Hey Apple, lets sort your ‘pro’ problems (and a few others)
There has always been plenty of whinging about the lack of Apple’s commitment to professionals but throughout my career I’ve been able to look at what Apple is doing and see where they are taking us. It has always excited me but for the first time I’m a little concerned, so it’s a good time to throw a few solutions into the ether and hope that one or two find their way to the Apple development teams. Here we go…
This is the most important place to start. When I worked in one of the Apple stores in Australia many years ago, 95% of the client base was media professionals. Film, Television, Music and Game Development were the main areas that I sold computers to and it was always very clear to me that this was the market where my energy needed to be focused. This wasn’t just because I personally wanted to get into Film and TV but because these users were doing cool stuff and it’s what people created with their Macs that sold more Macs.
When the iPod came out all the cool people who were Mac users could buy and use iPods, you couldn’t use them if you didn’t have a Mac. This is what made the iPod cool, not the product, there were other devices that did the same stuff but having an iPod meant you had a Mac and that meant you were doing cool creative stuff. This is still the case, the iPhone isn’t cool, it’s the creative people using Apple products making cool stuff with those products that make them cool.
I know Apple is aware of this, you can see it in some of the current marketing so it’s important now more than ever that they double down on the pro market, Apple still needs the cool cred. Health and fitness is an honourable area to put energy into, it’s obviously an area important to Tim Cook but most of the world doesn’t give a shit about it, they want to see that Macs’ and Apple’s software was used to cut feature films with Will Smith in them. They need to do big things for the pro market and then exploit the hell out of the advertising they can get from that, they will continue to reap the rewards from that for all time.
I can’t help but wonder, if Apple were about to refresh the entire lineup and then the Surface Studio was released and they (peed their pants) decided to just roll out the MacBook Pro and hold back on everything else until they could catch up. That whole event for the MacBook Pro was overkill and refreshing the ports on one device but not rolling them out across the whole line is not a good move. I love USBC/Thunderbolt 3, I just want it on everything. No one wants different plugs for all their devices. Apple has always specialised in making all these wonderful devices that work seamlessly with one another. The ball has been dropped on this as of late, right down to the lack of USBC cable included with iPhones and iPads.
Let’s streamline the Mac lineup: drop the MacBook Air, have one option for the MacBook, one for the MacBook Pro, one iMac, one Mac Mini, and one Mac Pro. No one wants to flick in and out of all the different versions while trying to choose a computer. All these units should be updated with as many USBC/TB3 ports as they can load them up with. Apple will get more criticism about the dongles but that is such an ignorant criticism and they are good at handling that by now anyway. If Apple roll it out on everything it will make more sense and we can leave all the old fashioned ports in the past. My whole business is built around thunderbolt and it’s the best thing to happen to computing in the last ten years. USBC/TB3 takes that to the next level and I know I can build that into everything we do and externally run what we want based around our needs, it’s perfect.
On the touchbar, anything that makes me look away from the screen is not ideal for fast paced work. I’ve used it, I like it but I would take a MS Surface Dial over it in most cases. I think with a portable they pull it off because of the closeness to the screen, I don’t think Apple should bother implementing it on external keyboards, perhaps just put in the thumb print reader for unlocking the computer and apple pay.
To make USBC/TB3 even more perfect Apple need to have greater support for more computing power on demand. If I have an external GPU and I try to run it with a new MacBook Pro I don’t get much out of it. If I run bootcamp and use an eGPU with windows I get a lot out of it, this is massively upsetting. If they can’t make it all plug and play then make some developer tools for the pro market that will allow the Mac to take advantage of this technology. It would be incredible if Apple could take it even further, to the point where I can have my MacBook Pro to work while I’m out and about then jack in to USBC/TB3 at the office and suddenly I have a bunch of extra CPU/GPU and RAM in an external box. Lots of eGPUs exist lets build on that. You could actually drop the desktops if you did this because we can have an easy-to-upgrade external box for the office and get the best of both worlds.
Next step would be to take that functionality and put it into cloud computing. Rather than have that power locally, perhaps I can buy a 10 cloud GPUs with Nvidia GRID and offload the hard work to iCloud. AWS and Google are killing Apple on cloud solutions, I’m having to use windows on a bunch of cloud computers for some of our services now but would love to have MacOS options.
I understand the display thing is tricky and getting out of the display market is smart. Apple have deals going on with LG in the background and pushing their displays and helping with their technology is a good move. They make the best panels on the market so it makes sense to work with them. I just miss lusting after the sexy Apple Displays… but I buy LG UltraWide monitors anyway so I won’t hold it against them.
One of my biggest, personal Apple successes was getting my dad to use an iPhone and enjoy it. He doesn’t read or write very well and had never used a computer so getting him to use a device that could do video chat with me was a big deal. I gave him an old iPod touch to start with and he worked his way up to the iPhone and now gets each new one. I think if the same were to happen today he wouldn’t learn how to use it because the OS has become too complicated to operate, I even struggle sometimes and I’m a massive nerd. There are a lot of hidden settings that are aesthetically pleasing but the true beauty of Apple products has always been in their simplicity of use, the technical elements get out of the way so you can just use the device and not have to think. It wouldn’t take too much to create an option when starting up called “Simplified” or something like that for the users that just need basic and simple functionality. All the buttons are right there in-front of them with no need to “swipe here” or “hold there” to access anything. It can have some of the prettiness of the current os but a layout more like iOS 3. To be honest I’d probably use this mode too!
What on earth are they up to with the Apple TV? The Amazon Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast are both taking a massive dump on Apple TV both in form factor and functionality. UHD HDR support and plugging in and hiding behind the TV are brilliant features and design, that Apple could have been way ahead on. They had a clear advantage and lead in this market but have fallen behind while they played with watches. At this stage my next Apple TV will be a Chromecast or a Fire TV Stick, unless Sony get their act together and sort out their Smart TV features.
iTunes + Movies + TV + Podcasts = Media
Can we just get rid of the iTunes name now? It’s not for tunes, it’s for media, many different types, time to move on. I want Apple to launch an Media app for everything else too, Smart TV’s, Chromecasts, Android Phones, Fire Stick etc. Put it everywhere, they are losing media money from rentals etc and it’s annoying. Remember releasing iTunes on windows? What that did for the iTunes store and the iPod? Hurry up and do this Apple, make a load of money and use it to build me a Mac Pro that is the most powerful desktop computer ever made, thank you.
FaceTime and Messages
Apple should release these to the world too. This ties in with the Halo effect, get everyone on FaceTime and Messages and provided they give the users the best user experience possible, their next phone or tablet will be from Apple. It’s all about planting those seeds of interest, getting into the hands of the people who say they won’t buy Apple products. They will first need to fix Messages, the current version is awful, the most non-userfriendly application they have ever released.
Airport and iLife
I’ll end this here but a couple of other areas Apple should be on-top of is the Airport which they used to lead the way in wireless networking with. I’m likely to move to Google Wifi at some point this year if I don’t see anything new from Apple. I have Airport Extremes, Expresses and Time Capsules, at home and in the office. They are all getting a bit long in the tooth and it looks like Google is taking over the mantle on seamless wireless networking. I’d love to see Apple reclaim it.
Lastly I was chatting with an old mate the other day who brought up a great point about iLife. When we worked at Apple it was pretty easy to have someone over 70 years of age up and running in the iLife suite within an hour or two. Everything was so obvious and easy to use that anyone could figure it out with very little help. This got me thinking about everything from Apple and that whole simple user experience that we used to have has slowly been buried under all the very pretty design choices that have been made. This goes back to my iPhone comments above but perhaps we are at a point where there is a need for simple and advanced modes for everything from Apple. Some users can opt for simple and will be able to easily find and accomplish all the tasks they have and when the time comes that they want to go further they can shift to advanced. This could be applied OS wide or App by App.
Good luck to all the designers and developers at Apple. I know you are all trying your best, lets hope you get to show us some really cool stuff in 2017.