Apple Makes New Efforts to Suck You In

June 16th, 2016

While Apple didn’t reinvent the wheel when demonstrating macOS Sierra, iOS 10, watchOS 3 and tvOS 10 at the WWDC keynote, they did introduce significant features that work best if you’re totally committed to one company’s products — theirs. So consider Continuity, which enables integration with macOS and iOS. It has been shaky, particularly HandOff, which lets you start a task on your iPad, such as working on a document and writing a message, and continue it on, say, your Mac. Or any combination of the above that may also include the iPhone.

But among the features that really hold promise is the Universal Clipboard. What this means is that you can copy a text or picture object on your Mac, and paste that content on your iPhone or iPad — or another Mac! It requires using the new operating systems of course, but it can surely save the drudgery of having to email or use Dropbox or another scheme to carry that material across the room, or into your pocket.

Except that it’s using your iCloud storage as the intermediary. Now with the default 5GB, it will probably be all right if you haven’t stuffed that space with your photos and other stuff. Most copy/paste operations are text, or small illustrations, so this system should work reasonably well. Of course, there may be somewhat of a delay to download and paste a larger object, but it shouldn’t be such a big deal.

But I still wonder why the copy/paste function, after 32 years of the Mac, is still limited to a single object. How about a Smart Universal Clipboard that lets you copy multiple objects with same method to keep track of each one? Take CopyPaste Pro as an example of how it might be done. There have been utilities of this sort on the Mac platform for years, and all we get from Apple is a way to support all your Apple gear with a single object.

At least it’s a way to entice you to stick with Apple’s walled garden. I get that, because expanding this feature to a Windows computer and an Android smartphone would present added complications, since they aren’t going to be using iCloud as the intermediary. And forget about the competitive factor.

But macOS Sierra’s ability to access your Desktop and Documents folder from multiple devices is where the trouble begins. Apple’s scheme is to store all this stuff in your iCloud Drive. But obviously it won’t fit within 5GB unless you don’t have much stuff on your Mac.

I don’t place all my documents in the Documents folder, and it still weighs in at over 44GB. I suspect it’s due to the presence of a Windows 10 virtual machine for Parallels Desktop. The real repository of many of my files is on the Desktop, where there are folders for my radio shows plus works-in-progress. It measures 208GB. In order to use this feature, I’d have to spring for $9.99 a month to cover a 1TB iCloud Drive subscription.

That’s the same price I pay for Office 365 Home, which offers me 1TB for each of five users in addition to 5 user licenses for Office on a Mac or PC, plus five more for smartphones. Of course, a Microsoft OneDrive cannot perform the magic in which Apple engages to create the Universal Clipboard and share the Desktop and Documents folders. So it’s means one more monthly bill. In passing, Apple ought to let you share other folders in which you store documents, rather than force you to use the ones they specify.

Then there’s the Optimize Storage feature that also uses iCloud to store the excess stuff. While 1TB should be sufficient for most Mac users, I can see where Apple might want to consider offering even larger packages, and I certainly think the price could be reduced. You should be able to order 1TB for $4.99 and, say, 500GB, for $2.99. The latter ought to be sufficient for most of you; it would be for me. I also think that Apple raise the standard free allocation to at least 25GB, but I have come to believe that 50GB would be a fairer choice.

But the iCloud Drive subscription packages are besides the point. The main issue here is that Apple is busy building out features that further integrate its operating systems and, hence, its hardware. When you move past the storage space you need, you end up with features that make it easier to manage your stuff and get your work done. With Optimized Storage, and the ability to keep tabs on unneeded installers and duplicate files, you’ll be able to get rid of all the cruft that normally accumulates on a Mac’s drive over the years.

None of these features are flashy and sexy. They are about efficiency and productivity, so long as you stick with Apple gear; the more the merrier. While Apple is no doubt going to be criticized for lock-on, don’t forget that Microsoft would prefer that you own a Windows PC, a Windows tablet, and a Windows phone. At best, they’ll get two out of three, since the mobile platform is pretty much kaput as far as market share is concerned.

The Android platform is too scattered to expect uniformity. Each manufacturer installs their own junkware, with the hope you’ll use those apps instead of Google’s.

At a time where sales are flat or declining, Apple is making its services as indispensable as possible. That move will continue generate a large and growing revenue source — and even the small fees you pay for a larger iCloud Drive subscription add up — and you’ll also be more tempted than ever to buy Apple when it’s time to replace one of your gadgets.

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One Response to “Apple Makes New Efforts to Suck You In”

  1. Kaleberg says:

    I’m not too surprised Apple doesn’t offer a multi-clipping clipboard. I’ve played around with various 3rd party extensions and they all have problems. To start with, a lot of applications treat internal and external cut-and-pastes differently. This means that your clippings within an application might bypass the clipboard mechanism completely. There is also the problem that so many clippings are of many types (e.g. RTF, plain text, an image). This means that each clipping may have many types and take a lot of storage and time to manage. Finally, a lot of programs defer actually providing the clipping data until it is used. This means it isn’t obvious what the multiple clipping manager should do, keep the handles, demand the data, demand the data if it notices the application is about to quit or what.

    Every few years I install a new clipboard manager and play with it for a while. Then I uninstall it. They’re a great idea, or at least they seem to be a great idea, but there is always something awry in practice. It might miss clippings. It might slow things down. It might have user interface problems as with the version that required a clipping specifier after the paste command. Some day someone will get it right, but we aren’t there yet.

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