The Macalope Weekly: It's the little things


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That’s pretty much all pundits have left to complain about. But complain about them they will! Our first pundit this week decries Apple’s wanton destruction of a vital app category. Then we’ll get caught up on this week’s ways in which Apple is doomed. Finally, we’ll learn how emperor iOS 7 has no clothes!

Cry, the beloved free app category

Ah, pundits. Is there nothing you can’t get exactly backwards?

“Apple Stays Closed As iOS Shuts The Door On Developers.”

Apparently not.

OK, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, what is this strange alchemy you’re brewing?

Rather than debut new opportunities for developers, Apple squelched them at WWDC by building its own substitutes for widgets, phone modifications, and whole categories of existing apps.

This argument again? Come on, it’s 2013. It should not be surprising that operating system creators incorporate useful features into their platforms. That’s been going on since Ada Lovelace confessed to her husband on her deathbed that she stole his idea for a knock-knock joke app and put it in her second algorithm.

Buy an iPhone or MacBook Pro and Apple wants your experience to be reliably great. It will do what it takes to protect that reputation. That means keeping its software largely unaltered by third-party developers.

Uh-huh. Because the Mac OS is unalterable by third-party developers, he typed on a MacBook Air with a remapped keyboard.

In iOS 7, you still won’t be able to modify your lock or home screen with widgets, shortcuts, or launchers.

Surprising no one other than Josh Constine.

Apple isn’t about to let anyone muck up its mobile operating system. The company would love to have you make an app, but get between it and its customers? No thanks. By the way, ask Google if it really loves Facebook Home.

But there was one little icon in Control Center that surely struck fear in the hearts of quite a few developers.


A flashlight.


The horny one must note: Emphasis Constine’s. If you can believe it.

Actually, even if you can’t. He did that.

Until now, Apple left it up to scrappy developers to offer apps that do this.

Some scrappy, some just crappy.

There are over 1,000 flashlight apps in the App Store, 50 in our own CrunchBase, and even one that’s venture funded.

A venture-funded flashlight app? Oh, Silicon Valley. You so cray-cray.

No, seriously, you are completely insane with this. Seek professional help immediately before you hurt yourself or someone you love.

They’re all in trouble now.

What’s next? Will Apple add a fart button to Control Center? WHERE DOES THIS END?

Skeuomorphism Off, Training Wheels On

Wait, now skeuomorphism is a pro feature? Constine bemoans the fact that iOS doesn’t offer the level of customization that Android does. Are we going to argue about Flash next?

… a series of stern prompts could warn people that they are going to change their operating system by installing and activating certain apps.

Yeah! People don’t ever just click straight through those to install something without thinking!

Apple could even prompt people at regular intervals to confirm their modifications …

You know, like a really awesome user experience does.

iOS was a marvelous introduction to smartphones for millions of people, and it will continue to be. But if Apple wants to satisfy us all …

Ah, the Macalope thinks he finally found the crux of your misunderstanding. Apple doesn’t care about satisfying everyone. It wants to satisfy the largest set of users in the best way possible. iOS 7 hasn’t “closed” anything. It’s just as open as iOS 6 was, if not more so. The fact that Apple didn’t make it rain pandas and gumdrops, as per Constine’s imaginary view of what iOS developers want, doesn’t mean that iOS doesn’t represent a great opportunity for them. Ask an actual, successful iOS developer.

Crying Wolff

Writing for CNBC, Alex Rosenberg brings us the strange beliefs of Max Wolff, chief economist and senior analyst at GreenCrest Capital.

“Four Reasons Why Apple Is in More Trouble Than You Think” (tip o’ the antlers to forum poster Mobster1983).

Wait, is this in addition to the “7 Reasons Apple is More Doomed Than You Think”? It’s so hard to keep up on all the ways that Apple is doomed. Maybe someone could start a wiki.

1. Privacy Concerns Could Disproportionately Hurt Apple

Why is that?

“… people might be more upset that they’re paying a lot of money and they’re still getting spied on.”

So, instead of just being mad that they’re being spied on, they’re going to be disproportionally mad that they’re being spied on via a device that they paid for. Hmm. Well, the Macalope supposes that’s possible, but he doubts those people will really be a large portion of the Apple-using population. It seems to him that another way to look at it is that users of devices made by Apple’s competitors might be mad they have a crappy user experience and are getting spied on.

2. Apple’s Tax Issues Could Become a Problem

So, basically anything that affects hundreds of other companies will hurt Apple more because … er … LOOK! A BEAR! [runs away]

3. Google’s Chrome and Android Integration

Apple, meanwhile, is doing nothing to update iOS. Just like always.

4. The Education Battle

“If I’m a school system …”

I’d say “Look at me! I’m an anthropomorphized school system! Stay in me, kids! Ha-ha!”

“… I can buying an entire classroom [of students] these Google devices, or I can buy two of them the Apple stuff.”

Sure! What’s the possible downside?

If Wolff’s thoughts aren’t head-bangingly stupid enough for you, you could watch the inset video in which CNBC talking head Brian Sullivan asks “Has Apple Lost Its Innovative Edge?”

TV news: asking the not-really-tough-but-certainly-sensationalist questions since whenever television was invented.

Look, are you going to take the word of design experts or a TV news monkey who noted that iOS 7 had “No more ‘skeuomorphism’ or whatever it’s called.”? Sounds like he read up on “design” for a full five minutes before filming this piece. His other complaint was that “It kind of seemed like all the Apple execs on stage wore the same shirt.”

Good criticism, bro. They weren’t the same, they were just all untucked, but that’s almost the same. Nice catch. Good analysis.

When Sullivan asked his first guest, Rakesh Agrawal, if he was being unfair to Apple, Agrawal said mildly, “Yeah, I think so.”

At least someone said it.

One star review

So, yeah, as you can imagine, not everyone was impressed by iOS 7. Like Dylan Tweney, a writer for VentureBeat or, as the Macalope calls it, Tiger Beat In The Valley.

“iOS 7 is not a redesign—it’s a pretty coat of paint” (tip o’ the antlers to Jeff Kauffman).

It’s amazing how many people became design experts this week, isn’t it? Did the Macalope miss an online class or something?

While much of the tech world fawned over the new design, I’m not impressed.

And you write for VentureBeat?! What are the odds?!

(100 percent, according to Vegas.)

Apple chief executive Tim Cook called it “the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of iPhone.”

I’m sorry, but that’s completely wrong.

Pundits always know Apple’s business better than Apple does. And somehow the company seems to soldier on. Weird.

The biggest change to iOS was the introduction of the App Store …

Well, OK, we can pick this particular nit until it becomes infected if we want to, but Apple didn’t change iOS proper by shipping an SDK and opening up the App Store. The horny one gets your point, and if you were being less of a jerk about it he might grant you this point but, well, here we are. The App Store changed how users experience iOS, but it didn’t literally change the code base of iOS more than iOS 7 has.

If you going to be pedantic, the Macalope says be pedantic all the way.

iOS 7 is an almost purely cosmetic upgrade.

Translation: I watched the whole keynote with the sound off. And I can’t read.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This paint job has some nice colors.

Like, uh, red. Red is a color, right?

What’s more, Apple’s new design language seems a little half-baked. I’m not the only one who feels that way: App designer Tim Green posted a complaint last night taking Apple to task for the little details (like yellow text on a white background) that just don’t seem right.

A beta that’s not completely finished, you say? Fascinating. Certainly we should all assiduously avoid talking about the overall appeal and the underlying improvements in technology when there are so many “little details” to gripe about. Just like we do with, oh, no other technology company ever.

Sad to say, this is not the dumbest thing that was written about iOS 7 this week. One piece decried the “feminization” of iOS 7, saying that “the icons practically ooze estrogen.” Seriously. No link to that, of course. Several others complained about a security flaw. In a beta product.

From where the Macalope’s sitting, it was nice to see Apple being Apple again. People will always stomp their feet about the company, but between the battery life of the Air and the design of the Mac Pro and iOS 7, Apple showed that it’s still got what it takes. Not that this furry observer ever doubted it.

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