There are a number of takeaways from Monday’s WWDC keynote once you actually look over the announcements with a clear head. But it appears some members of the media are concentrating more on whether Apple borrowed some ideas from other platforms than on how they devised ways to enhance the user experience for iPhones, iPads and Macs.
Apple’s crew made it clear that, as predicted by the tech media, the announcements would be heavily focused on performance and improving the user experience. Certainly there were problems with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. But the media also made little things mean a lot. While I wouldn’t say, for example, that the faulty iOS 8.0.1 update was a trivial matter, it was also true that only a small number of users were impacted. The update was pulled within an hour or so, and the fix released the next day. Everyone whose iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus was partly bricked could have restored their device with iTunes in about 30 minutes or so, assuming a normal number of apps to reinstall.
But some members of the media won’t stop talking about it, yet they will usually ignore Windows updates that do as bad or worse to a PC and aren’t fixed near as quickly.
In any case, it’s good to see that Apple remembers the joys of 10.6 Snow Leopard, and is prepping a fixer-upper release with the promise of better performance and reliability. While I did not encounter any real problems with Yosemite, or iOS 8, I realize that many of you have, and it’s good that Apple is taking stock at the situation. It’s also a smart move to concentrate on improving the user experience with existing features rather than try out new ones and create more problems.
That should be a headline grabber, but many so-called industry analysts and tech bloggers focused on the imagined image of Apple’s photocopiers, even though only a few new features have origins that could be traced to other platforms. All this without evaluating how well the features are being implemented, and that won’t happen until the final release. Even if the betas show promise, they will still be flawed in significant ways.
In any case, it’s fitting to look at how Apple is updating operating systems to address complaints, and the objections from people who have adopted other platforms. It appears to be as much about switching as about making you feel warmer and fuzzier about the experience. So we have the enhancements to OS X window management that include the Split View in El Capitan. All right, there’s a very similar feature in the otherwise dreadful Windows 8, which otherwise severely limited the usual multitasking options in handling multiple apps and documents. Apple simply gave you more choices.
One of the more intriguing improvements is Spotlight, which delivers not just a resizable and movable result window, but offers plain language searches from more sources. I suspect Google won’t like it so much since Apple is delivering more of the information you might otherwise seek via your browser. All right, some wonder why Siri support hasn’t been added to OS X, but consider the practical value. A personal computer is not always used in a setting where speaking aloud at random would be accepted. Yes, I understand about dictation software, but I’m not clamoring for a digital assistant, or at least one that responds to me verbally.
The promise of better performance, with faster app launches and app switching, may not be terribly sexy. But it makes sense any time you have to endure a spinning cursor or a brief wait to get things done.
The Maps enhancements for OS X and iOS 9 are also welcomed. Again, we are reminded that Google Maps offered public transit information several years ago, although Apple promises to offer a better experience as it rolls out the feature in different cities. But since public transit here in Arizona is pathetic except in a few limited areas, it’s not something I’d expect to use even after support has been added. But if you’re in New York City or San Francisco, where public transit is a significant factor in getting from one place to another, it’ll be a godsend.
The new multitasking features of the iPad are significant and have the potential to boost sales. But they are also getting criticism. Split View will only work on an iPad Air 2 or its successors, and some might call it a greedy move by Apple to sell more gear. But it may also be about delivering acceptable performance, that the feature won’t work so well on lesser hardware. That may not matter so much to Samsung, where features are often introduced more for hype value than usability, but it matters to Apple.
Siri’s improvements are also notable. Again the media will remind you about Google Now and Cortana, and how they got there first, but remember that Apple isn’t providing a voice assistant with data gleaned from tracking your online behavior, contact lists and personal emails. Everything is kept on your iOS gear. All things being equal, that’s an advantage even if Proactive Siri doesn’t work any better than the others.
Remember that Apple isn’t always first with a new feature or product. Don’t forget that there were digital music players before the iPod arrived. Do you remember any of them? A former BlackBerry executive remembers how they botched the launch of a competitor to the iPhone and nearly did in the company. And don’t forget how the first iPad killers quickly vanished from the marketplace.
By adding features people might be accustomed to on other platforms and, for Android users, offering a Move to iOS app for switchers, Apple is working hard to respond to the reasons some might cite in not buying iPhones or iPads. The Mac argument was won long ago when Apple took over the higher priced segments of the PC market.