AMITIAE - Friday 10 June 2016

Cassandra: WWDC Notes (2) - Overtures, Plans and Sharpened Rumours

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I had not intended to write more after yesterday's Prelude item and was going to wait until Sunday, but the rumours keep flying in. There were also more details about what I may be up to in San Francisco, including a scheduled tour of the new Apple store with its $33,000 stairs (the whole staircase is over $1 million apparently).

Apple Store Late in May, Christian Zibreg on iDownload had a look at some of the new items and materials in the store, with a breakdown of some costs, with the bill for the whole store being around $24 million. I hope I have a chance to visit the site of the old store too before it is finally demolished.

Unlike other times I attended WWDC, there is to be some form of roundtable discussion for International Developers. I am bound to mention the quality of English. It may also be worth thinking about the new information on subscription apps, particularly with what I have below. As most of the people I know here just don't pay for apps, I wonder how this will affect them and the developers who produce some of the really great and free software out there.

With a few hours after the keynote speech to write my column and put something online, and a similar time before we head back to the airport late Tuesday for a flight just after midnight, I will have to be sharp when it comes to shopping. I am pleased to see there are other media representatives from Thailand going too.

The one thing that most commentators were excited about this morning (my time) was the rumor that Apple was to drop Space Gray for the next iPhone and switch to blue. Well, OK.

All of the reports I read were from the same source: Macotakara. This is a Japanese site that had apparently made correct predictions before, but then so have I. Macotakara had this from a Chinese supplier, so has about as much chance of being right as the toss of a coin. If the representation I saw on the article from Seth Weintraub (9to5Mac) is right, I want one. I'm such a fashionista.


The other main topic of discussion was a continuation of the debate following Phil Schiller's interview when the idea of apps, subscriptions, payments and the like were aired.

Some apps will just not be suitable for subscription and developers may need to think carefully before taking that route. I don't mind subscribing to iCloud as that brings with it the iWork apps, Photos as well as synchronization for many services (calendar, notes) and certain apps, for example iA Writer. This is therefore a strategic decision. The same is evident when users take advantage of Adobe cloud services and of Microsoft's Office 360.

With the vast numbers of apps I look at each year, I am less willing to join the club: any club. Indeed, those that ask me to link to Facebook, or send my images to a developer-run site or otherwise sign up, are not demonstrating to me that this will somehow improve my experience. I find this distasteful at best. There are enough apps to allow me to move on. If an app does not suit me - if there is no compelling reason to use it - I will not.

I wrote most of this section (above and below) before linking to an article by Jason Snell (MacWorld) who comments on this in, "Apple's App Store changes are good for developers but take consumers' power away". As he writes, the problem with the app store is that we have become used to apps that are free or low cost and expect the developer to continue to upgrade the apps, ad infinitum. Economically, that does not make sense for the developer, but is wonderful for the user.


My experience is that some developers get round this by stopping work; by never upgrading; by withdrawing the app. Some might then provide a Version 2, or a renamed app that has similar features. Snell makes similar comments, so I must be doing something right; or the system that developers are locked into is wrong, so needs adjustment.

Other commentators weighed in during the morning, including John Gruber (Daring Fireball), who confirmed that "free trials are definitely an option for any app that is approved for subscription pricing." Gruber expanded somewhat on this later, writing a longer comment which touched on a number of problems with the iTunes App Store and solutions that either seem to be in the air, or should be. There was a little more clarification later in the day (Ben Lovejoy, 9to5 Mac): "the experience must provide ongoing value worth the recurring payment for an auto-renewable subscription to make sense". This will take a while until the whole is clear, and there are always likely to be some exceptions.

The idea of somehow offering a free app or allowing users to run a subscription app in a free state does make sense but will radically alter what the App Store has been since its inception. Maybe this is what it needs, particularly considering the growth in app availability that has occurred. Let the best rise to the top; but the difficulty for users of finding just what is the best, remains.

There used to be a "recently released" section and I think there is a need for new apps - whether they are from multinationals or from students in third world countries - to have an equal exposure, at least for a limited period. I am rarely able to find out of the box apps and have to rely on other people mentioning them, the occasional developer contact, or simple luck, to find the best and worst of what is new.

Messenger A couple of sites reported a rumor on an expected Android version of Messenger (iMessage). I saw this first on iClarified, then later from Jeff Benjamin on 9to5 Mac.

I hope the reception is better than for the Apple Music beta app as it seemed many of the Android-user comments were simply negative, not because they tried the app, but because it was Apple. People complain about Apple fanboys, but the picture is as bad or worse on other platforms.

Apple is in it for the long-term which is what so many commentators (and several of those only short-term experts on Apple) fail to understand. One of the sites I use regularly is Jack Purcher's Patently Apple and this reveals many of the ideas that Apple is working on: at least those that might see the light of day.

One of the memes that annoys me is the way that so many pundits presume to know what Steve Jobs would think. It reminds me (in a negative way) of Princess Diana's funeral when the priggish Jeffrey Archer presumed to know what the deceased Princess would have loved about the proceedings.

Apple On Apple, these commentators make such pronouncements, usually when intending to criticise Tim Cook in the next sentence or paragraph, because he is not making decisions like Jobs, or the company is not being run like (they say) Steve Jobs would have been doing. Apple has changed. That snarky new kid on the block - with the skull and crossbones flying above the premises - evolved into a large producer of a wide range of devices, accessories and software.

Note that Microsoft was also being run by a dropout from Harvard at one time out of an office in Albuquerque, NM. Also note that MSDOS - the operating system that initially made Microsoft so strong - was not even written by the company, but bought in and improved.

Tim Cook is no one-man show although many seem to think this is the case. Craig Federighi is in total control of software, Jony Ive of design, and the recent comments by Phil Schiller on the App Store and subscriptions show that he has put a lot of thought - perhaps not perfect - into how the stores could be improved, on top of his Marketing duties. These executives each of whom has considerable power within their own areas of responsibility and Tim Cook (and others) are a team. That is also how Jobs worked.

With WWDC round the corner, it is useful sometimes to join the dots. A series of little dots appeared overnight when Apple updated its Logic Pro software. Like the recent GarageBand update, this now has additional features for Chinese music with more than 300 Chinese instrument loops (Zac Hall, 9to5 Mac). There are three new Chinese instrument patches: pipa, erhu, and percussion. China again.

Despite what the analysts seem to think, this is a massive market for Apple and providing Pro-level software for the Mac clearly shows that neither China nor the Mac are end of line. This update may well be related to new hardware and to the next version of OS X (or MacOS), but it will take the clever analysts to look inside the code and find some pointer to a new device.

See also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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