Tuesday, September 15, 2015

iOS vs OS X - Doesn't Apple "Get It" Anymore?

I've often been puzzled and mystified by the adulation poured out on behalf of Steve Jobs. I mean, I admired Steve Jobs long before it was fashionable, as a product designer he had excellent taste, combined with the unusual skills for a product designer of being able to command the respect and resources to deliver that uncompromised vision to the market.

While current Apple executives tell us that Steve didn't want Apple to be run by the question, "What would Steve Do?" the cadre of us Steve-as-superlative-product-designer people think that sometimes they should.

Because Apple isn't designing good stuff for me anymore. That wasn't a problem when Steve was designing or at least vetting the products before they got to market. Apple was not run by focus groups, its products were what Steve loved to use, and those of us who shared his taste were satisfied, and it was good.

Don't get me wrong, I think Steve Jobs' narcissism led to great products, because they had to pass that critical filter. If Steve didn't love to use it, we wouldn't either.  And there are more things coming from Apple that I don't think Steve would have loved, and I certainly don't. Apple Music for one. iCloud for another.  Apple seems to struggle on all their cloud-based services, and I think it's because they lose focus on who it's for. It's for me.  My music has to be front and center in Apple Music, not U2 or Beats One. I'm supposed to be able to share my family's music. My iCloud photos are supposed to show up on my and my friends devices.

But these are quibbles. There is a much bigger piece missing from Apple's puzzle, one that without Steve, will not be obvious to the executive suite until we help show them.

It's time to bring together OS X and iOS, cause it's a mess.

Apple struggles with reduced iPad sales and scratches their heads as to why. Seems real simple to us. My iPhone is a fantastic device to handle phone calls, messages, email and apps.  But for the real work, I put my Macbook Pro on my lap and get to it.  The reason is simple:

No one creates serious content on an iOS device. Can't be done. We may knock off the quick email reply, or tweet a few bon mots, but it was designed to be a reader device. For Steve. And for a few million other folks.

The MacBook retains its role as the beautiful, speedy machine I work at. When we are in pro mode, it's Microsoft office, with multiple open Word files, and cutting and pasting with Excel. Or immersed in Adobe Creative Suite, sketching content, rendering animations, collecting an article. The Mac crept in to corporations under the arms of creative professionals, and we use Macs to do our work.

That's why the iPad Pro and Pencil are so misplaced.  While Jony Ives has done the regular masterful job on the weight, aesthetics and chamfers, and Eddy has packed the iPad Pro with sweet processing power and the Taptic Engine that smoothly fools me into thinking I cam being stroked by a cashmere cat on my iWatch, there is a fundamental problem with the iPad Pro that Apple has probably considered and rejected.  It's just the kind of big leap idea that made Steve so many friends and enemies, when the inevitable has to be faced, as he did moving the company from OS 9 to OS X, and from PowerPC to Intel.

It's this: The innovations that Apple is bringing to iOS are exceeding that of OS X, and the user experience is diverging.  This is very dangerous ground for a company that taught millions of people that they should care about user experience, and in fact it might be the most important thing to care about in technical products.

Consider this: Many creative pros use a stylus, and pressure sensitive tablets from Wacom are standard fare. But coordinating your hand on a table and your eye on the screen is tedious and unintuitive. But holding your hand in the air to draw on a vertical screen is tedious. So useful tablets are actually now displays, with a pressure-sensitive stylus (ala Cintiq). Doesn't this sound a lot like an iPad? Of course it does, and apps like Astropad serve to fill that gap that Apple has left.  But the iPad is lower resolution that a large screen iMac or MacBook Pro, and variable pressure is coarse compared to the pro tablets.

Until the iPad Pro.

Now there is sufficient CPU, memory, and screen resolution that the gap between the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro is closing. We want to use the power of that A9 processor, and the resolution of the new screen and Pencil, but want to use it on the full Adobe suite, not the "light" version for iPad.

The resolution to this problem is really simple and clear, just the kind of solution Steve loved. It's this: The iPad Pro should run OS X, iOS should be a sandbox on OS X (like dashboard), and Apple needs to merge the Cocoa and Cocoa Touch user experiences. The results? Adobe could run the full Creative Suite and users could design with Pencil. The decision developers have to make about whether they support an OS X app or an iOS app start to converge.

Will there be transition pain? Possibly, but far less than moving millions of users from OS 9 to OS X, or entire applications from PowerPC to Intel.

iOS in an OS X sandbox. Bring together Cocoa and Cocoa Touch. Obvious. It's what the army of creative professionals who create on Mac are awaiting. It's what Steve would have done. And that was good enough for me.

No comments: