While I am excited about Swift, I am apprehensive about the frequent use of the word ‘seamless’ during yesterday’s WWDC presentation to describe many other things. Apple is notorious for being really bad at services — or I should say, “not as reliable” as their competitors. They have improved the reliability of these services, but even with the very latest iWork update, they continue to miss the mark. From David Sparks:
Yesterday I had a small writing project with a Mac-savvy client and I decided to do it collaboratively with him using iCloud Pages. I figured that if the application can support 100 collaborators, it should be pretty solid with just two. It still isn’t.
That’s the most recent release of iWork, just days before the WWDC announcement about more, seamless workflows. Color me skeptical.
Perhaps what should be encouraging is that CloudKit, and other iCloud services, seem to be different from the infamously bad iCloud implementation of CoreData. Not very many details are out, but a few tweets from programmers attending CloudKit sessions seem to indicate they at least believe it is possible for the service to function appropriately. Perhaps this indicates that some future version of iWork will be updated to include some of these other functions, that it will continue its slow shuffle in the direction of improvement?
“I would only agree that a symbolic [cloud service] is as nourishing to the intellect as a photograph of oxygen to a drowning man.” — Dr. Manhattan
Part of this overhaul includes rethinking the storage, and sharing, of photos on your devices. Mac OS X.X and iOS 8 will have some more persistent available storage for your photos, instead of the weird, busted, Photostream system that no one has been happy with. This is good, in theory, but they didn’t go in to a lot of detail about the tools to manage the storage, or to archive, old photos. I am hopeful that they learned their lesson from Photostream, but the fact that there is another new Photos app that won’t ship until “early next year” should be a red flag that this idea hasn’t really been fully tested. This was not an announcement they were making for a project that’s been under development for years, this was something that was far more recent. Let’s focus on the positives… I’m sure it will seamlessly move photos around just in the way that I both want and expect it to. I’m sure.
PhotoKit, however, would seem to solve a problem for some photo apps that want to ingest your photos in to their own storage facility to use their app. Things like VSCOcam. There really isn’t a reason to have a duplicate collection of photos that you need to keep importing from your Camera Roll and exporting to your Camera Roll.
Another strange development in the rat-king that is iCloud services, is that they’ve added some support to directly access other cloud storage solutions. Notably absent were the two biggest, most widely-used cloud storage solutions on the market: Dropbox and Google Drive. Will this mean that there’s going to be a bifurcated experience going forward? If I have data in one of those buckets, like Dropbox, then will I have separate storage widgets popping up using Extensions? That would seem to make for a less than ideal user experience! I’d hardly apply the word ‘seamless’ to that. While Extensions can solve many problems that users experience, they can also create new problems if every developer chooses to carve out “me-me-me” space for themselves. A year from now, when people go to save files, are they going to get a list of 10+ services they can save to? When they open a file, are they going to immediately remember what service it was saved on? When they go to save it, will they know to return it to the same place? Particularly if some services choose extensions, or built-in Dropbox browsers?
They have three tiers.
- 5 GB for free.
- 20 GB for $.99 a month.
- 200 GB for $2.99 a month.
- Plans up to 1 TB for ? a month.
The top end is a good value, relative to Dropbox, but the low end is laughable. I am fine paying for it, but as Bradley Chambers notes on his blog:
While people reading this article understand that $.99 is cheap for 20 GB, a lot of regular people will just not pay any amount of money for it. They will just use up their 5 GB and then nothing else will be uploaded or backed up. When they drop their phone in the pool, they will still be upset that some of their photos aren’t backed up. Google offers 15 GB for Google Drive as the starter plan. We can argue about business models all day long, but the bottom line is that things like automatic backup with a ton of storage for free helps sell devices.
Preach, Brad. Like I said, I am fine with it, but I am unlikely to run in to normals that will put down money for this. We exchanged some tweets about this the other day, and I noted that if Apple makes it sufficiently frictionless to enter, and sufficiently frictionless to auto-renew, then perhaps people will participate. Here’s an article with data from a Rutgers University study on pricing.
iMessage is one of those services that has steadily improved over the years. It continues to have hiccups, and rough patches, and it’s never really clear when an iMessage will just bounce off one device, and hit another one you aren’t using. It’s ‘magical’ that way, I guess. Still, very reluctant to call this ‘seamless’. When I’m at my Mac, and the Messages app is closed, I will get a new iMessage that will show as a red badge. If I read, but do not reply to it on my phone, the red badge persists. That’s not accurate, let alone seamless.
While they announced many features yesterday for Messages app, some of them are using new techniques to piggyback on your iPhone to get audio, and text data on to your Mac. No mention is made of progress on the other weird bugs in iMessage during the WWDC keynote, but perhaps by consolidating it all to go through your iPhone it will be less buggy? I am given to understand that part of the problem with synchronizing the notifications was the way every device deals with encrypted connections to the server. If your phone is a single conduit then it may increase reliability and presence awareness because it is dealing with one channel instead of two? The last thing I want is for EVERY thing to ring like in the bad, old days when every single device you owned always got a notification.
Having said all that, I will give Apple the benefit of all of my doubts and download Yosemite when it is available.