Why Is Siri Still In ‘Beta’? -
Actually, these days “beta” usually means “Doesn’t do everything we want it to do yet.” Yes, some will define that as “has some bugs we want to fix first” while others will do what Apple is doing and say “we want to add more functionality first.” Anyone remember iWork.com?
Unfortunately, the company I work has a similar situation with a product. We have a software product that’s been in development for about 3 years (depending on how you count it) that has been available for use for at least 2 years but it still has yet to reach 1.0. It’s being advertised and sort of being sold—not in a very measurable way. But they still call it beta, for better or worse, because it doesn’t do everything they want it to do.
While I tend to agree with and prefer the more traditional definition of beta, I can totally see how the lines have been blurred. I believe it comes from the age of the internet and the ease of digital software deployment. Betas, alphas, and nightlies abound from countless vendors, both open and closed source but more common from open source. It’s fast and easy to throw something out there and then push an update whenever and however often you want, and most of your user base could be updated within hours especially if you have a required update mechanism. With the old method of software distribution this was literally impossible.
Beta is now the new “1.0”. Before, only the adventurous and geeks used 1.0 software as it was accepted that there would be many issues. Most would wait for a couple of updates or so to be released before even considering using a program. It would also take years longer for programs to be released in an effort to ship with as few bugs as possible. Now, there’s a common notion of “ship early and ship frequently” just to get something into people’s hands. In most cases it actually works out well but it can mean very early versions (beta/1.0) can still be unstable or incomplete, but gradually over time a robust and solid product can emerge, one that the public can use during that process. What label the initial version has is just semantics these days. Also, Google is a big culprit of causing the proliferation of “beta.”
Anyway, Apple is in the process of transitioning nearly all of their software products to more iterative releases including OSX and maybe some hardware, too (looking you, iPad). Smaller, cheaper, more frequent versions. But even with that, it can take quite a long time to get to something most would view as “substantial.” Final Cut Pro X is another good example of this effect and it was met with similar derision when it was first announced. If anything, maybe we’re lucky Apple didn’t call that a “beta.”
Should Apple be calling Siri “beta” at this point? Probably not. With iOS 6 came more robust features and more language support. I was expecting them to completely drop the Beta designation of Siri with it. While it’s still technically in “beta,” it looks like Apple may be trying to transition away from that. For example, look at the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 pages and their coverage of Siri. No beta there. It’s only still termed a beta feature on the dedicated Siri pages, and much less prominently at that. Maybe iOS 7 will take it out of beta entirely?
Lockscreen concept has... circle to unlock? What the...? -
I haven’t posted anything for a while. Hasn’t been much worth posting about, but here’s something anyway.
iDownloadBlog has posted a number of “concepts” for iOS 7 recently. Some are okay, but not quite how Apple would do it yet might make an interesting jailbreak tweak to play with and try. And then there’s ones like this…
PUKE! Wow, just totally awful. Cluttered, confusing, gaudy. So much information thrown in your face that it’s just unusable and therefore becomes less informative. Not intuitive at all. And while I understand it’s just a concept, there are TONS of usability questions unanswered here, like:
And those are just some examples. I’m glad people are trying to rethink this type of thing, but this particular concept is the complete opposite direction of what Apple and iOS stand for–simple, clean, easy to use, and beautiful. Does Apple need to tweak the lockscreen? Maybe. I guess. If they must. Will it be like this? Dang, I hope not. Talk about driving people away…
Scott Forstall to leave Apple -
Well this was unexpected and came out of the blue. But is it really that bad?
Apple announced today that Scott Forstall would be leaving the company “next year.” He’s considered the Father of iOS and the iPhone. He’s been around at Apple since NeXT and was close to Steve Jobs because of it. He’s done a lot of indisputably great work. It’ll be sad to see him leave but maybe it’s for the better.
Software development has an interesting nature. It’s difficult and never ever ever ever perfect—nothing made by infallible humans is. One person can make an incredibly awesome piece of software but quite often the original creator of it can only take it so far and it can’t reach its greatest potential without a significant amount of outside effort and maybe even a different person in charge to own it entirely. Any sane person who knows a thing about software would almost certainly agree.
So maybe it’s time for iOS to get some breathing room from its papa. And maybe with Forstall moving on to something else, the new stewards (in this case the genius Sir Jonathan Ive, proven Eddie Cue, and new-to-leadership but experienced Craig Federighi) can take the terrific foundation that is presently iOS 6 and mold it into something better. iOS 6 is still pretty much fresh out of the gate so there could be plenty of time for the combined awesome powers of the majority of everyone at Apple to put their heads together and really impress with iOS 7 next year.
Altogether exciting possibilities lay ahead for Apple. And hopefully Forstall can find something worthwhile to contribute to in the future. Maybe hook up with whatever Bertrand Serlet is working on?
Where should the iPad mini pricing start? -
While I’d really really really love it if they could hit the $200 price point (I want to buy 2 for my kids for Christmas), realistically we’re likely looking at $249 or thereabouts. Why? How is this possible?
Also something to consider is that Apple has previously used the success of other products (i.e. iPhone) to temporarily subsidize the prices of new products (like the unibody MacBook Pro and iPad) while they get on their feet. They took the risk of a financial hit in the short term to make a higher quality product at the same or cheaper price as people were expecting/used to paying. Fortunately for them, the demand for each new product they did that for balanced out the new costs of a new product and they never actually lost any money but instead have continued to increase their revenue dramatically year-over-year.
Now whether or not Apple does it, we don’t know. But there is precedent and definitely possibility.
Google Maps app would not make "the majority of iOS users... come rushing" -
Apple’s products are awesome. Awesome != perfect. Apple doesn’t pitch their stuff as perfect, just way more awesomer than everyone else. It’s the general public and tech pundits that try to portray Apple as being perfect (and as having “fallen from grace” when they do something that’s not).
When you think about it, though, they actually do a generally good job at living up to most people’s reasonable expectations about the quality of their products. And when they drop their failures and come out with something else that’s better after they’ve learned from their mistakes, no one remembers the old dud any longer. Just some examples: MobileMe as you mentioned (and .Mac and iTools before that), G4 Cube, liquid cooled PowerMac G5, iPod Hifi, Ping, AirTunes, original iPhone price, lack of features in iOS every generation, and to a lesser extent Siri.
As far as this article goes, I think people are giving Joe Public too much credit and Apple Maps not enough. Seriously, how many people do you really honestly think are going to notice that Apple’s Maps are changed? And then how many of those people will think it’s not “good enough” for the time being? Then how many of those people will go looking for a mapping alternative in the App Store?
Competition is awesome. Google should submit an app to push Apple and others towards making their products better. But claiming that if they did (and Apple approved it) “the majority of iOS users will come rushing” is quite the hyperbole. Apple’s new Maps really aren’t that bad. Everyone I have talked to in person about them find them far more than adequate and not any worse than Google. The biggest downfall is more sparse POI and business data. That’s the easy stuff to fix. So is the majority of this stuff. It’s just a question of man power.
Hopefully, things will get better very very soon and few will remember this next year.
As a follow up to my previous rant, here’s what I think about the
iPhone 5 new iPhone (still hate the name).
It’s freaking awesome.
I stayed up until 1 AM on Friday to order the darn thing. I sold my iPhone 4 two days earlier. I’m phone less. And oh boy, I can’t wait to get my hands on the new one.
The thing is, Apple isn’t playing the same game as the rest of the industry. They’re not trying to flood the market with dozens of models in hoping one model might stick. They’re not trying to appease carriers and give them some random handset just to lock customers in for 2 years. What they’re trying to do is release moderate, thoughtful upgrades annually but provide continual value through software updates and other services. Why? So they don’t alienate customers.
People get locked into what’s generally a 2 year contract when they buy a new phone. Android users are frequently upset when a phone they just purchased is no longer the latest-and-greatest 3 months after they bought their phone. They then have a bare minimum of 15 months (for those carriers that do 18 month early upgrade programs) to live with an “outdated” phone. Apple gives people 12 months before releasing a new device. But while each iPhone is better than the last, they do it in a way that doesn’t make you curse them and instantly hate your phone because the new one is so mind blowingly better. Reaction is generally, “Well, that’s pretty cool. It’d be nice to have, but I still like the I got now.”
The real magic comes in when your 2 year contract nears its expiry. Take two good/moderate updates and combine them together and you suddenly have quite the massive reasons to fork over the cash and sign away 2 more years of your life to a carrier to get. Could you guess where I am now if I hadn’t have mentioned it earlier?
Yep, I just sold my 2 year old iPhone 4 and I’m upgrading to a 5 on day one. Why? Because it’s world of a difference compared to the 4. They say it’s 2x as fast as the 4S in CPU and graphics. The 4S was something like 2x CPU and 7x graphics performance. So I’m getting a 4x CPU and 14x graphics upgrade. The minuscule camera updates? I’m still blown away every time I see a 4S image compared to one from my 4 camera. The 5’s will be freaking amazing. Plus I’ll get Siri which I hadn’t had before. 4G data? Yep, I had lowly 3G, not even the “FauxG” 4G of the 4S.
I guarantee 4 to 5 will be like night to day. I’m counting down the hours until I get it in hand. All you haters can hate, but trust me when I say there are many reasons 2 million pre-orders were sold on the first day and it’s not because 2 million people are blind. It really is just that awesome.
iPhone 5 is 'boring' because it's the same old awesome? -
The iPhone is boring only to the rumor mongers who published every blurry picture of a motherboard they could get their hands on and the simps who think a feature checklist determines a gadget’s merit. However, isn’t it hypocritical that the gadget blogs that drowned their readers with post after post containing every little unconfirmed detail leading up to the iPhone 5 announcement are now the same gadget blogs lamenting how boring it all is because “we’ve seen it all”?
These people are ridiculous. What were they expecting? The Verge’s Josh Topolsky also made a similar comment in the recent special edition of The Vergecast where he said he was expecting Apple to announce something totally new that no one could have seen coming. Seriously?
So Apple goes and totally refactors their entire manufacturing process for the iPhone. They accomplish major engineering feats by doing things like redesigning some components to be the same quality if not better but in a smaller package (e.g. rear camera). They upgrade absolutely every single part of the phone from CPU to cellular baseband processor to dock connector to audio system to screen (which is not just larger but has touch sensors integrated and full sRGB color) to antennas to Wifi. On top of that, it’s the thinnest and lightest phone but uses even more durable materials. It’s dual core CPU gets as good if not better benchmark scores than quad core Android phones and includes LTE while getting the same if not better battery life.
And this is apparently boring?
What else could you possibly want? Does Apple need to invent something totally new again because nobody else can*? Apple’s iPhone remains King of the Hill and the gold standard of smartphones. But this is boring because it’s still that awesome. It’s not less awesome and it’s not 10x that awesome. So ∆awesomeness = 0 : boring.
Great, thanks for summing that up for me, idiots. Better start spreading the word more. You’ve got 2 million and counting other people to explain it to. Hurry before sales actually become impressive…
*I’m actually all for competition. I want Apple to keep making things better and I would have loved for them to reinvent the phone again but that doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with the new iPhone. I’ve got an idea. How about ripping on Samsung, Nokia, HTC, and Motorola for not announcing some radically new blow-your-face-off features, too, huh?
FaceTime vs Hangouts -
An ad for Google+ Hangouts. How come I don’t see “Cross posted from Cult of Android” anywhere?
I’m sure Hangouts have their place, but that’s like saying Party Lines have their place. FaceTime is a phone call with video. Seriously, how often do you do 3 way calling on you phone? No that often? Didn’t think so. So how often are you going to want to do 3+ way video calling? Perhaps a little more often, but still not anywhere near as often as you would do a video call with just one person.
I use FaceTime regularly to talk to the wife and kids, as you mentioned in your article. My kids call their uncles with it. Of course they all have iPhones and Macs and we know it. But let’s face it, if you don’t know a person well enough to know what kind of phone they have, do you really want to be video chatting with them? Sounds like that would be with someone you don’t really know and haven’t met in person. I’m not video chatting with I don’t know.
It might be nice to have extra features added to FaceTime as an option, but these are options most people would never use or even think about (aside from 3G calls) so they’re definitely NOT deal killers. And those who need more can always use something else, which is what Apple’s offerings are all about—simple, easy-to-use, good enough for the vast vast majority of people who want buy into Apple’s ecosystem.
November launch for iPad mini? No. -
There’s no way it would be released in November. That would be a bad move by Apple. There are many reasons why they have released new iPods (the stocking stuffer of choice) in September/October for years.
Speaking first-hand after working at an Apple Specialist for 2 years, a late September/early October launch is the most prime release schedule for holiday shopping. It gives Apple a couple weeks to disseminate initial stock to all their partners. We usually got literally only a handful of any item Apple released to last us for about 2 weeks as Apple reserves all necessary stock for their own sales channel. And then the first big load, that all goes to the half-early adopters, the people who want it as soon as possible but don’t want to order it online or try to beat the rush of the first week. Stock can struggle a bit through the end of October. It’s typically only about then or early November that inventory begins to be steady enough for the normal holiday shoppers.
A November launch would most definitely be bad press for Apple. People being people would whine and complain and moan about not getting their fancy new iPad in time for Christmas. There’s no way they could get the supply and demand to match up enough in one month. And if you’re going to wait until after Christmas, might as well just wait 2 more months until February when you’re going to announce the 4th gen iPad anyway and do them both at once.
I really don’t see Apple going against their years of wisdom to try to rush one more product out the door for Christmas. If it’s going to happen this year, it’ll happen with the iPhone/iPod announcement.
Samsung tablet buyers thought they were getting iPads -
Now this is telling. Best Buy told Samsung they had customers returning Galaxy Tabs because they thought they were iPads. Apple should really focus on this. I know even I myself have been confused when seeing Galaxy Tab in person, had to do a double-take and stare at it for a minute to realize it wasn’t an iPad. And isn’t this really what the whole case is about?