Yet Another Thing Apple Needs To Get Better At

I believe there are three areas in which Apple is falling behind in the software space.

Two are widely acknowledged : The Internet, and UI design.
Most people agree that iCloud is “better” than the company’s previous efforts, but most people will say in the same breath that that’s not saying much. And it seems everyone on the planet has written about the sin of skeumorphism (and that twice as many people are praying for Jony Ive to fix it). So let’s not dwell on those.

The third one, in my opinion, is the incredible sluggishness of their software.

This is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it, everyone feels it, and everyone is sick of it, but we’re so accustomed to it that nobody seems to think twice about it. Yet on every platform, it seems that speed and efficiency are not even a concern. In a world where Google puts all their energy in shaving off every milliseconds they can everywhere they can, sluggishness doesn’t sit well anymore.

Let’s take a look:

  • On Windows, without even mentioning iTunes, we can compare Safari to Chrome. Same platform, same basic Webkit. But Safari is a blind, lame dog. Everything runs slower.
  • In iOS, most Apple apps run fine, but anything on the App or iTunes store feels slow and sluggish. I don’t care about the reason, it’s just frustrating.
  • In MacOS, it seems like any time I do anything, I get the spinning beach ball of doom. It is so incredibly annoying, I want to murder that beachball and turn it into a zombie just so I can murder it again.
  • On the web, we tolerate iCloud, but loading times are just atrocious. I could pile on, but I won’t, you get the idea.

Who’s to blame? I’d say Apple themselves of course, but Google as well.

Google has spoiled us. One of their chief focus has been speed, in everything they do. We’re getting used to near instantaneous access to their web services, and that is making Apple’s slow native software look very bad by comparison. And it doesn’t help that other web giants are following Google’s lead and placing a premium on efficiency as well.
So it’s not necessarily that Apple has gotten worse, but they haven’t been getting better in that department. A few years ago, losing 5 or 10 seconds here and there might have been acceptable, but what was acceptable then has become incredibly irritating today.

And on Apple’s part, it seems the issue is a cultural one. The problem is so widespread, they, as a company, just don’t seem to value efficient coding… Especially now that computers can now outperform any average task, elegant software should not stop to take its breath every twenty seconds anymore.
And, for the sake of argument, let’s say their software is sluggish because their priority is on “design”. I think many would argue that responsiveness is a part of the ease of use, which is in turn a function of design. So sluggishness is, in essence, bad design.

Bottom line, Apple needs to do three things:

  1. Make their web and cloud services more functional.
  2. Find their new design language for the coming decade.
  3. Make their freakin’ software less freakin’ sluggish!

As I was saying, points 1 and 2 are very much acknowledged in the tech community, but I believe point 3 needs to part of the discussion as well.


Disclaimer: I don’t hate Apple. Actually, more often than not, I’m accuse of being an Apple fanboy. I love my Apple devices as much as I love my Google services and my Windows machines. But as Jay Yarrow said, “Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at the Internet”. They certainly have a momentum that Apple seems to have lost over the past couple of years. But that also doesn’t mean Apple is “failing”. If that’s what you’re reading into this article, you need to get glasses. They have issues that need to be addressed, but who doesn’t (I know I do! Zing!).

February 1st, 2013