Apple is not a creative professional’s company
There, it’s said. This is not news but based on the flood of disappointment following Apple’s this fall’s product releases, we were hoping for “our kind of innovation”. Not this “wrong innovation” where cables don’t work and effort has been put on things that don’t create value for us. If you are a Mac user and consider yourself a creative professional, you may have come to the same conclusion: it has been difficult to get inspired by Apple lately. It’s like they’ve been innovating all wrong. Apple may have been a creative professional’s source of inspiration in the past but now it’s like they don’t get us. Well, Apple does occasionally throw us a bone or two because we are crucial for Apple’s brand. However, let’s face the fact.
Apple is a consumer experience company.
Apple has an insanely successful business model: They sell you beautiful devices with a simple operating system. Devices by themselves are just meaningless gadgets. But, Apple sells you content that was created by others. With great content, the device is not a meaningless gadget anymore but a source of happiness. Everything Apple sells has a huge margin (read: when you see , you are paying extra) and yet people keep buying. So, devices and other people’s creative work with huge profit. How brilliant is that? No wonder others like Google and Microsoft have been trying hard to copy that model. Apple makes so much money this way that it’s understandable that, as a public company, it is the thing they focus on. Today’s Apple really cannot be that Steve Jobs Think Different company anymore. Creative professionals don’t represent a meaningful segment in Apple’s revenue Excel sheets. We are loud and colourful but business-wise, within margin of error. Apple has grown so big, we don’t matter that much for Apples business anymore. If you don’t matter for business, how could you expect to get the love from R&D that we thought we somehow deserve. It’s time to stop complaining and realise that Apple is not stupid or doesn’t get what’s important. They most certainly do. It’s just that what’s important for us is not at all important for Apple. The latest product releases have definitely showed where priorities lie.
Needs of professionals don’t matter
- Apple kills the standard for music industry to make room for stereo speakers. No professional needs stereo speakers for a mobile phone. Every music industry professional needs to be able to plug in their headphones. I have bought 5 adapters but still found myself many times in a situation where I can’t connect my iPhone to a stereo system or a mixer, making when I really needed to. Last time that happened? Today.
- SD card reader disappears. There was room for that, why did you do it? How do I transfer my 16 or 32 gigs worth of raw images and video from dSLR that doesn’t have WiFi? Back to cables?
- Connectivity frustrations: In the music industry, the development cycle isn’t this fast. Audio interfaces and other professional gear still works on FireWire. Again, time to go hunting for adapters and pray that everything still works. In any business setting, you find yourself packing and unfortunately, forgetting to pack those adapters. Soon you’re going to need a weekend bag for one day business trip just to have all the chargers and adapters that you might possibly need.
- The touch bar: Creative professionals work mostly with professional settings, having external displays and keyboards. When the details and quality matter, you do the best work with best work conditions. The real work isn’t about touch bar tapping in a noisy Café. The touch bar just raises the price but doesn’t really bring that much value.
Personal frustration aside, those decisions may make the product better for the average consumer who shoots pictures and videos only with iPhone and enjoy lighter and thinner devices because all the ports they didn’t need are gone. Also, the average user may get more done because now they don’t have to learn keyboard shortcuts as the popular context-specific tools are right there visible in the touch bar.
- Development efforts are focused on how to make everyday tasks smoother for the average consumer. Directions, maps, better workflows for everyday stuff. Siri. Where are all the workflow improvements?
If Apple wanted to serve creative professional
On the top of my head, I’d imagine we already had things like:
- Redesigned Finder. Finder UX is bad and Apple could do better. Apple is trying so hard to make people forget how to use files that they ignore things like making copy & paste great. You know how irritating it is to try to transfer 100 GB of files when the process stops if one file was problematic or there was already one file by that same name. Madness! Skip over and deal with exceptions at the end!
- Innovative clip board with shortcut support. For instance, multiple clipboard memory slots and shortcuts for them. Which leads to…
- Improved shortcut management. In creative professional’s software, there are functionality that you can’t set shortcuts for by using the keyboard settings (BTW: the UX of setting a keyboard shortcut is horrible). Efficient workflow is key to creative professionals. OS X should make it possible to control each app’s shortcuts separately with ease — even if the app developer didn’t understand to do that. Simple shortcut management could also help unify shortcuts. Adobe doesn’t have guts to do it but I heard Apple is all about courage. So why not?
- Touch ID for password management. It’s inhumane that we have to remember tens or even hundreds of user credentials. Why don’t Apple just create a password management solution so you could pair everything with the finger print scanner? I know, I know, you don’t want to risk losing Apple Pay’s competitive edge. Would it be so bad if people could actually use Touch ID so we could all forget about login problems. At least something really useful like this would help justify the high price and make the new MBP more attractive.
- A more efficient and less buggy window management. Seriously, having to drag those Adobe windows and panels every time you connect or disconnect external displays… Why not save and remember window management settings? Of course you need them differently set for 1, 2 and 3 screen settings. Shortcuts for certain app window positions, split screens and more
- More flexible input settings for keyboard and mouse. Saved workspaces. Browser tab groups
- Ability to keep wifi connection alive when closing the lid. Better compatibility with enterprise network settings.
- Top bar UI innovation or at least iteration. For starters, integrate the calendar with that time display.
- Re-imagined desktop that integrates calendar, reminders, notifications etc. Now the desktop is just an area where unorganised files go. What a waste.
- 32 GB ram! Today’s pro software is good at storing different situations in memory. Lossless work is great but swapping disk because you’re out of memory…isn’t.
- Faster processors. Yep, that beach ball still happens. They aren’t giving us the best of the line. Come on!
- iPad as external display. If Duet can do it and it somewhat works, Apple could do it in a way that it really, really works. It would be amazing to get to use iPad pro and Pencil on Mac apps, directly on desktop.
- Touch screen and Pencil support. If Microsoft can do it, Apple can too. But yeah, it’d pretty much eat the iPad sales so I see why this is never going to happen.
- A laptop that doesn’t light your fingers on fire or burn your… parts if you do performance-demanding tasks.
- SD card reader!
- Ability to charge the latest iPhone with the latest MBP without adapters
- Not having to carry a bag full of adapters when flying to clients — just to make sure I show things on a projector
iPhone and iPad
- Microphone that works for recording loud sound without distortion (think band practice recordings and sharing). Nokia did this years ago with that Symbian-based phone but that was Symbian and…well let’s stop there.
- Amazing camera and great professional shooting app. Remote controller for Flashes and dSLR
- Apple Music or another app for musicians: From musician’s ecosystem for tutorials, transcriptions, play-alongs, etc… to features like song tempo controls, set list, metronome and so on. You know, things that people would need when they’re learning to play songs.
- Apple Art/design ecosystem
- Connectivity without adapters, at least within Apple device family
Let’s move on
Apple has been getting a lot of criticism lately for not being innovative. In reality we’re expecting too much. Xiaomi is already making “the future iPhone”, according to tech reporters. Google is ahead of the game in AI. Microsoft has been a lot more interesting than Apple based on Twitter talk. Microsoft’s only problem is that they can’t offer OS X and we need that for our software to run. But is it even fair to demand miracles from one company every year? Apple has done so much so well that we think of it as Usain Bolt of tech business. Unrealistic expectations.
Apple has had it easy for few years which allowed them to focus on iterative upgrades and expanding their ecosystem… which is fancy talk for focusing on making money. If Steve Jobs was known for expecting the impossible to get the best possible product out there, Tim Cook’s Apple is all about growing the consumer business with efficiency, margins and iterative, small improvement. And it works, if you ask shareholders. During Tim’s lead, Apple’s share price has doubled. You can’t blame the CEO. Business results say Tim Cook’s Apple is the strongest Apple ever. What an amazing achievement, business-wise.
So, creative professionals haven’t been the centre of the world for Apple and even Apple can’t hit a home run every time. Somehow, we have come to expect both of those but let’s now lower our own personal expectations and agree that Apple is a profit-optimising company, and we’re no longer a priority for them. It’s time to stop complaining. We have to let Apple go be a normal company and start looking for that magical inspiration and excitement in others. I hear Elon Musk is serious about going to Mars.