Insight on Apple from Craig Federighi

Last night I attended the live Talk Show episode where John Gruber interviewed Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi. (I’ll update this post with a link as soon as there is one.) John did a fantastic job. The star of the night was Craig Federighi. He did most of the talking and that’s exactly what I wanted.

It’s rare that Apple engineers get to speak publicly about what gets them excited but at these Talk Show events you get a fully un-restrained Federighi. He literally ran on to the stage when introduced and then spent the hour and a half sitting on the edge of his seat.

The overall takeaway I got is that Craig, who’s in charge of Apple software, is obsessive about delivering quality software. Among the tidbits that came out:

  • Apple “practice” installed the new Apple File System on millions of devices before releasing it to everyone with the 10.3 update.
  • Apple spent a lot of effort figuring out how to sync your text messages while still maintaining your secrecy.
  • When you say “Hey Siri” in a room full of your Siri enabled devices, they have a quick computer-style conversation to figure out which device is closest to you and which device you’ve used most recently. They then decide which device is most likely the one you were talking to and act accordingly.

The thing about these little stories is that they often were disclosed in passing, on the way to explain something else or answer a different question. They jump through these hoops every day.

The most telling part of the evening was when John asked if Apple could protect user privacy and make Siri competitive with Google’s assistant. In a rare moment when he was not smiling Craig looked at John, dead-serious, and said “Yes”. There was some mettle behind that answer and I have no doubt he fully believes Apple can compete.

Apple is such a secretive company that we rarely find out exactly how the sausage is made. That makes it easy to imagine magical things are happening (or just the opposite). What I took away was that Craig Federghi and his small army of engineers have a plan and are working hard on making it happen. It was really nice getting this message and I wish Apple would let Craig talk a little more often.