Apple’s Successful Beta Season

Hooray! It’s macOS Sonoma release day. This new operating system has some great features, including better dictation, small (but nice) improvements to the Apple productivity apps (Kanban in Reminders!), a bunch of messaging and video conferencing updates, PDF tools, and desktop widgets. Stephen and I will cover them in depth on this weekend’s episode of the Mac Power Users.

But there is a more significant point here. Apple had an extraordinarily successful beta season in 2023. They promised some solid updates in June at WWDC and delivered on them from the beginning. None of the new features required a “boil the ocean” effort by Apple, but all of them provided a lot of bang-for-the-buck, quality-of-life improvements.

Moreover, they got it all out with very little drama. They didn’t have to delay the iPadOS launch until weeks (or months) after the iOS release. Moreover, this macOS version is shipping just a week after the iPhone. At the same time, they are also going full tilt at an entirely new operating system with visionOS.

I am impressed with the effort all of that took. I would love to know the story behind all of this. I’ve got four pet theories, none of which have a lick of evidence:

Apple is getting better at this

They’ve been updating multiple major operating systems for over a decade now. I expect they’ve learned quite a bit.

Labor and Management Improvements

That experience also gives management a better idea of what to expect and aim for while giving engineering a better idea of what they can pull off in the time allotted.

A Lot of the Heavy Lifting is Behind Them

Apple has taken on some big tasks over the past decade as they’ve moved to SwiftUI and made significant architectural changes to the programming interface and the chipset. All of that is behind them now, which should make things easier from this point.

Forced Constraints

This theory is probably a stretch, but I think the fact that Apple has looming deadlines related to visionOS gave the company even more focus across the board. That showed up in the decisions and work done on everything else.

I expect all of these factors (and probably a few more) played a role in Apple’s success this year, but I hope their management is paying attention and figuring out how to make this the new norm.

The MacStories iOS 17 Review

Today Federico Viticci published his now legendary annual iOS and iPadOS review. Something that a lot of folks don’t realize is that over the years, Federico has gotten a lot better at this. Specifically, in the early years, Federico’s opus felt like it was written for developers. Now it’s written for users (at least to my eyes).

I find these reviews more informative and enjoyable each year. This year is no different.

My Current Relationship With the iPad

Last week Jason Snell and John Gruber weighed in on what they’re doing with their iPads these days. I, too, have a much-simplified relationship with my iPad.

For years, I tried to turn the iPad into a production machine. I still love the idea of sitting down with a piece of glass and getting real work done. But there were just too many hoops to jump through for much of my work. I remember at one point sitting in a meeting as a lawyer while we were discussing the purchase of a company. An accountant in the room sent me ten spreadsheets to review. I had an iPad Pro and thought to myself, “How am I going to keep up with everybody in the room trying to process these files on an iPad?“ The answer, it turns out, is that I didn’t.

The real turning point for me was a dinner conversation with my children. Both were in college and using their iPads and were very happy with them. They explained how they used them to take class notes, work on outlines, and make themselves flashcards. It sounded like an Apple commercial.

I realized as I listened to them that they were using the iPad just like Apple envisions it. They were not looking at edge case uses but instead using it for what it is good at. That is when the switch flipped in my brain, and I changed my relationship with the iPad.

People will tell you that if you’re in a relationship with another human and think you can change them, you’re on a fool’s errand. I feel like the same goes for the iPad. You have to accept it for what it is to enjoy using it.

It’s been several years of me using the iPad as Apple intended instead of as I wanted. I can tell you the relationship is a lot healthier. I still use it all the time (indeed, I am dictating this blog post on my iPad mini.), But I’m not trying to get it to record podcasts or perform any task that requires me to do silly things like setting up server connections or gimmicky Rube Goldberg-based automation schemes.

The iPad remains a production-plus-consumption device for me. I write on it, research on it, and plan on it. But as soon as I meet any significant resistance, I set it down and pick up a Mac.

So, the iPad and I are settled and at peace with one another. I still wish Apple would give the iPad more horsepower. There are many ways Apple could make these devices, which run on Apple silicon, take on Mac-type work. Until then, I’m done swimming upstream. I use my iPad as the maker intended.

Getting back to those posts by Jason and John, I usually bring my iPad mini and MacBook Air when I travel. I generally find nothing I can’t do without those two machines.