I know, the title is pure clickbait. But what do you expect, i’m a click whore.
Anyway, to the topic at hand. Next week, Apple will announce their Q1 2017 earnings, and as expected many people who are really into Apple are up in arms about it. What will it said? Would Apple make more, or less money? Would Tim Cook said something, or not, about the thing that other people was saying about that other thing?
Who cares. I don’t anymore. But i do have a bit in mind about Apple, and the current state they’re in. Maybe it’s worth something, but nobody reads this blog anyway so why not, right? Well, anyway.
I used to be really passionate about Apple. In fact, before i owned a single Apple product, in 2007, before the iPhone was even announced, i was really, really, interested in Apple. There’s just something about the company. Saying that is not really useful nor descriptive though, so let me explain a bit further.
When i see Microsoft, as someone who at the time was really into technology but still very young, and unable to understand what goes into product developments, i see abstracts. I see a bunch of ideas, and a bunch of people, working together. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but trust me, it’s bad. To be more succinct, I see fragmentation. I saw clashes of vision in their end products. At the time, i was running Windows Vista on a Dell Inspiron 1525 (with a racing black back cover, isn’t that cool? 🙂 ), the body of that laptop is all plasticky, and the OS, well, let’s just say that an operating system that force Bill Gates to have to appear in an ad acting like a sidekick to Jerry Seinfeld is pretty bad.
But when i saw Apple products, i saw continuity. I saw something is being communicated from a single voice. A friend of mine was using Macbook Pro at the time, and another was using an iPod. Every single time i saw both of them together, and i see their products, even just holding them, i felt cool. It just felt great. And where i live (Indonesia) Apple didn’t run a single ad, so don’t tell me it’s just marketing. There’s just something about the products that scream, we care, to me. Using them is a joy. The way the wheel felt to the hand and how it feels like it moves in sync with the album cover with real weight on it, was amazing.
And maybe that voice was Steve Jobs’, but i don’t want to turn this into a circlejerk about Apple is dead without Steve Jobs. Because they’re not, and will not be for a long time. Instead, i want to put out my theory about why, Apple is not interesting anymore.
The software. Steve Jobs, the man whose name i am really afraid to overuse in these articles to not sound like an entrepreneurial jerkoff, said it perfectly when he explain the downfall of Japanese electronics giant like Sony.
It’s the software. They can make beautifully engineered hardware, but their software quality is just not up to par, so Sony is dead. (I’m paraphrasing but that’s pretty much what he said)
And to me, one word, and one name, is the key to explaining why Apple software is not interesting (to me, at least) anymore.
Skeuomorphism, and Scott Forstall. I still remember, the exact first time i think the unthinkables: “Apple software sucks”. It was when iBooks got updated to the flat design version. Other official apple Software also got updated, and for some apps like Notes, yes it got better. But in general, the whole flat design thing is so terribly executed to me by Apple. The icon when iOS 7 first came out looks disgustingly bad compared to the old ones (well, at the time. Now that all things are flat, old iOS 6 icons look bad too), the software just have no weight to it. But most importantly, Apple lost all of their originality and uniqueness when iOS 7 came out.
But it doesn’t stop there. The end of Apple’s edge in software is well and truly complete when Android came out with material design. That update compared to Apple’s truly highlight the difference an experienced head of software engineering (Duarte) can have compared to someone who mainly deals with (admittedly brilliant) hardware before. Material is flat too, like iOS, but it’s executed better (again, to me). It felt more playful, it has more weight, it has more attention to details. It seems to have a single voice.
The funny (or ironic, i’m not sure) thing is, there are a bunch of developers in Apple ecosystem that has pulled off the flat design look much, much better than Apple does. So for the first time in my life when i was using iOS 7 (and 8) on an iPad and an iPhone, i just want to use anything BUT Apple software. I just don’t want to look at that ugly notification center. I just don’t want to deal with the settings, nor i want to witness the complete disaster that is the default music app. I also want the blue felt texture back. The complete opposite happen to Android, where the default google apps for the first time look much much better than 3rd party apps.
There is a bunch of thing that can be discussed about Apple’s departure from their original design language that is skeuomorphism, but i’d like to convince you a little bit, by trying to speak from an average user perspective rather than a nerd who wants extendability and Apple’s texture and animation to go away so that i can complete my task.
Skeuomorphism, when well executed, is much, much, much more beautiful, more human, and more interesting than even the best designed flat or whatever bland design trend that we have right now. At least, that is, to the average people. It makes the device more human, it makes working with them a joy rather than a boring chore looking at the same texture over and over again. This might be a bit surprising but for many people, working with a computer feels foreign. I still remember my mom trying out an iPhone for the first time after using Android (pre-Material ones). You know what she said? “Wow, the keyboard is so much better. It feels like i’m typing on a real one, it has weight to it.
And for a period of time, when Forstall and Jobs was in charge, Apple was the only place where one could get well executed, easy to use software that makes you feel like that. They’re interesting because they’re different. It’s like drinking a glass of iced water in hell. 😀
But they lost that. Oh boy, did they lose that. It’s iOS 10 and the dock and the glass textures they use all over the place still looks mighty ugly to me. So software-wise, they’re not interesting anymore. What about hardware? They’re still beautiful, right?
Yes, they’re still beautiful. Nobody has been able to beat Apple, hardware-wise. But trust me (no, actually, trust Steve Jobs), if there’s one thing that can kill Apple in the long run, it’s not the hardware, it’s the software. And little by little, i see more people who used to use Apple product when their software are not like this said the same thing. Somehow, Apple computer/phone/tablet is not interesting anymore. There’s no joy to it, merely a tool. Never have i heard people said “it’s nothing special” when holding or using an apple product before, but in recent years i have heard it, and it got nothing to do with new innovations, or the iPad screen sizes and whether they have stylus or not. Their software is just no longer interesting.