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Apple may have finally figured out what they are

What we saw was so oddly different, we we’re still not sure what to make of it. We’re still cocking our heads like so many pugs, wondering if iOS 7 is even interesting. The wholly new look suggests that they were as bored of looking at the interface as everyone else was. So where are their strengths?
By
June 11, 2013
Apple Logo iPad 2 1600

Heading into WWDC, Apple made no bones about what we’d be getting from them. Unlike I/O, which is full of delightful mystery in the months leading up to it, Apple is fairly straightforward about WWDC. Walking into the event, banners with “7” and “X” decked the Moscone center. Anyone who was there, or cared to keep tabs on Apple, knew what they were about to see.

They copied everything!

You heard it, I heard it, and everyone said it. The world had memes ready to go before the event began, and were ready for any news of anything even remotely suspect. We took bets on how often we’d hear “revolutionary” or “magical”. Still, we were interested in what was coming out way from Apple. Would we get true innovation, or more of the same?

The interface is new for the sake of being new.

Neither, really. What we saw was so oddly different, we we’re still not sure what to make of it. We’re still cocking our heads like so many pugs, wondering if iOS 7 is even interesting. The wholly new look suggests that they were as bored of looking at the interface as everyone else was. New icons, a new color scheme, but still no innovative features to speak of.

The commentary isn’t that Apple copied. That much is clear. The real issue is how clean a forgery this new OS is. Only time, and use, will tell. So far, it looks like a really half-hearted effort to satiate unruly users. The interface is new for the sake of being new.

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Stolen from where?

If we look further into the actual design, there is no direct lineage. We can’t rightly say they took from Android or Windows, wholly. We see some wisps of TouchWiz, and a few subtle Windows Phone touches. Android is peeking at us from iOS 7, too.

To get tucked into an argument about where these design cues came from is to open a can of worms. Software design is ripe with theft. If we’re being fair, we could make the point that just about everyone stole design cues from Apple in getting where they are now, Android included. Again, there is no point to tracing the history of design, because we’ll just get all the way back to cave drawings and unibrows.

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The real Apple

So what if iOS 7 is strange, and copied from other sources? Taste is subjective, so to bang hands on tables and deem it a failure is silly. For what it’s worth, iOS 7 may have taught us about who Apple really is, and where their strength lies.

Apple is the single greatest tech hardware company. Ever.

To begin with, Apple made many jokes at their own expense yesterday. They hinted at their Maps failures right at the beginning, which may mean they understand what they are as much as what they’re not. Maps was poorly implemented, and rushed to market, but also indicative of what Apple isn’t the past few years.

 

Hard on software

If we compare Apple to Google, we’ll see that they’re polar opposites. Google is a company that focuses on services, and makes no bones about wanting to be the best at it. Search, Maps, Gmail, social; you name it, they want to be on top. Google has wisely stayed out of the hardware game, even going so far as to treat Motorola as a subsidy rather than a branch of itself.

Therein lies the difference. Apple is the single greatest tech hardware company. Ever.

We can poke fun at iOS all we like, and we will. I’m as guilty as you may be, and have fun doing it. While in jest, what isn’t up for debate is Apple’s ability to create stellar hardware. While the iPhone has become our poster child for what Android isn’t, it’s still an absolutely wonderful device when we consider the hardware alone.

Take the new Mac Pro. It’s about 85% smaller than the previous model, and packs a much more devastating punch. Double the CPU performance, lightning quick RAM, and a GPU that is almost three times as speedy. Remember, we’re talking about a machine that designers use to develop massive video games and movie CGI, not browse the internet.

It’s also a brand new design, as you can see below. I tight little cylinder, rather than a bulky box. It’s odd, but really innovative and gorgeous. It saves space, improves output, and solves many design issues of previous models. That’s true hardware innovation.

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“Great artists steal”

We may not like Apple products because iOS doesn’t suit us, or their desktop OS is not our speed. The hardware, however, is sublime. The new Mac Pro only cements them as the best hardware manufacturer on earth, and quietly bolsters their entire product line.

Steve Jobs once pinched a line from Picasso, saying “good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” To consider iOS 7 a work of art is a stretch, but an interesting argument. To consider their hardware a work of art is absolute. Timeless, clean lines which give way to an industry of copycat designs. They may pinch ideas when it comes to software design, but the hardware has historically been transcendent.

As Android fans, we’re used to simply moving on to a different device if one doesn’t suit our needs. We’ve also become keenly aware that, even if our OS experience doesn’t fit well, we can look to custom ROMs instead. With so much variety, our only real concern is functionality. Apple has the opposite approach.

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The Apple way

Apple only does one thing at a time. Their proprietary nature means they only have one OS, one phone, and several iterations of (essentially) the same computer. We look to Apple, and expect moonshots each time they do something. That’s simply not going to happen. Great hardware, however, is a lock.

We look to Apple, and expect moonshots each time they do something. That’s simply not going to happen.

Apple simply can’t make iOS as beautiful or functional as Android has the ability to be. This is result of the age-old “proprietary versus open source” argument. Android is sublime because there are so many contributing to the success of the platform, while Apple simply dictates what “their” OS is. In their “theft” of ideas for iOS 7, they may have softly conceded their place to Android. Apple has also begun accepting Google services like Maps on their platform, again suggesting an understanding that they’ve been bested.

In closing out WWDC yesterday, Tim Cook said “our Goal at Apple is to make really great products”. We can only hope we’re seeing Apple begin to grasp who they are, and where their strengths lie. More importantly, where they fall short. If iOS 7, when compared to the Mac Pro, is any indication of where they’re putting forth effort, it seems they may understand. Finally.