I know, I know,... the turkeys have not yet entered the ovens, and I am talking about Christmas. Shame on me. But as we finish off the month of November and move quickly into the gift-giving (er, getting) season, my mind wanders to what could be and what should be in the Apple server space.
Until 2011 Apple made a very sturdy, ultra-dependable server solution: XServe. It did all the things a good server would do: RAID, redundant power supplies, 1U enclosure and all around robust hardware (fans, circuits, etc). The problem was Apple was not selling many and was about to make a major push to delivering consumer-based cloud services with iCloud. Inside the hallowed halls at Apple the decision was made to build Apple’s cloud on UNIX rather than OS X. While understandable that sealed the fate of the XServe.
This weekend was more frustrating than most. I was going to show my wife some pictures I had taken on my iPhone. But within reach was my iPad. I picked up my iPad, opened the Photos app and my pictures were not there. What? Hmmm. So began the weekend hunt to figure out why.
First you must understand I try to avoid using iCloud (or anything that involves a third-party “learning about me”) as much as I can. For Books, for Podcasts, for Messages, for Notes, Music and Video I am unable to avoid using Apple’s syncing services. However, for Photos, Contacts, Calendar and Mail, I have some other options. For the later three I have my own hardware running OS X Server. But for photo syncing I want to continue syncing locally — between my Mac and iOS devices — when on the same Wi-Fi connection.
There is Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Messages, Facetime, Instagram,... an almost endless list of apps we can use to communicate with one another. But the tool that has been around the longest that no one can seem to live without (although a few may have have tried) is email. OS X El Capitan’s Mail version 9 contains some very solid improvements. These are not features that will jump off the page mind you, but instead Mail now works the way you expect it should, and sometimes even better.
In 2007 when we were first introduced to the original iPhone and iOS, many questions arose. Did it mean the end to OS X? Was iOS the “future” for Apple? Why did Apple create iOS instead of a mobile version of OS X?
On September 9, during Apple's San Francisco special event, Apple’s Sr. Vice President, worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took to the stage and introduced the iPad Pro. The latest and largest tablet of its kind from Apple delivers an incredible 12.9", 5.6 million pixel display, and weighs only 1.5 lbs. Accompanying the iPad Pro is a versatile accessory called Apple Pencil along with an optional Smart Keyboard. While the iPad Pro left the audience quite pleased, Schiller made one comment that was likely to have left Intel speechless.
Apple’s new OS X version, El Capitan, is now weeks away from release. Although unlikely, it is possible El Capitan might be released next week at Apple’s special event in San Francisco, or perhaps a day or two before the big event. This is great news for Mac users, even though many may not know it has arrived or what benefits it delivers.
Starting with the name of this release, El Capitan, Apple is signaling that this version of OS X is full of bug fixes, turning OS X into a strong, reliable pillar. El Capitan is a prominent feature in Yosemite National Park, and the play on words is not the first time Apple has done this with a new version of their desktop operating system. OS X Leopard (10.5) was followed by OS X Snow Leopard (10.6). OS X Lion (10.7) was followed by OS X Mountain Lion (10.8). In both previous cases the Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion releases fixed a myriad of bugs found in earlier releases and also managed to offer some new features. Expect El Capitan to do the same thing. Bug fixes and optimization — both in performance with Metal and in usability with Split View — are the mainstay of this release, and Mac fans should appreciate this next version of OS X.
Yesterday Apple released two operating system updates. In reality, Apple really released three: OS X 10.10.5, iOS 8.4 and iTunes 12.2.2. If you think about it, iTunes is somewhat of a pseudo operating system inside an operating system (for managing media on Mac, iOS and Windows).
First, Apple released all three of these yesterday at the same time. It tells us that iTunes must’ve been at the core of the fixes because it would and could effect both iOS and OS X. The iTunes release notes state this version contains bug fixes for Apple Music — a critical component of Apple’s iTunes strategy going forward.
When Scott Forstall was given the big boot at Apple, software UI design took a major turn at Apple. Several in the graphic design field have bemoaned the new UI design era of Jony Ive and his flat looking user interface in both OS X and iOS. However, most of the complaints are about OS X. Starting with OS X Mavericks and continuing with Yosemite, Ive & Co. changed the way everything has looked in OS X: from the dock to icons to system fonts, to windowing — almost everything.
Below are five things we have compiled from T-GAAP user feedback that would make OS X El Capitan far more useable and far more appealing.
Lately things have not gone so well for Apple — not that they have been disasters, but for about 8-10 years there was nothing our favorite fruit company could do that wasn’t a gigantic success. iPhone, iOS SDK, iPad, Mac transition to Intel, OS X,... just to name a few. That does not mean Apple did everything right (kill Xserves for example), but overall their successes far outweighed any shortcomings.
However 2015 has been a different year for Apple. With much promise, Apple Watch was going to be that “new product” that everyone was wearing. It was supposed to be the year that whether you went to the mall, to church or to the airport, you would always spot several people wearing Apple Watch. Nearly five months in, that just is not the case. Apple Watch is for sale, but even Apple hid its sales numbers for the device in their last quarterly earnings report (expect the same for this quarter’s as well). That is not something you do for a product that is flying off the shelves.
Last week I wrote about whether Tim Cook was the right guy in 2015 to lead Apple forward. I then followed with an article about the stock being in a dulldrums. While comments to both stories were not necessarily positive, both postulations may be true. Sometimes people do not like to hear the truth, especially when it goes against their preconceived ideas. Change is difficult for most, and adjusting to reality is often something people prefer to avoid.
The fact is Apple is in a funk this year. While OS X will add some nice do-dads to its plethora of features and iOS 9 looks to be a welcomed update as well, it hasn’t been since the iPad’s launch that Apple’s luster was shining bright. Sure the stock has done amazing things since the beginning of this decade as has Apple’s savings account. Tim Cook has proven to be a very good manager of what is. Incremental change over time with the direction of the company in an upward direction. But while good for the first four years of the 2010 series, year number five is proving a bit more difficult.