Where’s the ambition, apple?

EDIT: There’s the ambition!

This blog post is an attempt to convey the frustration I feel with apple’s lack of ambition with regards to macOS. Progress has ground to a halt, and it kills me to watch.

The care and attention to detail that once radiated from macOS, no longer shines as bright. It is full of long abandoned software, that has no right to fill up space on every users computer.

Many flaws I point out are nitpicks. I include them to provide concrete examples of what I mean when I say macOS is losing its attention to detail.

Bugs galore

Every once in a while when I use my Bluetooth headphones macOS will mess up the sound balance, making one ear louder than the other with seemingly no pattern.

The macOS 'Sound' menu. A slider is present and is off-center indicating the error.
The fix is simple, just move back the balance-slider to the middle.

This bug has been around for years, with no fix in sight.

Once in a while when I open up my macbook, the display gamma will be completely off. Going into the ‘display’ settings and repeatedly turning on and off ‘true tone’ and ‘automatically adjust brightness’ a few times will fix this.

These are among the many examples of weird bugs present on modern macOS that were typical of past Linux. While Linux jumped leaps and bounds in the past decade, macOS stood nearly still.

Siri

I just put my frozen pizza in the oven.

Hey siri, set a timer 20 minutes from now

Image of what siri shows when calling the command

Siri perfectly recognized what I want to do, why doesn’t it just do it? It doesn’t matter to me what siri wants to call it.
Also, why does it say ‘Content not available’? That’s the type of jank that belongs in an OSS linux app, not a premier macOS feature for one of the presumably more common siri commands.

The touch bar

Enough has been said about the touch bar, so I’ll keep it short. Why should any developer spend time developing sorely lacking features for the touch bar, when they just released the most popular mac without one?

The only way I can make sense of the decision to release the air without a touch bar, is that it must be really expensive to manufacture and they were struggling to hit the $1000 price point.

As a result the touchbar lives in this weird limbo state. Apple themselves clearly are uncertain what they want from it, and it shows. Since its release the touch bar has been left mostly abandoned and it’s been up to third party developers to make it useful.

It can be useful, at least after heavy customization – something a screen lends itself well to. Why isn’t apple doing more to help users customize it?

macOS comes with an application called Automator. Automator is confusing for power and regular users alike and as a result, nobody uses it. Why not rethink Automator completely with the touchbar in mind? Bring the power of programming to regular users with an easily accessible ‘create your own button’ feature that lets users add custom commands accessible from their touchbar?

iMovie

My mother recently recorded two videos that she needed to glue together. After opening up iMovie, she wasn’t able to drag and drop the movies into the program. Nothing would happen when we tried doing it. No error message, and seemingly no other way to do it. After googling how to import a video into iMovie, I realized the problem was that the videos were .mkv format, which iMovie doesn’t support.

Why did iMovie not inform her about the problem when she tried dragging and dropping the movie? iMovie should let inform her what she is doing wrong and guide her to a solution, rather than fail silently leaving us completely in the dark.

.mkv is an open file format, and there are tons of free software that can convert the file format in milliseconds to .mp4 which iMovie supports. iMovie should just convert it when I drag it into iMovie. That would be the apple solution. For it to just work.

Podcasts

Apple recently released a podcast app. It’s not possible to change the playback speed. Apple’s own website describes how to do it on iOS, so it doesn’t seem to be a deliberate design decision to exclude it. If apple is going to build an app that will use up space on every single mac, put in some freaking effort and include basic functionality.

Photo Booth

Photo Booth is included on every mac as well. When Steve Jobs premiered it in 2005, showcasing the funny effects was a highlight of the presentation. Since 2005 Apple launched the iPhone and started the mobile revolution, yet the Photo Booth app remains untouched.

phones now take much higher quality pictures than macbooks. Who is using Photo Booth to take funny pictures, when their phone can do so much better? If there are many, apple should update the effects.

Image taken with the photobooth app of me with an outdated effect.
Is this the best effect apple can come up with?

Why does this ancient relic of an un-deletable application still exist in its current version?

iPad interoperability

Apple wisely decided to keep macOS (nearly) free of touchscreens. All your touchscreen needs are to be served by the iPad. Given this decision, I am puzzled at the lack of interoperability between macOS and the iPad.

Catalina brought us sidecar, which is pretty neat. But it’s difficult to believe the best use macOS can make of the $1000 iPad is as a second monitor. Apple can do better.

Logic & Garageband

Composing music digitally is frustrating to say at least. Logic & Garageband support writing music using digital sheet notation. This is the preferred way to compose music for many. Alternatively the notes can be written directly in midi. Both of these ways are clunky and uncomfortable, and painfully slow.

Why can’t I write the sheet music with a pen on the iPad and have it show up directly in logic? Have a look at staffpad. That is exciting! Why is this being developed by a third party? Apple has the capital to simply buy out the company, like they did with Siri, and make it an apple exclusive that neatly integrates with logic & Garageband. Now that’s something to make me seriously consider purchasing an iPad.

iPhone interoperability

For a month in between having my macbook stolen and acquiring a new one, I spent a month with Kubuntu. KDE Plasma has a phone app, from where I could control my powerpoint presentations. I got two compliments for my sleek presentations that month. It’s the type of feature, that just oozes apple.

The KDE team hacked that app together, and it is clear they’re heavily limited by having to run the app through Bluetooth on top of android. With full control of the hardware and software on both iOS and macOS, why can’t I control a powerpoint presentation from my phone without having to install janky third-party apps?

Apple controls the entire ecosystem, still I opt for an android phone. Having the same charger for my macbook and phone is a greater convenience, than anything apple has brought to the table so far

It is frustrating to see products that were once so far ahead, become dated and mediocre with no vision to create anything ambitious. It feels like we’ve collectively settled on building ever sleeker variants of applications that have existed since in the 90’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *