"Can't innovate anymore, my ass!"
That was a remark made by senior vice president Phil Schiller
) keynote presentation at this week's WWDC conference. It came
immediately after a sneak peek at the future Mac Pro desktop
computer, which boasts a volume one-eighth the size of the current
design, one that has remained largely unchanged for seven years.
It also came immediately after numerous live bloggers remarked how
similar the future Mac Pro strongly resembles a cross between a
Braun coffee maker and a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Sleek, yes. Pleasing
to the eye, yes. Innovative? Well, it's an interesting design for a
Schiller may have been referring specifically to the overhaul
that's been long overdue for Apple's workstation line, but his
comment epitomizes the defensive and self-righteous hubris that has
engulfed the company since Steve Jobs was at the helm. Who exactly
was the SVP talking to? Why did he feel the need to be antagonistic
after showing off a desktop computer with a cylindrical form
factor? Honestly, nobody is saying that Apple
innovate anymore. The term has just been tossed around so often and
with so much abandon that it's lost all meaning within the city
limits of Cupertino.
Many would regard Schiller's remark as the most important pullquote
for the entire conference, and with good reason: It took on a whole
new level of irony a few moments later, when Apple showed off iOS
Anyone who's picked up an
) or a
) phone in recent years can see how much iOS 7 is "influenced" by
its competitors' features. The lockscreen, the swipeable emails,
the settings-heavy control center, the music player UI, the
messenger layout, the tabs in Safari, the multitasking cards -- all
have strong similarities to existing Android and Windows Phone
features. Many analysts have already compared iOS 7's newly
designed features to those that have long existed in competing
platforms in side-by-side screenshots, and the "influence" is
And if this wasn't Apple, there wouldn't be an issue.
Apple has gone on the legal offensive and attacked any company that
implemented a feature that bore a slight resemblance to something
it's done -- whether Apple thought of it first or not. Whether it
was multitouch displays, a swipeable lockscreen, or a rubberbanding
effect when scrolling to the top, Apple's legal team is probably
the most overworked department within the company.
So it's hard to let these lifted features slide. Any other
developer would be commended for finally stepping up to the plate
and delivering an updated OS that users have been clamoring for,
even if much of the functionality seemed pretty familiar. But when
Apple, for years, has planted its flag in settled territory and
fought everyone else that neared the border, it's difficult to
ignore the hypocrisy.
But there's something else about Schiller's remark.
The updates made in iOS 7 are, to use the term again, long overdue.
Largely unchanged since its 2007 debut, the iOS interface
absolutely needed an overhaul. The platform's icon grid and
skeuomorphic-heavy design looked dated more than a few years ago,
and while Apple's top brass remained steadfast in refusing to
update its look and feel -- almost to the degree that caused
) to sink to its current level -- its competitors scrambled like
hell to refine their platforms into something, well, innovative.
And no one else more than Android stepped up to the task. The
evolution in design that Google Inc. has orchestrated since
Android's debut is nothing short of extraordinary. Constant
revision and refinement have turned a rudimentary mobile OS from
2008 into a powerful platform with a clean interface and widespread
support today. All this while Apple stood firmly in place and
refused to change pop-up notifications and calendar apps with
stitched leather. (It's probably why iOS 7 has a distinct Android
So while nobody is really saying Apple can't innovate anymore, few
can deny that it has been out-innovated by Google in recent years.
Unfortunately, this last-minute push to update iOS is pretty
evident in its design. Lifted features aside, there's just
something "off" about the way it looks. The pastel color scheme on
the homescreen looks like a grid of Easter M&Ms. The cluttered
and minimalistic Control Center looks as if it's a wireframe design
of what Control Center is
to be. The universal symbol for cell phone reception has been
replaced by a decidedly nonintuitive series of dots. And while the
first six versions of iOS may have looked dated, there was
undeniable uniformity between all the apps and tools. Looking
through screenshots of the seventh version, that uniformity appears
to be slightly broken.
And the gradients. Good Lord, the gradients.
Cupertino waited far too long to make changes to its mobile
platform, and when it finally did, the results look like a
last-minute term paper. The ideas are there, the intent is clear,
but the execution doesn't quite make it. Had Apple made design
changes throughout the run of iOS, we'd be looking at a perfectly
polished iOS 7. But it's simply not there yet.
Nobody is saying Apple
innovate. It's just really frustrating when it
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