One of the presenters at the recent C4 Mac developers conference made a point about Apple that is incredibly relevant to how the company is viewed, especially by the media and rabid Apple fans. To paraphrase his statement, in dealing with Apple, one should never assume that the company is being malicious when its behavior can be just as easily explained by incompetence.
These days, there are a lot of iPhone developers—and users—who are suddenly rooting for incompetence. Because when it comes to the entire machinery of the App Store, something is terribly wrong. It’s not something you may even notice today if you’re an average iPhone user. But in the end, if things don’t change, what’s happening right now may seriously weaken the iPhone as a platform and enable Apple’s competitors to get the upper hand when it comes to dominating the smartphone market.
To say that those responsible for the administration of the App Store are actually incompetent is pure hyperbole. Setting up the App Store has been a gargantuan task. I know people enjoy assuming that complicated tasks are actually quite simple, but let’s be real here. In a very short period of time, Apple had to roll out a complete third-party development environment for programmers (while still trying to get all the screws tightened on the iPhone 2.0 software—and look how well that turned out). It had to set up a new infrastructure for selling software via iTunes and get all the legal documents and payment methods worked out. And for some very good reasons, Apple created an application-approval process.
You’ve got to hand it to Apple—the company has actually convinced most of the human race that at any given Apple product-launch event, it’s entirely possible that the world will be changed irrevocably by the time Steve Jobs strides off the stage to applause.
Yes, every so often an Apple product announcement is so groundbreaking and dramatic that it changes the industry around it. That certainly happened in the fall of 2001, when Jobs unveiled the iPod. And it may well have done so again in January 2007, when the company announced the iPhone. But as disappointing as it is to Apple fans and members of the media who love being the first ones to hear about the Next Big Thing, most of the time the company’s announcements are about tending its garden, moving its product lines forward and improving its bottom line. That’s the kind of announcement we heard from Apple on September 9, when the company rolled out a new line of iPods.
I was there when Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPod. And when the event was over, the assembled members of the press were divided into two camps: one group didn’t know quite what to make of Apple entering the esoteric world of digital music players, a field with questionable prospects and no dominant products. The other group of us had already grasped what digital music was all about. In fact, we had already begun converting our CD collections into MP3 files.
In the intervening years, Apple has brought digital audio and video into the mainstream, not just through the massive success of the iPod, but via the iTunes Store, the iPhone, and the Apple TV. These are all cutting-edge technologies, and that means that they can be complicated. While Apple’s products are more intuitive than most, many features can’t be mastered simply by reading the flimsy getting-started guides that Apple includes with its products.
That’s why we’ve created this newest addition to our Superguide series, The Macworld Digital Music & Video Superguide. This update to our previous iPod and iTunes Superguide is a straightforward and up-to-date guide to working with music and video, and comes packed with practical advice for handling digital media on your Mac, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV. In it, we’ve compiled the best tips, tricks, and advice from Macworld’s experts to help you get the most out of your device, your software, and your collection of digital media. We’ll lead you through every aspect of building, managing, and enjoying your digital media library.
The huge success of the iPod and the incredible media hoopla surrounding the iPhone have transformed the way the world looks at Apple. In five years, it has gone from being the company that makes weird non-Windows computers to the company that makes all kinds of cool products—including great, non-Windows computers. The public perception of Apple is that it's a technology juggernaut with immense power at its disposal as it steamrolls over everyone else in the technology industry while creating one industry-busting product after another.
There’s just one problem with that image: It’s not true. In the past year, we’ve seen numerous examples of how Apple’s reach can dramatically exceed its grasp.
Recently I was fuming on Twitter about the inability to set “private times” in chat applications. I’ve spread my instant-messaging address far and wide, and that’s fine—but there are certain times (like when I’m home looking up a hey-it’s-that-guy on IMDB) when I don’t really want to begin a random chat with someone who I’ve met once and who just wants to aimlessly chat about what’s going on in the world of Macs.
The good news is, instant-message services such as AIM allow you to adjust your privacy settings, so that only people on your buddy list can see you. The bad news is, I’ve yet to find an IM program that lets you adjust those settings on a schedule. I’d love to be able to say, “accept any chat on Monday through Friday, 10 to 6, but all other times limit the chats to those people on my Buddy List.”
But it can’t be done, so far as I can tell. My next step was to dig through the AppleScript dictionary and preferences file of my current IM client, Adium. No dice.
I know this because I was interested in reading the ruling in the case of the University of California’s stadium project, which is being challenged by various Berkeley groups. (I’m a Cal football fan, so the subject of Memorial Stadium is near and dear to my heart. And I’ve been known to blog on the subject in my spare time, so I wanted to be up to speed on the ruling.)
Apparently the Alameda County courts are using technology so ancient that, rather than generate a PDF out of whatever computerized document system they used to generate the verdict, they printed out a copy, scanned it in, and posted the images straight from the scanner. (And then relied on a Java applet I couldn’t get working on my Mac to display it.)