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In Defence of Giving Apple a Hard Time: a Quick Q&A
There's indeed something rotten in the state of California and this is how you explain it to trolls
So... yeah, now this is a kind of piece I never thought I'd write, yet here we are. First time for everything indeed!
Some background first: a few days back I posted a story on Medium about Apple's announcements during the WWDC 2021 keynote. Like many others, I commented on my overall impressions of what was unveiled and made an assessment about Apple's willingness and/or ability to innovate on the software front. It's a polarizing topic but, then again, Apple is a polarizing company. Comments started off well enough with some people willing to discuss things in a constructive manner, but it did not take long for the trolls to come and spoil everything in the usual way trolls do that on the Web for the last three decades.
Since it's becoming tiring and counterproductive to give these trolls answers that could be full-length posts in their own right, here's a Q&A instead. I got the answers off my chest and, who knows, others may find them useful in real-life conversations about Apple, software and innovative features. Life is full of surprises. So here it goes!
WWDC belongs to us developers. You've got no business reporting on that.
You're cute, trying to tell seasoned journalists what they should or shouldn't be reporting on. Keep trying, it's amusing. On a more serious note, it's just naive to think that because it's called a Worldwide Developers Conference it belongs to developers only. Apple clearly intends to have its software plans known far and wide every year, or there would be no keynote, there would have been no press releases, just developer sessions. Apple understands that this is of some interest to consumers and that's why there was far more mainstream than technical coverage during the WWDC week. So if you truly think that just because you're a developer you are the only one that can comment on Apple's WWDC announcements, you lack perspective. Find some.
Bah, you journos always whining about Apple and software "innovation". You've been doing that for a decade now. You're wrong.
Such solid arguments! Well, yeah, maybe. Maybe we're wrong. Or maybe we do have a point because if Apple had brought - actual? much? enough? - new software stuff to the table during the last 10 years we would have shut our mouths by now. We would not be able to argue with reality. Who likes to be ridiculed by claiming something untrue? No fun. But the fact of the matter is that, on the software front, Apple has not innovated for a long time and definitely has not innovated in a way that is meaningful and true to the meaning of the word.
What "innovation", though? Come on, everyone is copying everyone else.
That's absolutely true. And that is a major part of the Apple problem: while the Cupertino giant has liberally "borrowed" from others countless (software and hardware) features of every possible kind, it has "lent" next to nothing to them. Since everyone is indeed copying everyone else, there is this common pool of knowledge everyone is drawing from in order to make better products. Well, Apple has practically not contributed to that pool for more than a decade. There are some exceptions but they pale into insignificance compared to what the Americans have happily drawn from that pool over the years.
What are you talking about? Surely Apple has done some new stuff, they innovate all the time!
Well, they sure claim as much. But innovation is, by definition, creating something that wasn't there before. It's not perfecting something. It's conceiving and developing and offering something actually new. On the software front - which was what the original story was about - every single thing Apple showed during WWDC 2021 was "borrowed" from someone else. But it's not just this year. Notifications. Widgets. Picture in Picture. Swipe to type. Raise/Tap to wake. App clips. Phonecall UI. Sidecar. Siri. The list is endless. These are all features that predated the iOS or iPadOS or macOS functionality Apple eventually offered. So... no. The Cupertino giant has actually not innovated all that much on the software front during the last decade or so. Ironically, some of the genuinely new things Apple has come up with, such as 3D Touch, proved to be a failure that the company itself later rendered obsolete. Telling?
Yeah, but Apple is not about just the software side of things. It has come up with so much tech in the last few years!
Has it, though? The M1 platform aside - which is extremely good but hardly innovative as it is the extension of the work done on the Axx series of processors - all other features and services Apple has announced and developed were previously offered and/or explored by other companies, big and small. Let's focus on "general tech" during the last 4-5 years. Spatial Audio: Dolby, DTS, Sony, others. Hi-res Audio: Sony, Tidal, others. Computational Photography: Google, Huawei, others. AR: Meta, Microsoft, others. This list is just as big.
But, come on, man, that has always been Apple's style, right? Iteration.
Yeah, I know. Indeed it's been. Indeed it is. But that sounds terribly like an excuse nowadays. Why is this acceptable in 2021 terms? Why do we tend - critics and fans alike - to justify Apple for choosing this approach in the first place? This is the richest tech company in the world (sometimes even the richest one period) and yet it is copying much, much more than it's offering as examples for inspiration to others. It can't be a matter of resources, so it is a conscious, consistent choice. It is also an unacceptable one. Apple doesn't just have "responsibility towards its shareholders". It also has responsibilities towards the market it operates in - to give back in the same way it is taking from it - as well as responsibility towards all consumers, not just its customers.
Yeah, right. So come on then, wise-ass, tell us a few of those software "innovations" you'd like to see from Apple.
That's not my job, bro, coming up with new stuff on behalf of tech giants like Apple. My job is to gather information on a subject, process it, report and comment. This I am doing. Now Apple's job is, among other things, to come up with new stuff in order to contribute to computing as a whole. Not just sell stuff. Bring new stuff to the table too. If the company does not want to do that, people have every right to bash them about it. If they cannot do that, then they should go out and find very smart people whose job is to think ahead, to think beyond, and pay them a boatload of money to do that for them.
In any case, whatever made you think that if I had a truly original idea about new functionality on smartphones or computers, something never built before by anyone, I would be posting it on comment sections? Are you mad?
All right, so what is it that piece you wrote tried to accomplish? Piss us off?
Well, not necessarily, but I don't mind doing that at all if it also means that the particular piece made any number of people understand what the problem is with Apple these days. In short: Apple owes us. Yes, that is correct. It's such an entitled word, "owe", but Apple really does owe consumers for a simple reason: its "take to give back ratio" is extremely low. It has amassed an obscene amount of wealth stepping, in part, on the shoulders of others for a long time now. It has done so by following a variety of self-serving practices, "copying and refining" an important one among those. And it will keep following these practices for as long as humanly possible.
This is not OK anymore.
What's to be done about all this, then? The answer is simple: ask more of this company. Whether you're a fan or not - especially if you're a fan - call Apple out for not contributing to the common pool of modern computing innovation in a way that is meaningful to all. Call them out on this attitude every chance you get. It is the only way companies like Apple can get the message. At the end of the day: what you never ask for, you will never get. Simple as that. We all need an Apple that's far less reluctant to innovate and far more determined to do its part. Just... ask.