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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > The Feature Thief: Apple takes our tools away

The Feature Thief: Apple takes our tools away
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Jan 8, 2016, 12:49 PM
 
There are rumors aplenty about whether Apple will drop the old 3.5mm jack plug for headphones in favor of wireless and the slimmer Lightning port. If it happens, though, we know exactly how it will go down in every sense, because we've seen this over and over again. We've seen it in hardware and we've seen it in software: Apple is remarkably consistent in how it makes changes that hurt us -- but it's also astonishingly consistent about how it works out for the best in the long run, most of the time.

That's not absolutely always true, and it is precisely no use to you if what it's just done is remove a feature from, let's say, Pages that your business relies on. Yet knowing how Apple operates gives you some measure of control: you know when to hang on, and when to jump ship to an alternative. So if you don't know yet, this is the short version for hardware: Apple drops something you thought was vital, but it generally turns out that they did it for great reason, and just in time before that hardware died. All rival hardware manufacturers decry the move, and boast about how they're keeping the old standard, and then an hour later they've all done exactly the same thing.



With software, you can bet money that Apple is going to run off with a feature you need, and that there will come a time when your reliable, trusted, shiny Apple application will abruptly die. With some exceptions, it is usually the case that Apple has released a new or revamped version, and initially there are key features missing. You could want them to wait until they've got it all worked out, but at least those key features do come back.

It's fascinating in this year we examine Apple's history to see in depth how this came about. It's also rather telling when the company has and has not restored stolen features or proven to be correct in its hardware moves. MacNN covered this in a series of special articles written last year that Apple itself now uses.

Seriously: Apple licensed that series in order to brief its in-house training people on what happens. We presume this is how they bring support up speed on what to tell irate customers who phone up wanting to know where their DVD goes, whatever happened to outlining in Pages, and how dare they do that Final Cut Pro? The Feature Thief starts here with an introduction to what happens and why.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
     
TheGreatButcher
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Jan 8, 2016, 12:53 PM
 
The recent example of Apple's steps backward is the changes in Disk Utility, but I'm still frustrated by the functionality missing from the old QuickTime Player 7 to the "new" one.
     
sunman42
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Jan 8, 2016, 01:29 PM
 
The arguments are persuasive for software functionality, but Apple's abandonment of legacy ports has never hurt us, that I can recall. Instead, it's spawned third-party opportunities for adapters (yes, Virginia, some people still use their old "Saratoga" ADB keyboards via ADB-to-USB adapters) and decisions based on functionality/cost benefits, rather than "It still works, there's no need to replace it."
     
Charles Martin
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Jan 8, 2016, 01:32 PM
 
As you'll see when you read the actual series, Apple generally tangoes rather than actually moves backward. A step back is generally accompanied by two steps forward. It's too early to say about Disk Utility: to me it feels like it was rebuilt with the basics that may be added onto going forward, but of course real men use the Terminal for that stuff anyway.

As for QTX, I think you're comparing the $20 "Pro" version of QT7 with the free version of QTX, which has 70 percent the same functionality as the paid old version. Not really being fair there, and QT7 Pro for the record continues to work, so ...
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Jan 8, 2016, 01:36 PM
 
Real men don't do this or that, real men do whatever the hell they want.
     
Jeronimo2000
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Jan 8, 2016, 01:42 PM
 
It's a good series you're doing there, and I'm very afraid there will most likely be more episodes to it. I'm not exaggerating when I write "very afraid", because I make my money with software like iBooks Author and – especially – Keynote.

I wouldn't be surprised to see iBooks Author go the way of Aperture sooner or later (hasn't received a meaningful update in ages and is full of bugs and perfomance issues), and God knows what will happen to Keynote (& Pages & Numbers) in the long run. It certainly hasn't received much love from Apple recently, and is far from what it theoretically could be (= miles and miles ahead of PowerPoint and a serious reason why people might consider switching to Macs and iOS devices).
     
panjandrum
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Jan 8, 2016, 01:45 PM
 
Unfortunately, many of the stolen features never come back, or take so long to come back that people have moved on to other software. Pages, for example, still lacks the ability to display 2-pages-up or move tool palettes to other screens since the re-design apparently assumes Mac users are too stupid to use more than a single screen. It's part of a continued trend of "dumbing-down" that we are seeing in software in general, and Apple is no exception. I have little faith that those now in charge at Apple care, or even understand, that they are destroying their once-unassailable user experience (after all, as long as they continue to rake-in the $$, how can anything be wrong?) Current trends I am seeing: Moving away from iWork to alternatives (mostly Libre Office and, amazingly, MS Office), and those being forced away from Apple products due to the discontinued Aperture or dislike of Photos to alternatives (Adobe Lightroom seems to be the current top-contender among users who were perfectly happy Aperture, and even some of those who were satisfied iPhoto but hate Photos). Why, exactly, Apple would seeming be intent in removing so-called "power" features, eliminating professional applications, and consistently angering users, is beyond me. It might not have an effect on the near-term bottom-line, but I do think that eventually it's going to come back and take a big, painful, bite out of Apple.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jan 8, 2016, 01:55 PM
 
Yeah, we'll be revisiting this series again soon.
     
TheGreatButcher
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Jan 8, 2016, 02:20 PM
 
". Not really being fair there, and QT7 Pro for the record continues to work, so ..."

Not entirely true. As OS X has upgraded and QT7 Pro hasn't been updated, the functionality has degraded. Since upgrading to Mac OS X 10.11, QT7 Pro crashes when attempting to import sets of images into a time lapse film (which I actively use), has failed to display properly for the last couple revisions of OS X (although it was still importing and exporting the end products properly) and struggles with newer high resolution codecs.
     
Charles Martin
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Jan 8, 2016, 02:55 PM
 
TheGreatButcher: I didn't test QT7 Pro as extensively as you did, but thanks for the info. It still works for me to do what I used it for, which was to do very light editing (trimming, really) of SD and HD (not 4K obviously) video.
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Inkling
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Jan 8, 2016, 03:01 PM
 
When it comes to headphones, Apple is already a pain. Their special controls mean over-priced and not very reliable headsets. I continually have to replace those for my iPhone. And requiring headphones to use a Lightning connector will only make that worse. That's not progress. That's just greed.
Author of Untangling Tolkien and Chesterton on War and Peace
     
new_wave_music
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Jan 8, 2016, 04:54 PM
 
The fact that they replaced the Mac Pro with the expensive to upgrade Trash Can spells out how they feel about Mac Professionals and power users. I bought a 2010 3.46 x 12 core Mac Pro on ebay. I still love using OSX but I like Mavericks OS 10.9 over later like 10.10 and 10.11. Don't want my OSX to look like IOS. I also miss the working IOS 7 on my iPad compared to all the bugs and dull color Android copied looks of IOS 9. I was born with mild cerebral palsy and have been on 3 in person interviews to work at an apple store. I never got a job. Tim Cook recently won an award from United Cerebral Palsy but I have to question if Apple discriminates against hiring those with disabilities I can't prove I am being discriminated against getting a job with Apple. All I can say is that I have 20 years of PC and Apple computer experience and an A+ certified Tech. I never see anybody with any sort of a disability working in an Apple store. I'm also not happy about Apple shifting most of their focus on iPhones, IOS and iPads. The fact that the 6s they are cutting parts orders by 30 percent proves the upgrade demand in iPhones is weakening. I am jumping ship to the New Galaxy S7 Plus when it comes out in February with a 6 inch screen!!!! a Snapdragon 820 Processor!! 20 Mega pixel rear Camera!! Android 6.0!! A Headphone Jack!! A SD Memory slot for expandability!! and it will be built like a tank!! Not like the super thin easy to break, expensive to replace iPhone 7!!! I will always use Mac and OSX over windows but I think it's time Apple focus more on their Mac and OSX. Wont be buying a new Mac Laptop either. The New Macbook Pros are now so super thin that they can't be fixed or upgraded by the average user. How does Apple Plan to invade The Business Enterprise with products that are super thin and not upgradable and only serviceable by Apple??
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jan 8, 2016, 06:19 PM
 
Enterprise has never cared about in-house repair or upgrades. That's why every computer manufacturer has off-lease hardware for sale.

I love the aluminum slab-side Mac Pros too.

I wouldn't count your chickens on the S7 Plus' stats just yet.
     
davoud
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Jan 8, 2016, 06:45 PM
 
"... astonishingly consistent about how it works out for the best in the long run, most of the time." The lack of Ethernet and Firewire ports on my newer MacBook Pro has never worked out for me any of the time. Unless you call having only two Thunderbolt ports with adapters that are easily disconnected by accident "working out fo the best."
     
Charles Martin
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Jan 8, 2016, 06:49 PM
 
I'm skeptical of that feature list for the S7 as well. There's reasons half that stuff was dropped from the S6, you know.

As for creative pros and veteran Mac users who want Apple to focus on them again, I suspect you'll need to start buying 40-70 million Macs every three months -- instead of 4-5 million -- for that to happen. I feel your pain, believe me, but let's not pretend the economics haven't shifted rather dramatically against our case.
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Spheric Harlot
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Jan 8, 2016, 07:20 PM
 
The laptops are rather well-suited for pro use.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jan 8, 2016, 08:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by davoud View Post
"... astonishingly consistent about how it works out for the best in the long run, most of the time." The lack of Ethernet and Firewire ports on my newer MacBook Pro has never worked out for me any of the time. Unless you call having only two Thunderbolt ports with adapters that are easily disconnected by accident "working out fo the best."
What's your use case that you still need 80MB/s FireWire 800?
     
bobolicious
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Jan 8, 2016, 10:54 PM
 
"I suspect you'll need to start buying 40-70 million Macs every three months"

I for one religiously cycled my hardware with Applecare every 3 years or sooner, and that has now stopped since the annual (corporate?) 'upgrade' cycle was been implemented after Snow Leopard... Kudos for mac hardware build quality for lasting. That would seem btw also more sustainable...

Regrettably my mac software & hardware overhead seems to have increased, workflow efficiency decreased, revenues resultantly declining and Apple POs have become virtually non-existent... Is it make work to feed developers?

I still use what I can of iWeb (enhancements would be appreciated), Photos seems like a demo compared to Aperture, I still miss QTVR (in QT Pro), thankfully I never bet on Apple RAID, and I'll stop there...

Has Apple been biting the hand that feeds...?
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jan 8, 2016, 11:01 PM
 
Regarding the headphone jack... The 30-pin connector got eliminated because the lightning plug takes less support equipment, thickness-wise. So, that port going away allowed the phones to get thinner.

The market demands thinner and thinner phones (I don't, but the market does). The headphone jack is preventing the phone from getting much smaller, ergo... If it happens, that's why it happens, not to irritate users, but TO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT.

As a reminder to our readers, as a general rule WE ARE NOT APPLE'S PRIMARY MARKET ANYMORE. Walk down the street, and tell me how many iPhones you see. If one in four of those users are technically savvy enough to restore from iTunes without needing a genius, I'd be very surprised. It's probably one in eight.

Seven in eight is Apple's market, now. Look no further than the oversimplification of Disk Utility and the Airport setup app to have this proven to you.

----------

So, biting the hand that feeds? WE ARE NO LONGER IT. The seven in eight ARE, though. How many of them will care that the headphone jack is gone?
     
coffeetime
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Jan 9, 2016, 01:10 AM
 
So far I like Apple's hardware direction. I am glad they replace Firewires with Thunderbolt. Firewire 800 plug is the worst of its kind. I have lots of external hard drives that are constantly moving around. Firewire 800 plugs are so easily worn out and gotten loose. Firewire 400 is very solid but the plug is starting to become chunky and data throughput is outdated. Thunderbolt plug is a lot smaller, very durable, very compact (saving hardware space) and the fastest data throughput. Not to mention its versatility.


Headphone 1/8 jack is an old technology. If you keep plugging and unplugging hundreds of times. It will wear out. it happens a lot to my older Macs and to a point I am just too afraid to use the ports on my new Mac Pro (thanks goodness for the existence of Bluetooth). It's about time to replace something better that doesn't wear out so quickly.


I only use QuickTime 7 Pro for importing and exporting VRML which still working perfectly. QuickTime X is great for anything that is based on modern H.264 codec and modern iDevices. The rest of jobs will be for Premiere Pro (Sorry, Final Cut) and Adobe Encoder.


The direction of Apple's Pro Applications is a total disappointment in my book as far as commitment concern. They don't care. iDevices and Mac hardware are their priorities! Where as Pro Applications are Adobe's priorities.
( Last edited by coffeetime; Jan 9, 2016 at 01:28 AM. )
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Jan 9, 2016, 03:28 AM
 
I don't see it as one-step-back, two-steps-forward at all. That might be the case now and then, but in the last few years, it's more like... turn app over to the 'flat team' to be ruined... hope and pray that one day *at least* some of the functionality returns, and wave bye-bye to a good UI, probably forever.

As for 'we're no longer Apple's market' I agree. The problem is that these aren't two unique, isolated markets. If the creatives and pros start leaving the platform, eventually that's going to impact the mass-consumers as well.
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aardman
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Jan 9, 2016, 04:02 AM
 
@coffeetime. "Headphone 1/8 jack is an old technology. If you keep plugging and unplugging hundreds of times. It will wear out. it happens a lot to my older Macs and to a point I am just too afraid to use the ports on my new Mac Pro (thanks goodness for the existence of Bluetooth). It's about time to replace something better that doesn't wear out so quickly."

Not just on a Mac, but for me, on Walkman, Razr, iPod and iPhone as well. An $800 piece of hardware rendered useless or substantially hobbled (at least in my case because I use earphones all the time) because an obsolete 20-cent part fails? That's just ridiculous. Get rid of the damned plug, it will have to be replaced eventually and the same chorus of complaints will be generated no matter when Apple chooses to drop it. Might as well do it sooner and bring the benefits of modern connection technology too the customer oday rather than tomorrow.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jan 9, 2016, 11:32 AM
 
What am I doing today? Hanging out outside an Apple Store in NoVA.

What am I doing (with permission from both the Apple store and mall security)? Asking 1000 people about the headphone jack. Thirty minutes in, and I'm 400 down. More on Monday.
     
panjandrum
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Jan 9, 2016, 12:01 PM
 
Mike, It's great to hear that you are doing this. You might also try the same experiment outside another store, since being outside an Apple store will almost certainly skew the results (i.e. standing around a Porsche dealer and asking potential Porsche customers what they think about x,y, or z related to Porsches is almost certainly going to give you different results than what you would get from the general public). Regardless, I'll be interested to hear what you discover! (I've only had one person comment to me about it thus far, and the comment was "that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.")
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jan 9, 2016, 12:34 PM
 
Well, the intent of this from the get-go was to get Apple customers, as opposed to the general public (as I had a panel of eight quick questions). Perhaps another day, we'll do the general public, but after 1:20 of this, I got my thousand, and I am worn the hell out.
     
jwdsail
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Jan 9, 2016, 03:23 PM
 
bobolicious - What really makes my brain itch is how QTVR was killed off, just as Apple finally had devices that were MADE for it (iOS). And now, with VR headsets making a comeback, QTVR with Sprites, directional sound, even what QTVR was then, when it was killed off, would be great, imagine if it had continued receiving even *some* attention/updates?

Sigh
     
coffeetime
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Jan 9, 2016, 08:39 PM
 
QTVR maybe dead but the fundamental behind it is still alive and well. The new engine is based on HTML5, not QuickTime. I use QuickTime 7 Pro to prep the files. HTML5 format can be viewed on any device/desktop platforms. Before HTML5, it was Flash based. Before Flash, it was QTVR.
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Jan 10, 2016, 01:39 AM
 
@ aardman -
Have you considered how un-durrable a lightening connector is, though? I'm fine with Apple making a move to a better *standard* ... but I'm not a big fan of proprietary and potentially worse.

As for the need for thin... Mike, how did you get that the market is demanding thin-er? I'm not following. I can't think of anyone who wants Apple to keep going thinner. But, as Rob pointed out over at Today in iOS a few weeks back, Apple makes considerably thinner devices than an iPhone with a 1/8" jack. If they are making such a move, it probably isn't for that reason.
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Mike Wuerthele
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Jan 10, 2016, 12:06 PM
 
Steve, I've got numbers from polling yesterday that bears it out. We're publishing them tomorrow.
     
Charles Martin
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Jan 10, 2016, 06:49 PM
 
Yeah, stay tuned for that. I promise you it will be interesting.
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Jan 10, 2016, 08:25 PM
 
     
SierraDragon
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Jan 11, 2016, 08:49 PM
 
Mac Project and Aperture. Two apps that I had totally integrated into a professional workflow and Apple just rudely killed. Not good.
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Jan 12, 2016, 12:55 AM
 
@ Mike and Charles - re: thin - wow... amazing (Or, maybe more honestly expressed... the lack of thought of the average person these days is kind of scary!)
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