My Hope for Apple’s 2013 - Great Artists Steal
We here in Apple Core love our Apple devices - at least I do. They're beautiful, long-lasting, well-supported, and make our lives easier. When the MacBook I'm typing this on dies years down the road, I have every intention of replacing it with another Apple product (Ideally, a black and slate MacBook Air with Retina Display!)
Apple has always been about the humanization of technology. Making things that are easy to use is part of what they are, and it's their goal to get the technology out of the way.
But, of course, It's not all roses. A side-effect of their ethos of constant refinement is that they very rarely invent brand-spanking-new features, meaning that Apple customers, while always the most satisfied, are never on the bleeding edge of technology. Nerds like us are willing to deal with this, pick your reason: we appreciate design, better app selection, more stable platform, etc.
We're now at a point where Apple's competition have implemented lots of new technologies and services, and in my mind, it's time for Apple to do what they do best: take these ideas and refine them.
I hope to see 2013 bring a slew of new features to iOS and OS X users, because great artists steal - and the best artists improve.
Apple's iMessage is among the greatest things any one company has ever done for mobile communication. The seamless integration directly into the Messages app, the automatic detection of acceptable recipient devices, the inclusion of non-cellular devices such as the iPad and Mac, even the money we saved lowering our texting plans - everything about it was incredible.
iMessage (and FaceTime, too) represent everything that Apple is about. Apple didn't invent this system of encrypted unlimited texting. It was available on BlackBerries and through third-party apps for years. Nor did Apple invent video calling with FaceTime. They just took these technologies and integrated them into the heart of the device, allowing them to work with nothing more than a phone number. You don't need to keep an app running or sign in. It Just Works.
"Just Works" is a mantra I'd like to see them apply further. I can see a future where the idea behind iMessage and FaceTime is expanded to voice calling, and beyond that, expanded to handle ALL of our texting, and ALL of our voice calling.
The technology is there. Google Voice does just this, though (of course) it's difficult to set up and then you end up with a new phone number and sometimes the voicemail doesn't work and blech. Apple can take this existing system, make one of their own, and bake it in deep. If you buy an iPhone, all of your calling and texting is free and unlimited, and can be done from any Apple device. Just like that.
Carriers won't care. Unlimited calling and texting is pretty much the only option they give these days, and it's bundled in with the data, so it's not like they're losing any money. Nobody loses, and Apple customers win.
Oh, iWork. How I want to love you. How I adore your don't-worry-about-it auto-saving and iCloud syncing between devices. But your collaboration options are... well, I was going to say awful, but it doesn't really count as "awful" when something doesn't exist at all, does it?
Google Drive is doing collaboration so much better than iWork, it's ridiculous. The two aren't even in the same league. Something like this absolutely has to be built into the next iWork suite, which hasn't been meaningfully updated since 2009, unless you count the iCloud updates of 2011 and 2012.
Oh, and as for getting iWork to a level of meaningful adoption? Include it free with every new Mac, and make the apps free on the iOS App Store (or at least cheaper, like the $5 iLife apps). I'm positive Apple doesn't make any meaningful amount of money from the iWork suite, considering I'm the only person I know who uses it. This sacrifices a small amount of revenue for greater adoption of an in-house service.
And, of course, iWork needs a web interface. Yes, I know, native apps are much better than websites. I'm not saying the web interface should be their main focus. It doesn't even have to be good, as long as there's some rudimentary way to access my documents from anyone's computer.
My last dream for Apple's 2013, and the one that almost certainly won't happen, is a beefed-up Apple TV, and the opening of an Apple TV App Store.
You know how when you buy an app, it has a little plus on the right side to say that it's also made for iPad? I dream a future where there's some kind of icon on the other side to show that it's also made for Apple TV, and that game has a version that you can play on any of your devices.
Let's say you download a fantasy RPG on your Apple TV and play it for an hour or two with the brand new Apple-designed game controller. Then someone else comes and wants to watch TV, so you get off, and open up your iPhone, where you can play a version of that game with different controls, optimized for the small screen, and the progress you make in that version affects your power and items in the Apple TV version.
Wii U is already testing these "second/third screen" waters, but Apple's in a very different position, and could launch a very different system. This is using devices that people already have, and even if they don't have iPhones or iPads, the games will still play just fine on the Apple TV without any supplements. And, most importantly, it would "Just Work"! Everything would be smoothly synced through Game Center with your one Apple ID.
And we've already seen how conducive Apple's App Store is to game development, and how much money there is to be made off of Apple customers if you present them with a product good enough to get them to part with their cash. A new Apple TV transformed into a gaming system while retaining all of its older functionality (at a higher price point than the current $100, obviously) would have a very good shot at seriously disrupting the gaming industry.
But, it can't happen.
Why not? Simple: wifi speeds. If Apple did this, they definitely wouldn't use any kind of physical media. Most people simply do not live in a place where it's easy to download the multiple gigabytes of data found in the kinds of high-end video game needed to float a dedicated console. I could see this coming out in 2016 or 2017, but not 2013. We're not there just yet.
Where do you see Apple going in the future? Will they shy away from the cries of "you're just copying other companies!", even though they've never shied away from such accusations before?
People have tested these waters and brought these innovations to the table, so in my mind it's time for Apple to swipe them and make them better, as they've done in the past. I look forward to seeing what happens.