Industry

5 Ideas Keeping Apple From Greatness

The soul of Steve Jobs is being channeled by Jony Ives, Tim Cook, and others. Steve’s ghost is killing the company.
A living Steve often changed his mind. He was against local area networking, until he was for it. He was for Adobe, until he was against it. He was against Microsoft, before he was fine with it.
Apple has enough great people and great potential– it’s just stuck in a rut. It’s DNA has picked up some evolutionary dead ends that must be snipped before Apple can continue on to new heights. We need a business-level CRISPR.

Obsolete Idea 1: Tablets And Computers Are Different Things

Somehow, Apple has decided that people don’t want real computers that have screens that they can touch with fingers or stylus or other form. Instead, it has focused on making ever larger touchpads. If it can drop this idea, it can catch up to Microsoft with it’s Surface line, 2 in 1s, take advantage of Leap Motion and other innovations. Once Apple starts moving on, who knows where they could go?
A long time ago, it made sense for Apple’s phones and tablets to have a simpler, less resource-hungry operating system — thus, the split between iOS and OS X. Today, though, we can fit a whole supercomputer into a phone or tablet — Microsoft has proven this and paved the way. I believe that there is a huge, pent-up demand for Mac 2-in-1s, pen-based Macs, etc. Some have reluctantly switched to Windows to get this form factor — but many are still waiting.

Obsolete Idea 2: Battery Life Is Better Than Functionality

If what you’re holding is a real computer — sometimes you ask it to do hard work, even in the background. Hard work sometimes wears down the battery quickly — which has become anathema to Apple’s SDKs. App developers beg the OS for scraps of time to do specific tasks that Apple allows — ensuring that iOS stays out of hard-core applications. Gamers know that great power comes at the cost of… well… power. The rest of us can deal with that — stop curtailing the most powerful SDKs in the world to match this silly constraint!

Obsolete Idea 3: Thinner is Better

There’s an old saying that “You can’t be too rich or too thin, and if you don’t think so, you’ve never been poor or fat.” It’s nice to have thinner and lighter gear — but ENOUGH ALREADY! No super-thin iPhone is complete without a case that bulks it up gives it a chance to survive real life. I’d so much rather have USB and headphone ports and thicker glass and serious waterproofing in a slightly thicker body than a stupid lightning port in a thin body.

Obsolete Idea 4: GUIs Are 2D

In the late seventies and early eighties, researchers at SRI and Xerox Parc (and at Apple, kind of) invented the graphical user interface. It was raster/pixel-based, with Windows, icons, menus, and a mouse. Some prototypes even had touch and pen screens. Fast-forward to that late twenty-teens, and GUIs are basically the same. Sure there’s more color, more pixels, and we’re starting to experiment with voice, but not much has changed.
Heads up — the third dimension is coming to town. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and 3D printed everything is here and growing. The third dimension is poking at us, and we’re almost ready for it. It awaits that final spark — somebody to visualize it so well and implement it well enough that 3D user experience will explode  in a mainstream way. That’s Apple’s traditional market entrance. But the world is getting rounder, it’s a plane with a new vector, and Apple is stuck in Flatland.

Obsolete Idea 5: Media is Linear

It seems hard to believe now, but at one point in history, Apple was a pioneer in creating new forms of media. Everybody who became anybody in the 90s, in the fields of gaming, non-linear storytelling, hyper/linked media, had worked for Apple. Back in the day, it looked like there would be a new world of new types of media, with Apple technologies leading the charge. Instead, we got convergence — linear video, linear audio, books, and news all playing through the same device. Much more convenient, more pervasive, and more scalable than what we had before, but certainly not revolutionary in form. There are new methods of telling stories to be birthed — new media industries to be enabled — and Apple is still uniquely positioned to research and invent our way there.

Apple, Unshackled

What could Apple be if it threw off the chains of its malaise? It could contribute significantly to an improved world.  A really usable 3D user interface, with integrated voice, gesture, language, GPS, data-mining, and situation-specific domain knowledge could unlock a new level of empowerment for all of us — and Apple could double or triple in size, supplying the tools and the delivery mechanisms for the Age of Experience. The world is willing to give Apple it’s crazy margins, it’s haughty attitudes, it’s closed ecosystems. Just, please, make it worthwhile again!