Apple Event Fall 2015, Hey Siri, ...

"Hey Siri, give us a hint."

Apple held an event1. Let's talk about it.

Apple product releases are one of the three remaining religious experiences in the world2. They are timed perfectly3, build to crescendos of capitalistic ecstasy, then fade away, leaving you raw, exposed, to contemplate your new existence.

Warning: this post is about presentations, corporate structure, and oblique observations. If you want product snark, feel free to read any of three million webpages4 devoted to second-by-second Apple updates.

These Words

These words were actually said by presenters on stage:

  • "We can touch the books we read."
    • Amusingly said without a hint of irony or self awareness.
      • Perhaps Apple has only been using non-corporeal books up until now?
  • "I can retouch the model's lips to give her more of a smile"
    • made up subtext: (because nobody likes bitchy models)
    • actual subtext: (because fashion publications edit everything to promulgate unhealthy expectations of beauty)
    • Though, did nobody notice this during rehersals? That's a process problem to fix: better cultural review of presentations by allowing multiple (trusted) age ranges and genders to preview content.
  • "Clearly, shopping from TV will be really popular in my house"
    • because, like, girls do shopping CHARGE IT! lol whatevz
    • After his previous dancing and now this slightly tone-deaf "lol, my wife, take her please!" comedy... what do we do with on-stage eddy cue?
      • lol you can't catch him, he's in his Ferrari
  • "Here's a photo taken in Italy. The buildings are beautiful."
    • Really? They kinda looked like shanty town shacks to me (or perhaps it was just South San Francisco, can't really tell the difference).

These Thoughts

iPad with keyboard is the best argument for using text mode editors and knowing their keybindings. What's the best self-contained iPad development environment? Just an SSH app?

Apple keynote speakers: mostly skinny white guys. Camera pans to audience: global multicultural village.

Protip: never let Australians5 speak in a keynote. it's just not cool. MAL-LARD.

How is gilt groupeee still around? Didn't they die with the other thousand flash sale startups of 2009?

Is "3D Touch" different from Force Touch or just rebranding? The difference (if any) was never mentioned.

128 GB iPad Pro costs same as 128 GB iPhone 6S Plus. Both are $949. Apple is laughing with profit all the way to their undersea city of aluminium wonders.

Apple didn't even redesign their logo or introduce a shadowy conglomerate over-corp. Apple is doomed.

Siri now has a Big Brother mode to always listen for the Hey Siri prompt. Has Apple explained the activation criteria (tiny hardware HMMs? all software?) or when audio begins to be sent over the network? My brain can't contain all the threat models for voice activated systems anymore6.

These Comparisons

Apple events are exciting. After they end, after the endorphins subside, we stumble back towards reality and need to evaluate what actually transpired.

There's a gap widening between Apple and Apple Users. Apple's view of how Apple exists is drifting towards more ideal while the real world experiences of people using Apple products are drifting more towards too many errors—or—worse: features only work when combined with subscription services7.

Here's a quick rundown of common Executive Vision vs. User Experience disconnects.

Adobe

Executive-level view

"Adobe has been making great iOS apps!"

User Experience

"Ugh, Adobe makes me login to every drawing app. WHY?! I just want to doodle on my local device, no cloud8."

Adobe's slogan is actually: "Adobe, we made fonts once then got too ambitious and broke the entire world."

Apple TV

Executive Vision

"new amazing Apple TV!"

User Experience

"ugh, Apple TV isn't playing any of my home sharing or iTunes match content again. time to reboot everything, even though I just wanted to listen to one song quickly before going to bed; now I've got a 30 minute long debug session to wade through."

Apple Music

Vision

"Apple Music is your one-stop app for all music ever created! Just click and go!"

Experience

"ugh, this interface is limited and confusing. local files don't play correctly. search doesn't work. we've had the same bugs for months. updates require reloading my entire operating system. is this the best you can do?"

These Miscellany

How many telekinetics does Apple employ to film those exploded device videos? Everything just breaks apart and hovers on demand.

Imagine if Apple polished their software to the standards they demand of their hardware. Sure, software is complex. Apple is self-managing everything including firmware, kernel, device drivers, OS, libraries, and applications across OS X, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS9. That probably requires more than 1,000 employees before even touching user-visible applications. But, each layer of each platform needs the same high water mark, best-in-the-world deliverable artifacts as the hardware teams churn out.

Just because software can be updated after purchase doesn't mean you get to ship buggy and broken interfaces today10.

For a company run by a gay man, Apple keynote slides11 feature an inordinate number of stock image women. How about some eye candy for the rest of us12?

We agree "live photos" is just harry potter newspaper magic, right? oh, god. jony ive graduated from hogwarts13. explains so much, doesn't it? Even why he's hidden in all his narration videos—cloak of invisibility.

heh, the Android lack of security model makes it easy for Apple to create export-all-private-data-to-iPhone app.

Musical guest has no charisma? Though, Tim did keep them chained up behind the projection screen for the entire two hour presentation. I'd be tired too.

Glee did it better14. Sam did it better15.

Was song choice slightly tacky with "no more counting dollars" lyrics? You be the judge.

Can't tell if it was cute or weird the band called out wanting Tim to fall in love. Don't they know we all love Tim already?

I imagine Tim Cook has a giant stack of private NDAs he makes everybody sign in any conceivable situation. Subscribe to my newsletter for more Tim Cook fan fiction.

Appclusion16

Apps apps app. App apps. App.

Hardware

iPad Pro: yay. Stylus: yay. Paying extra for stylus: boo.

It's understandable the cover costs extra, but it would be nice if new products had a feeling of getting more than what you pay for instead of paying more for what you get. But that could just be my crazy consumer-focused point of view17.

iPhones 6Ss: yay.

Apple TV: finally. Hopeful: maybe apps can provide better non-airplay-sanctioned streaming options.

Software

No mention of Apple Music the iOS app or Apple Music the subscription service. Probably for the best. The app interface seems woefully under-sponsored internally from development and championship points of view.

iOS 9: yay; but it still looks like there's a lot we don't know.

watchOS 2: soon!

tvOS: soon!

Purchases

Not tempted enough to give up my iPhone 6 Plus for an iPhone 6S Plus this product cycle.

iPad Pro is great, but not sure it's in my budget. Though, you did forget my birthday again this year, so maybe you should just surprise me with one18.

Apple TV is a definite buy19 to replace the existing Apple TV hooked up to my short-throw projector20. Maybe it'll fix the random streaming glitches too.

Conclusion of Appclusion

Apple Fall Event 2015 rates 9.8 out of 10. It would be nice to shake up the Apple event format by including more up-and-coming employees instead of the same roster we've seen for the past 20 years. Successful people are great, but give everybody else a chance to be successful too21.

-Matt


  1. For the 32nd year in a row, I failed to receive an invite. I'm not bitter, I just feel left out.

  2. the other two are seeing Sufjan on tour this year and seeing The Decemberists on tour any year

  3. as long as certain music executives and headphone snake oil salesmen stay far far away

  4. do kids still say webpages these days or is it all appy appy apps?

  5. Season 3 of Please Like Me resumes October 15, 2015.

  6. sometimes your laptop (Chrome binary blobs), sometimes your phone, sometimes your watch, always your Samsung TV, sometimes your Apple TV, your thermostat, your car, mics on the street attached to CCTV, illegal blanket mobile wiretaps, ...

  7. which is almost as bad as Google's motto: features only work as long as you give us all your data and sign away privacy globally

  8. don't cloud me bro

  9. Apple reportedly no longer has employees capable of modifying embedded iPod firmware, so those aren't considered fixable or maintainable anymore.

  10. Think of every noticeable software error as requiring a "software recall" instead of just "lol, devs will update it next quarter! until then, life is long, don't worry about it even though you have this problem 37 times every day."

  11. Speaking of keynote, how about fixing some of the half dozen bugs we hit every time we try to use it?

  12. Bill Hader doesn't count.

  13. and he's bald—is all apple technology summoned using The Dark Arts?

  14. Call me, Skylar

  15. It's the ever present artist paradox of other people performing your original material better than the creators.

  16. (a conclusion, but for apps)

  17. Another possibility is they are somehow resource constrained in the Pencil department and just can't bundle them together?

  18. I prefer taking written notes/drawings/diagrams, and my Adonit isn't as magical as one would have hoped (due to natural limitations of regular iPads).

  19. We'll see if I qualify for the pre-launch dev lottery. Update: I did qualify for the pre-launch dev lotter, and the pre-release Apple TV developer kits are free, which is quite nice of Apple.

  20. images are bigger than I am tall; about 120" on the diagonal

  21. (if they are willing to actually rehearse, stay on-message, and not waste the audience's time)