But what does Apple need to do long term to tighten up the ecosystem and bring some excitement back into its hardware, software and services? I’ve got a few things…
1. iCloud – I’m not sure how Apple gets to iCloud Nirvana from where they are now, but iCloud needs to turn into a full OS in the sky. The idea behind iCloud is that you really don’t know it is there but it is backing up and syncing all of your files across all of your devices all the time.
The end game for Apple should be this:
- I sign into a new Mac or iOS device and all of my data is synced to and from the cloud just like a Time Machine backup is done.
- iCloud works mostly that way on iOS now save for individual app settings and such but it should extend across platforms.
- My music, photos and videos should sync across devices too.
- Documents and files should all be versioned as well so that I can go back to older backups.
- All of this should be transparent to the user and happen in the background.
- When I go offline, I should be able to have all of this data, or what I’ve chosen, to come with me using intuitive Cloud/Local settings.
Oh, and make it do everything Dropbox does with ease of Airdrop.
I realize this would take an incredible amount of resources – storage, bandwidth and maintenance – but it would be worth whatever price Apple charged to never have to think about backing up or losing data again. Here’s Steve Jobs describing something like this in 1997.
2. App Stores. Even five years after the iOS and then the Mac App Store were released I still have some gripes about how they work. Security: Why after all of the brute force hacks on user accounts do we still need to have an active credit card on file for one click purchases? Can’t I just leave that blank, have some credit and put on every once in awhile. Why does Apple ask for Carte Blanche every time I download a free app? Yes, I know I can get a Visa Gift card or something similar to keep a hacker from draining my account on his friends’ apps. But there should be a way to opt out of Apple’s “We have X hundred million customer credit cards on file”.
Also, I would like to not have to sync up 300 iOS apps worth gigs of data on my Mac and be reminded when these apps need upgrading. It is time to divorce Mac iTunes from my iOS devices.
While we’re on the subject of the App Stores, why are they so slow? Even on an iPhone 5 or Retina iPad, I find the App Store painful to load. It often takes like 20 seconds for the store to start up and each switch between tabs is another ‘put the device down and wait’ moment. The Mac App Store isn’t much better on speed.
There is also a lot of inconsistencies during logins. I have a fairly complicated password (helped in part by Apple’s insistance that I change the password every few weeks) and I often have to enter the password 2 or 3 times to make a purchase.
How can Apple fix this? The App Store should be able to operate in the background so when you open it, it is ready. App updates should download and/or install automatically if I choose to let them (like Google Play) so you don’t have to do these manually. Overall policy on passwords should be a user preference –as in, if I’ve entered my password within the last few minutes, another password prompt shouldn’t be invoked.
3. Messages for Mac – Messages may be the worst Mac App Apple has ever made and this isn’t for some obscure app or peripheral app like Podcasts. Messaging is very important on the Mac – most folks I know use it all day every day.
Even with the recent update with the order of iMessages (only took a year), it still freezes often and leaves me with a lot of blank chats and sometimes even sends messages to the wrong recipient Perhaps Apple needs to start over with a better integration of all of the Facetime, iMessage, AIM, Google Talk/Hangouts, Skype, Facebook, etc. services under one roof. Maybe the best course of action is to buy the Adium team or Trillian to expedite the process rather than throwing B-listers at it in their spare time like what it currently feels like is happening.
4. iMessages/Facetime – These services need to be carrier level reliable if Apple expects people to rely on it instead of SMS or phone calls. It clearly isn’t there yet. Not even close. It would also help if Apple’s iCloud status knew before we did that critical services were down. Clearly there are humans reporting these services and they almost always are about 30 minutes late to an outage. What’s the point of having a status page that reports outages long after all of the blogs?
5. Android Apps: I think we know by now that Android isn’t going away and depending on who you ask, it is either the dominant or one of the dominant platforms out there for phones, tablets and TVs. If we are going to rely on iMessages for messaging, we should have a way to reach our Android friends and relatives.
Apple should build iMessages and FaceTime for Android (Remember when Apple announced Facetime, it was supposed to be Open Sourced for other platforms?) so I don’t need separate apps for each of my friends. Google clearly is building a cross platform solution for Hangouts which will eventually render Apple-only solutions obsolete. Even Blackberry recently opened its BBM service for iOS and Android.
Also, I’ve spent a lot of money on movies and music in iTunes. I’d like to be able to play that media on other platforms. Just like Amazon, Netflix, Google Play and others make the media I buy available cross platform, it would be nice to be able to go to grandma’s house, sign in, and start using my iTunes media – even if it is just a bare-bones web version of iTunes in the Cloud. Until that happens, it makes more sense to buy a movie or music on Amazon rather than iTunes. I haven’t purchased music or videos on iTunes in over a year because of this.
6. iLife + iWork. What year is it? Hint: It’s not 2011. Let’s see some innovation here? Looking at Microsoft’s Office in the Cloud or Google Doc’s real time collaboration should provide some motivation for iWork. iLife has stagnated. I would love for iPhoto to be able to handle much larger databases of pictures and movies.
7. Expert or Classic mode in Mac OS X. Since Snow Leopard, Apple hasn’t added much in the way of useful interface features in the Mac OS. The “iOSification” has made it easier for iOS users to use Macs but for those of us who’ve been here since the 80’s, these new features just serve to complicate and obfuscate the core things we’re after. Apple has also started hiding “dangerous” folders from novice users like the Library.
I know there are different utilities and commands that revert many of these changes but it would be nice if I could just check a box in the SysPrefs to get rid of Launchpad, let me see all of my folders including system folders and my media, and maybe get a little bit of OS performance back for my troubles.
We’ve heard some features like tabbed browsing are coming to OS 10.9, but clearing away some of the extra garbage would be nice.
8. Turn Photostream into a Social Network. Add some more storage space/longer than 30 day memory, much more granular sharing settings and a little of the ol’ iWeb magic re-imagined and it would go a long way. If all of my photos are already in iOS, why do I have to go to Facebook or Google Play to share them with my friends? Charge me a few bucks to make a Photo book for the web.
9. Apple TV. We’re pretty sure Apple is working on some cable browsing software to control the cable box (with Kinect-like hand gesture input) after giving up on a streaming all-IP network (or maybe they are still waiting for that?). But in the meantime, there is a lot Apple could do with the current hardware that is already selling in unit numbers far above the ‘hobby’ range.
- Obviously an App Store for TV would be huge for content folks. Stations could become apps. HBO Go should be a good example.
- Firecore (above video) and others prove that people would pay big money for a more open AppleTV. That means the ability to play media from network attached storage including AVI’s and WKVs too. Jailbreakable AppleTVs sell for double or triple of the higher spec 1080P versions that are still locked if there is any question of the demand.
- Make AppleTV an Airport base station. It has Ethernet in and Wifi so why do I have to buy another $99 Airport Express product? Also, Apple could make a cheaper version in the HDMI Stick format that is becoming very popular.
- Bluetooth. Apple recently let Bluetooth keyboards talk to Apple TV. Now how about Bluetooth mics via Siri? The hardware as it currently exists would allow this.
These are very doable software updates to current the current product, not any hardware design.
10. Pros. Tim Cook’s background is in operations so he sees a resource allocation risk/reward for Apple’s different product areas. Pros have gotten the shaft over the past 5 years. In hardware. In software. And even in services. The thing that probably hasn’t been measured is that Pros outweigh their marketshare in influence. Everyone asks experts what to do on making Apple buying decisions. These are the people that reccomend products for all of their families and friends. Apple hasn’t been keeping these people happy and they’ve been leaving (Final Cut Pro high enders have been migrating to Adobe or Avid for example).
We’re hoping Apple finally has some good news for this very small but important (and loyal!) market segment of the Apple user base.
One more Bonus gripe: Apple Stores. Can we announce a successor to Ron Johnson already? Browett has been gone almost as long as RoJo and still theres no hint of a replacement. Maybe RoJo’s the guy, part 2? Or perhaps Cano? Tim Cook hasn’t exactly been hitting them out of the park with his SVP external hires so perhaps an internal one makes more sense. Apple Stores are great now, but they would be even better with another retail visionary at the helm.
Apple’s approximately two hour keynote address begins at 10 AM Pacific/1 PM Eastern on June 10th. Apple doesn’t typically offer live streams of its events these days, but we will be live in San Francisco providing full coverage during, before, and after the keynote presentation.