamble, I have a lot, the very best, to get caught up on.


Is it time for an interface overhaul in iOS? I am one of those who thinks it may be time. iOS, now roughly six years old, was designed in an era of much less hardware capability and launched on the small 3.5-inch display of the original iPhone. Now, it's being pressed into service on ever larger iPhone and also iPad displays.

One of the big annoyances is the single foreground app/single window design. Yes, it's true that on an iPhone, we really only think about doing one thing at a time. But on a tablet, many people are using it in amazing ways for content creation. Or trying. This cries out for multiple windows. Sensing an opportunity, Samsung is making hay over that iOS limitation.

Plus, as we have grown as users, iOS needs to grow with us. Perhaps the departure of Scott Forstall is a good thing in that regard. Here are some additional thoughts from Wired's Christina Bonnington: "Apple Shows Signs a Major Interface Overhaul Is Coming."

So far, so good. So long as Siri's new "character driven" dialog and interface mentioned in the article above doesn't remind us of Microsoft's dreaded Clippy.

Tech News Debris

For a long time, the U.S. government has been in love with Microsoft products. Apple has always had an uphill battle trying to sell its philosophy and products there. Despite the presidential affection for Steve Jobs and now Tim Cook, the nature of the U.S. government's handling of IT has been a mess. David Sobotta, who spend a long time selling Apple products to the federal government, sums it up: "Federal IT Is A Mess And We Really Should Give A Damn."

What happens when you try to copy a competitor, but have no real, crisp vision of your own to guide you? Sometimes the products look like they were designed by aliens -- and have about the same appeal. The Verge has put together a great visual story: "Dell's downward spiral: 10 years of failed consumer device."

This next article gave me a headache, and I pondered whether to link to it. It's not so much about a competitive analysis as it is about the ins and outs of analyzing a system's capabilities -- and the rats nest that can lead to. If your head hurts half way in, just move on: "Surface Pro versus MacBook Air: Who's being dishonest with storage space?"

Imace Credit: Big Think

Today, we tend to think of Apple's iCloud, and data clouds in general, as data storage, backups and syncing. But what if one could combine the computational capabilities of the cloud, the way supercomputers are used now for computation, with some kind of human interface, say smart glasses? Futurist Ray Kurzweil explores this in an introduction at Big Think: "This Is Your Brain in the Cloud."  Maybe, when we get smarter, we won't be so victimized by sneaky business practices. Or not.

Related to that is an exploration of how we can interact with computational devices, so-called Natural Computing. Today, those methods are fairly limited, but in the future, that will surely change. Here's an excellent discussion and must reading for the Particle Debris crowd: "The Commercial Birth of Natural Computing." It also relates to my recent series on the evolution of the Mac, parts 1 and 2.

Nothing is more illuminating than when someone who has spent 20 years with a company bares all. Sure, there's some personal agenda and viewpoint, but the observations someone makes from that long a tenure generally outweigh any bias. Here's a fascinating view of Microsoft from Joachim Kempin as told by Readwrite's Dan Lyons. Another must read: "Microsoft Has Lost Its `Audacity,' Former Top Exec Says."

Here's a charming and fun read about the Bring Your Own Device phenomena and why, perhaps, it's been so hard for iT managers to resist. "Ode to BYOD"

Often, whether the technology is tablets, smart glasses, smart wristwatches or smart televisions, there is an optimum time to get into the market. Start too early, and you risk being marginalized by later, better technologies. Perhaps 3D television falls into that. Get in too late, as Microsoft did with the Surface tablet, and there's too much catching up to do and great market (and mind) share is forever unobtainable.

Is there a light at the end of the TV tunnel? (Credit: Shutterstock & Bryan Chaffin)

The same applies right now to Apple and high definition television and related technologies. Indeed, Apple have staked out a portion of the market with the Apple TV, but there are bigger fish to fry. Check out this survey of the business and technical angles for Apple and HDTV from the M.I.T. Technology Review: "Apple’s Next Innovation: TV." Here's a quote: "But Apple may not have time to wait for them to deal. Competition from Google (which is experimenting with a pay TV and Internet service in Kansas City), Amazon (which has a streaming video service and plans to produce original series), or Microsoft (whose Xbox gaming console is as much a video delivery device as a game machine) may force Apple to stake out territory in the living room more forcefully, and soon."

Finally, if you think a competitor might be ready to spring something dramatic om the market, but there are only rumors, perhaps a good strategy is to leak your own rumors. "Samsung GALAXY Altius Smartwatch leaked." On one hand, you gotta wonder about copycats, but on the other hand, in today's technology era, falling behind by just a little bit is fatal. It's always safe to do what Apple does, even if it lands you in court. As we've seen, often the court proceedings lapse into ambiguity while the cash continues to roll in. If you think that's a bad strategy, look how Dell did, going its own way.


Paul Goodwin

Speaking of single window interfaces and needing an overhaul, one of the recent most disturbing things Apple did was to eliminate multiple windows in iTunes. A truly horrible decision. I’d love to see multiple window drag and drop on the iPad. And why not?

And while they’re at it, why not have functional Alt, Option and Control keys on the keyboard and have them function as a normal computer?

Daniel Swanson

When are you people going to learn that Apple isn’t interested in what all you armchair quarterbacks think it should do and when?

APPLE gets to decide, NOT y’all.

And I think the new iTunes is great. Much cleaner and more efficient. And haven’t you heard? This is the POST-PC era. iOS is just fine the way it is. Apple will decide on any refinements or improvements when it sees fit.


We armchair quarterbacks like to hear ourselves talk. We even like to pay people like TMO’s armchair quarterbacks (via ad revenue) to talk to us too, so we have even more things to talk about ourselves. grin

Every once in a blue moon Apple does listen to consumers. (E.g. recommending Google Maps app when Apple Maps failed, e.g. giving people copy-paste in iOS, e.g. giving people *apps* in iOS).

It’s also just fun to think about what the future might be and maybe plan for it a little.  If we ever do happen to be right, we also win bragging rights.

Oh, and we can decry the loss of our favorite features and find solace with our friends. We may be pulled kicking and screaming (or following the pied piper) into the post-PC era, but we still have our favorite PC-era things that we hang on to and/or bemoan.


RE: iOS is just fine the way it is. Apple will decide on any refinements or improvements when it sees fit.

If it is fine then won’t you bemoan Apple maybe deciding on any changes? Refinements would be impossible on a ‘fine as it is’ system, I would think. Companies who listen to customers seem to stay around a little longer than those who blatantly ignore them totally. Apple does not totally ignore customers as you seem to think.


Some great picks this week, John.

I’ve been trying to read in between a non-stop work schedule.

A thematic standout for me are the pieces on Federal IT (MS-based), Ed Bott’s Surface vs MBA and SSD storage, Dell’s downward spiral and the interview with Joachim Kempin on MS having lost their audacity. While Ed Bott’s rage against the Air mightn’t seem related, what connects his piece to this (and yes, his piece does leave one flummoxed as to his point) is that, here he is, trying to address consumer dissatisfaction with Surface hard drive residual storage, and what does he do? He attacks the MacBook Air, that’s what.

It all makes perfect sense, the thematic upshot of which is mindshare; where it is (Apple) and where it is not (MS). It’s not simply that MS and her galaxy of OEMs and acolytes lack mindshare, they lack a plan, a focus, a vision. Guidance is not internal. They are taking their cues from the environment (read Apple, but others as well, e.g. Google) and reacting to it. The result is not pretty, as Dell’s hardware offerings oh-so-graphically illustrate (one commenter noted that, so ugly were these monstrosities, they made his eyes bleed).

What’s worse, is that even those who are diehard MS votaries (e.g. Kempin) complain that MS needs to become more cool. The last time I heard a CEO claim the goal was coolness, he was ousted in months (HP’s Apotheker), and the company remains decidedly, doggedly, and deadly dull - and still not cool.

I’ve argued before that MS is fixable and far from dead (dull, but not dead); however expectations need to be realistic in the immediate to short term, perhaps longer.

First, they need to sort out what business are they really in. That begins with a vision of where they want to be in the brave new world and its projected future - and, oh yes, it means stop looking at Apple. MS has never been nor will ever be Apple.

Next they need to assess their core capacity and what amongst these they can leverage to get there. That will also inform what capacity they need to acquire to achieve that target.

Third, and this is address the immediate issue of relevance and mindshare, support those business, using their core strengths and assets, amongst their competitors who are selling products that people want and who do have mindshare - and here I am talking about Apple, and doing something like supporting iOS with software - MS’s core strength. This latter also has the advantage of working closely enough with competitors to see their vulnerabilities and what is missing from the industry, providing an opportunity to step in with a solution.

Thus far, neither MS nor their ecosphere of OEMs, developers and supporters show no sign of being in search of such a vision, and that platform grows progressively more still and cold. So, why not rail about Apple and how they calculate SSD storage space - that might just bring some excitement, what? At least for a minute.

Brian Taylor

I was just wounder because I’m a big time X-BOX user if apple or mirco soft was ever going to allowe the iphone users to sync the iphones or even the ipods or ipads to there gamming systems

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