The Devil is in the Details

I finally figured out how to solve the most frustrating misfeature on my MacBook Pro. I have one of last fall’s MacBook Pros, a fifteen inch model with the Touch Bar. I have loved it since it arrived early last December. All except for one thing. The default position of the Siri icon is right above the delete key. I am a touch typist and do not look at the keys while I type. When I am writing, I accidentally hit the Siri key two or three times during a typical half hour session.

When I do, my first inclination is to reach up and touch the x on the Siri window that would make it go away if this machine had a touch screen like the iPad. Instead, I then have to use the touch pad to move the cursor to the x and dismiss the Siri window. This disrupts my train of thought and slows my writing down. It frustrates me greatly.

I knew that the Touch Bar was configurable but I hadn’t bothered to figure out how. Tonight, I decided to ask my close personal friend Google about it. Within minutes I was on the Touch Bar configuration screen. I got there by pressing the Custom Control Strip button on the Keyboard Panel in Settings. It was actually quite easy to substitute the Notification icon for the Siri icon. The Notification icon is a toggle. Touch it once, it pops up the Notification panel. Touch it again and it dismisses it. Unlike the Siri icon that pops up Siri and then toggles between two modes within the Siri window on alternate touches. Problem solved.

This is the kind of detail that seldom slipped past Steve Jobs. He was the ultimate user advocate. He wanted the software to be as frustration free as possible so that he could sell the hardware for a healthy markup. The purpose of the software was to enchant the user so that they loved using the machine. It was a tactic that worked well.

Don’t get me wrong, Apple still makes the best computers around. They have the most innovative operating environments on the market. I love my MacBook Pro. They are just getting a little sloppy on a few small details here and there. They need someone with vision to relentlessly insist on the best experience for the users.

They also need to rehearse their keynotes and other special events until they are flawless. These public events are where the reality distortion field kicks in, if you’ve done your homework and rehearsed your presentation adequately. I think they need to pay more attention to writing the script. I got the impression there wasn’t a script at Monday’s WWDC keynote. Just an outline on the back of an envelope. If there was a script, it needed more work.

Apple is about design and appearances. They need to remember their strengths and play to them. And continue making excellent hardware and the best software on the market.

Disclaimer: I own Apple stock.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Shiny Happy Apple Products

Apple opened it’s’ World Wide Developer’s Conference today, affectionately known as WWDC by the Apple crowd. The Keynote address is legendary for being the major event where revolutionary new products are announced. This year’s Keynote did not disappoint.

It was not as tightly presented or executed as it was when Steve Jobs was alive and still at the helm. But it was filled with glimpses of amazing products, some available immediately but most only available to developers in beta so that they can have a head start developing their products that take advantage of the new features announced today.

Three products stand out in my mind. The first is the sneak preview of the iMac Pro, a smoking new machine available next Christmas. It isn’t really intended as a consumer machine but there will be many professional programmers that will buy one anyway. At the high end it features an 18 core Xenon processor and a display like none ever built before. It borrows cooling technology from the MacBook Pro line to make it the coolest running desktop in its processor class. They are offering two terabytes of SSD storage as a high end option. It is truly a breath taking machine. And at $4999 for the entry level machine, it is modestly priced. Did I mention it supports up to 128GB of RAM?

The second product that impressed me was iOS 11 for the iPad. They are finally turning it into a machine that can do most everything that a desktop can do. It is certainly a premiere appliance computer. It much of a developer’s machine but then all the developers will be clamoring for an iMac Pro. They have added an app that lets you access the file system. They have finally mad multitasking useful. And they have added drag and drop between apps. They’ve added a bunch more features but those were the ones that stood out in my mind.

The third product that wowed me was the HomePod smart, wireless speaker system. Once again, Apple has taken their time and got the product right instead of rushing to be the first to market with a new product. By waiting until they got it right they have guaranteed their dominance of the category.

I know I said there were only three things that grabbed my attention and for the most part that is true. I do want to comment on three new libraries that they made available to developers today. The first is Metal2, their graphics library. When combined with the other two libraries, core ML Machine Learning and ARkit Augmented Reality API, they have set themselves up to be the premiere immersive environment development platform. This market is growing exponentially and may single handedly keep Macs relevant in the shadow of the huge mobile device market that accounts for most of Apple’s revenue.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

A Word or Two About Apple

I am an unabashed Apple fanboy. I have owned Apple products for years. I am well and truly invested in the Apple ecosystem of content and applications. I still believe that Apple produces the best products that are on the market today. That’s not to say that I don’t have concerns about Apple’s future.

The Apple of today is different from the Apple of a few years ago. A few years ago they were still executing Steve Job’s vision. Apple is an outstanding engineering company. They have proven time and again that they can design and build the best devices on the planet.

Apple has never succeeded by competing with the other companies in their market. They have done so by defining new markets and new products. They have repeatedly imagined totally new ways to deliver wondrous experiences that have taken would be competitors years to understand, much less replicate.

Apple still builds outstanding products. What they need is a visionary. Until they find one, the competition will continue to catch up with them until they have totally lost their edge. I hope they find one soon. I hope they return to the days of reality distortion fields and products that have to be touched and seen to be appreciated.

For now, I love my new MacBook Pro. I think the Touch Bar is entertaining if not indispensable. I think the USB-C ports are brilliant. It is without a doubt, the best computer I have ever owned. Some people insist on driving the best cars. I insist on owning the best computers. This one lives up to my standards.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.