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Applesauce: All Things Apple – March 24, 2013

Mar 24, 13 Applesauce: All Things Apple – March 24, 2013

Jony Ive will be the savior to lead Apple back to their level of posterity. Mark my words.

And why does everyone in the world want a smartwatch?

Grab a jar, it’s time to get saucy.

Jony Ive is here to save us all.

No matter how you slice it, Apple is in a tough position.

Their competitors (namely Google and Samsung) have been steadily gaining ground on the Cupertino company. Apple was able to celebrate a good five years of smartphone and tablet market dominance. Yet, it’s hard to argue that Apple has been running faster than these two titans in this mobile device race. Sure, Apple started with a significant lead, but their competitors have been picking up speed in recent years. Apple needs to pull out all the stops and really impress with their next offerings. I’d be remiss if I didn’t temper the previous few statements with this: Apple still makes one hell of a product. Their unified design has proven effective for many years. The iPhone never has and (knocks on wood) never will be a bad product. But it always stings to have someone create a better product, doesn’t it? The pundits may argue about the usefulness of some of Samsung’s new features, but one point still remains: they’re hot on Apple’s heels and look to defeat not only them, but Google as well.

The time is right for a complete makeover, and there’s no one better to do it than Sir Jony Ive.

Ive: Trusted, Responsible, British

The man that Steve Jobs trusted over anyone else has been placed at the seat of honor over at 1 Infinite Loop; and according to a recent Wall Street Journal piece, he’s ready to do work.

You may remember the events that transpired last October.

In the midst of a Maps-related kerfuffle (seems hard to define it any other way, no?), Tim Cook donned his big-boy pants and sent Scott Forstall packing, but not without setting him in his office to be “supervised.”

Forstall was said to be a big supporter of Apple’s recent affinity for “Skeumorphic” design.

I say “Skeumorphic” because some disagree that the leather, stitching and reel to reel graphics in some of Apple’s latest apps aren’t necessarily Skeumorphic. I’m no designer, so I’m not about to enter into that argument.

With Forstall officially ousted, Cook moved Ive to the position of head over all “Human Interface.”

Put another way, one of Apple’s core competencies is building products with seamless integration between hardware and software. Think of the first iMac: the entire thing was a screen inside a shell. You didn’t have to install drivers, software, or install a CD-ROM drive or modem. To use the cliché, “It just works.”

What Apple needs now is another iMac moment.

Again, I tread lightly here because iOS devices certainly don’t have any sort of fragmentation issues. They have always been incredibly easy to set up and use. Yet, many pro users have run into several issues using their devices to do some serious work.

Though the situation has improved significantly it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get apps to get friendly with one another. Andy Ihnatko discussed these problems at length in his three-part manifesto about why he finally switched from iPhone to Samsung, a decision which I’m still smarting over. Making the entire process of using an iPad or iPhone is something that many feel Ive could make simpler, easier and, most of all, brilliantly elegant.

“Thawing”

According to inside sources speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s penchant for secrecy may have bit them in the ass a time or two. In year’s past, even the software designers were left out of the loop and not allowed to see what the next iPhone would look like. Ive had a few specialists in his shop which were allowed to be privy to these plans, but it was a tightly locked operation otherwise.

This process is now changing under Cook, a shift which one source aptly described as a “thawing.” Ive will begin working with the human interface team led by Greg Christie, the man who has been in charge of the iPhone since the very first iPhone became an iPhone.

While the Journal acknowledges that the two men work very differently from one another (Christie is said to be more blunt while Ive works a little more quietly), the two have been reported to be working rather well together. They even described these meetings as “pleasant and cordial.”

Glad to know everything is peaceful in Apple town.

These sources also told the Wall Street Journal that Ive is pushing for more of a “flat design” in future products. If you have no idea what this means, you’re not alone. Apparently this means future designs will be stark and even more simple than designs have been in the past. And one can only assume this means no more ridiculous leather and stitching in the Calendar and Find My Friends apps.

Just don’t touch my linen background. I know, I know…I’m the only one on this Earth who thinks the linen background is appealing.

It’s About the Software

A few months ago, Rene Ritchie from iMore.com posted a quick op-ed about the importance of software in future Apple devices. I’ve already mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; the best thing Apple can do this year is completely overhaul iOS and iCloud. The iPhone is one hell of a phone, hands down, and as pundits and journalists begin to argue the meaning of “evolutionary vs revolutionary,” it makes sense that Apple aim to evolve their software next.

Sure, throw a better camera and processor in there, but the software is what could really make the next phone absolutely killer.

Many have chastised iOS for being a five-year old operating system, and these criticisms are entirely warranted.

The whole grid of apps is an interface which just isn’t as elegant as it once was.

Put another way, when what we know as iOS was first released, it only had to beat BlackBerry, Nokia, and whatever smartphone Samsung was trying to mimic.

In other words: it wasn’t hard to annihilate the competition.

Ah, but the competition has learned some tricks from Apple. They’ve gotten better. They’ve learned to listen to their customers, and some of Android’s interfaces even have the air of elegance.

I know, it’s amazing.

It’s a tall order to place on Jony Ive’s shoulders. I know I certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes.

Yet we’re at the point in this life where it’s the software which really sets a phone apart. Sure, the Galaxy S 4 (or at least some versions of it) have an eight-core processor, but when will a person actually need to rely on eight cores? Are there any apps which need eight cores to run properly?

Samsung may have hit on the idea that software is becoming more important. Yet, Samsung’s list of software “features” seem more novelty than true feature.

Those few who deal with both sides of humanity (that is to say, cooks and sewage plant workers) will need to only hover their dirty hands over the phone to look at a message or swipe through a webpage.

Then again, you can’t type in a URL with gestures. You can’t unlock the thing with a series of intense blinks, now can you?

If Apple can do a complete overhaul of iOS, open up the infrastructure a bit more, and give it as many thoughtful touches as possible, Apple will continue to have the best phone.

Of course, as we’ve seen thus far between the Galaxy and the HTC One (and many would argue any Android phone and the iPhone), it’s not always the best phone which ends up as the best selling phone.

It’s a tall order, but I believe Jony Ive could save the world of Apple.

In other words, I believe Jony Ive could come alive (has anyone made that joke yet?) and be the next visionary to guide Apple through the next several years. With his vision and Tim’s leadership, Apple will remain on top.

Why Would You Want a Smartwatch?

The tech world has gone nutty for smartwatches, it seems.

Apple sort of started the recent resurgence of interest in this group with the sixth generation iPod nano. Of course, it wasn’t until some Kickstarter campaigns launched that people began to see the nano as a watch. This, in turn, led to other Kickstarter campaigns, like Pebble, who created an actual watch and not just a wrist band meant to hold your music player on your arm.

Then rumors began to fly about a proper “iWatch” with a touchscreen and ability to place phone calls and yadda yadda yadda.

Recently, Samsung began talking about their plans to have their own smartwatch.

(My bet is they call it the “S Watch.” I also bet they get sued by Swatch.)

Now the financial times is claiming Google wants to play this watch game, as well. And I’m left wondering why everyone wants a watch so badly.

Let’s begin with Samsung.

“We’re Not Copying. Not This Time.”

Lee Young Hee, vice president with Samsung’s mobile division, gave a lovely interview with the fine folks at Bloomberg this week wherein he claimed that his company has been toiling for a long time over their watch offering.

“We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long,” said Hee.

“We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how Hee took care to mention that his company has been working on the phone for “so long.”

It’s a preemptive move, a better way of saying, “Now, I know you’re going to blame us for following Apple, so let me just say that we’ve been working on this longer than Apple. Don’t say we can’t innovate! Look at this watch!”

Hee was willing to say enough to lead people to believe that his company isn’t copying Apple, but he (understandably) wasn’t able to give any more details about this project.

We could assume this watch would look something like the rumored Altius which popped up a few months ago. Even this device, however, offers no exciting feature. It’ll be able to display messages, answer and place phone calls, control your music, and possibly give you a direction to a place.

You know, just about everything a device with a 1-inch something display can do.

Not to be outdone, Google is also rumored to be working on a smartwatch.

This rumor has even fewer details than the Samsung S Watch rumor. The Financial Times is the only news source mentioning this rumor and even then spends most of the article focused on wearable computing as a whole. The “Google has a smartwatch, too” bit is more of an afterthought, something to fill out the piece that clearly wanted to be about that damned Glass, another worthless product if ever I’ve heard of one.

With the exception of COOKOO and Pebble, there aren’t many smartwatches available these days, and none are available through giants like Apple, Google and Samsung.

Any demand for a smartwatch can probably be met by the small players in this space. So long as these watches can connect to phones from Apple, Google and Samsung, these small businesses should be able to keep up with demand.

This new smartwatch craze seems to me like an Apple rumor which got way out of hand. Samsung kept their eyes on Apple and, upon hearing that Apple might be (heavy emphasis on the word “might”) making a watch, they decided to start building their own. Because, you know, that’s how this industry works.

But now Google is upset with Samsung because they look like they’re about to kick Google to the curb, so if this is where the market is going then, by jove, Google’s going to be there.

After all, they’re the company that likes to put more wood behind fewer arrows; arrows such as driver-less cars, ridiculous glasses and now, apparently, a watch.

I’ve ranted and raved on this forum several times about how a watch doesn’t seem to be the proper solution to any problem, save “How can I tell what time it is?”

Unless you’re an ardent fan of Siri and use that feature multiple times a day, I don’t see how an Apple watch would be such a great thing.

The same can be said of any watch, no matter the brand.

Then again, I thought the iPad mini was a ridiculous idea as well, so maybe don’t listen to me.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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