Last week in San Jose I found myself considering something John Gruber wrote for Macworld at the beginning of this decade—about how Apple’s product design doesn’t happen in short bursts, contrary to popular belief. It is a marathon, not a sprint. And no other company in the tech industry has the track record at it that Apple has.
“It’s a slow and steady process of continuous iterative improvement—so slow, in fact, that the process is easy to overlook if you’re observing it in real time,” Gruber wrote. “Only in hindsight is it obvious just how remarkable Apple’s platform development process is.”
As someone who has been using the Mac for nearly three decades and someone who heavily uses an iPad Pro to get work done, I’m disappointed when I see people try to pit the two platforms against one another. There’s definitely a certain subset of Mac users who seem offended that anyone would dare to use an iPad rather than a Mac.
I hope those people are ready for what’s about to happen, because as of this year, the Mac and iPad are marching in lockstep. They are partners, buddies, siblings. They are co-tenants of Apple’s newest app platform. They need each other in a way that has never been true before. If the iPad and the Mac succeed, it’s going to be as a team.
We’re only a few days out from Apple’s 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) now, and that means we’re about to exit an Apple world dominated by talk of iOS 12 and macOS Mojave, and enter one focused on the next versions of both. Last week I detailed my dreams for iOS 13. Now it’s the Mac’s turn.
WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, is less than two weeks away. In a dozen days we’ll know the broad outlines of where Apple is taking its software in the next year. It’s an exciting time, when you hope against hope that the features you dream about will come true and make it into a new release.
It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s pretty great. Here’s what I’m hoping to see in iOS 13 when Apple unveils it on Monday, June 3.
Go the last mile with Files
iOS started life as an operating system that denied the existence of files and avoided file management—quite a change from the file-oriented interface of the Mac. But it’s been years now since Apple broke the seal on files in iOS with the introduction of iCloud Drive and, later, Files.
I love using my Mac. And yet when I am confronted with a fresh new device running macOS, I am taken aback by the barren expanse that is the default Mac experience. That’s not on the Mac, that’s on me—I have become incredibly reliant on some fantastic utilities that enhance the Mac experience in countless ways.
Every now and then I mention these utilities to friends who are Mac users, or they see me using them, and they are often completely baffled. This reminds me that, quite shockingly, there are lots of Mac users who never take advantage of utilities to make the Mac far more powerful than it comes out of the box.
Here, then, are some of the utilities that make the Mac feel like home for me.
As macOS and iOS keep getting closer in terms of functionality (including low-level fundamentals and a shared software platform), I hear a lot of fear from Mac users who are concerned that the Mac is in danger of becoming a locked-down platform that will lose a lot of the capabilities that advanced users have come to expect from their devices.
The security philosophy Apple has nurtured over the past decade as it has built iOS is one that’s based on strictly limiting what third-party software can do, in turn limiting what users are able to do. But I’m optimistic that Apple isn’t planning on barring Mac power users from some of the best things about using a Mac, and there are many ways Apple can create a fundamentally more secure platform without destroying its appeal.
After the collective freak-out about Apple’s poor showing during its last financial quarter, this quarter’s results were refreshingly boring. Apple had $58 billion in revenue, more or less what they said they’d do three months ago. The company made $11.6 billion in profit, which is a really good kind of boring.
Still, there are always tidbits from Apple’s mandated disclosures, and the hourlong conference call with financial analysts that follows them, that can give us some hints about how Apple’s business is doing. Here are five of them.
I fell in love with the Mac nearly 30 years ago, in the fall of 1989. It’s been the center of my tech world ever since, and I’ve been writing about it professionally for 25 years. And yet these past months, I’ve noticed something strange creeping into my thoughts occasionally while I sit at my desk working on my iMac Pro: iOS does this better.
It’s disconcerting, after three decades, to suddenly find that manipulation of files and folders in the Finder has gone from being business as usual to seeming like it’s more fuss and effort than is necessary. And yet that’s where I am now, thanks to a couple of years of using an iPad Pro rather than a MacBook Air whenever I’m away from my desk. The iPad, she has infected me. And I fear there is no cure.
Who knew that a report that Apple was replacing iTunes with new apps brought to the Mac from iOS would open a Pandora’s Box of Mac angst?
But it’s really not that surprising. 2019 promises to be a huge year of change for the Mac, in large part because this fall’s macOS release will open the floodgates to apps originally designed for iOS. When you compare the features of an iTunes (conceived for the Mac of nearly two decades ago) with Music (built for the iPhone and retrofitted for Apple Music), it’s hard not to feel like the Mac is about to get dumbed down.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 15 years since Apple first announced Spotlight as a banner feature of Mac OS X Tiger. In fact, Spotlight has been around so long that I suspect that most Mac users take it for granted, not entirely understanding just how broad its purview is and how powerful it can be at finding the stuff that’s on your Mac. Whole books could be (and have been) written about Spotlight, but let me take you through a few details that you may have never learned.
High-end iMac or iMac Pro? Ever since the iMac Pro was released in 2017, that’s been a key question for pro-level Mac users who aren’t sure if taking the perilous leap from the summit of the iMac product line across to the $4,999 (and up) iMac Pro was worth the financial risk. With the 2019 updates to the iMac line, the gap between the two products has narrowed even more, making the question that much harder to answer.
I’ve been using a base-model iMac Pro as my primary computer since it shipped, and last week Apple sent me a high-end 2019 iMac, so as I write this I am literally sitting in that iMac Pro gap. (It’s comfy here, thanks for asking.) The 5K iMac is equipped with the 3.6GHz 8-core ninth-generation Core i9 processor, 16GB of RAM, a Radeon Pro Vega 48 GPU, and 512GB of Continue reading “Pro or no? How the high-end 2019 iMac measures up”
I’ve seen numerous celebrities in the audience at Apple events over the years, but Monday’s event at the Steve Jobs Theater was different. Captain America himself, Chris Evans, was in the audience. (I just missed him, but I think I spotted Tim Robbins talking to Apple’s Eddy Cue.) On stage were plenty of famous entertainment-industry faces, from directors like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams to actors like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. Even Oprah was there.
This was an Apple event unlike any other, and for many different reasons. There wasn’t any new hardware or software to speak of, for one, and such a concept would’ve seemed impossible for Apple even a couple of years ago. Stranger still, the event was aimed as much at the entertainment industry as at the people who buy Apple’s products—but then, Apple waded into some pretty strange waters when it became a Continue reading “Can Apple’s product expertise make Apple TV+ a success?”
A few years ago, the iPad was in disarray. Sales were collapsing and the line-up of products was a mess. Fixing things takes time, but look at what we’ve got today: With the introduction of the fifth-generation iPad mini and the third-generation iPad Air, iPad is now Apple’s most coherent and complete product line (contrary to what other Macworlders think).
Cleaning up the mess
As iPad sales dropped from their early-decade highs, Apple had a problem: to push the iPad hardware forward and please a user base that clamored for more power and features, it would need to develop cutting-edge technology. But the rest of the tablet market (and the education market in general) was going in the opposite direction, toward cut-rate tablets so cheap they’re sometimes sold in bulk.
This week marks the 30th anniversary of the web, or at least the date that Tim Berners-Lee made a proposal at the Swiss particle physics lab CERN involving the creation of a hypertextual system that would end up becoming the web as we know it today.
The history of web browsers on Apple devices takes a lot of twists and turns. Fortunately, I’ve been around for most of them. In fact, my first magazine cover story ever was in July 1996 about the first big browser war. You might be surprised just how much impact Apple has had on the development of the web itself.
This week the New York Post published a report that fits into every narrative about Apple’s forthcoming video-streaming service: Apple, a skittish tech company that’s not used to having its fate determined by content produced by outsiders, has been heavy-handed in providing feedback to the people creating TV series for Apple’s new service.
I believe there’s got to be some truth in there, but this is a more complicated story than perhaps the Post is interested in telling. (Shocker.)
Producers give notes? Impossible!
The primary source of the Post story appears to be someone who had a bad experience with Apple and therefore has an axe to grind. (Producers who had lovely experiences with Apple are probably not going to call the New York Post about it. If they did, it’s unlikely that the Post would be interested in the story.)
If you aren’t someone who is part of the podcast business (disclosure: I make the majority of my income from podcasting), you might not realize that Apple is the dominant player in the field. That dominance is driven by two factors: its definitive directory of podcasts, and the built-in iOS Podcasts app, which drives the majority of podcast listening on the planet.
The slow shift from radio to on-demand audio continues, and companies are noticing. Investment in podcast companies is up, listening is growing, and the podcast advertising market continues to expand. Yet despite its dominance, Apple seems strangely uninterested in podcasting.
Apple’s current strategy in the home tech market is a bit murky. It launched the HomePod and Apple TV 4K in 2017, and HomeKit support seems to have become much more widespread lately, but it also killed the AirPort line of products and has stood by as competitors like Google and Amazon snap up companies like Nest and Eero.
I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Ahrendts featuring aspects of the Apple Store experience that actually preceded her. No, she didn’t invent the where’s-the-line, where-do-I-stand set-up that completely breaks everything we ever learned about how to behave in a retail store. Under her tenure the approach was modified, not discarded, and in recent years I’ve noticed a more aggressive positioning of employees at the front of stores to intercept new shoppers and put them in the right place.
Apple’s next operating system update, iOS 13, will include… iPad-specific upgrades like a new home screen, the ability to tab through multiple versions of a single app like pages in a web browser, and improvements to file management.
That’s a lot of information distilled into a small paragraph, but what jumped out at me most is the idea that the iPad’s home screen—which has spent almost nine years using a spaced-out version of the iPhone’s design—might finally be getting a redesign that addresses the fact that the iPad isn’t the same device as the iPhone.
Apple’s holiday quarter of calendar-year 2018 was, by most measures, incredibly successful. Revenue of $84.3 billion, $20 billion of that profit. The second largest quarter in Apple history. And yet, the fact is, Apple’s holiday quarter was down five percent from the previous-year’s holiday quarter, and iPhone revenue dropped 15 percent year-over-year. And when the iPhone is hurting, Apple is hurting.
Here are some observations from Apple’s financial results for its fiscal first quarter of 2019 and Tuesday’s customary hourlong conference call between Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri and a gaggle of Wall Street financial analysts.