Nov 112013
 

The litany of complaints about the release of iWork ’13 keeps growing. Every day we are presented with a new set of bugs, missing features and mismanagement of user expectations. The entire community of Mac and iOS users are clamoring over the removal of features and inexplicable changes to the programs.

At last week’s BMUGWest user group meeting in San Francisco (held at the Exploratorium museum, Pier 15, on the first Monday evening of the month) , I heard many complaints about the new iWork ’13 versions, as well as concerns about the file changes. When users open a document authored in the older, iWork ’09 software, the document is changed to a new, backwardly-incompatible format.

The good news is that users can revert the document with the Revert To command in the File Menu. It presents a Time Machine-style file picker that can return the file to its previous, Version ’09 compatibility. However, all changes made with the newer version will be lost. So, if you want continue to use iWork ’13, but think you might want to go backwards, duplicate all files before opening them in an iWork ’13 application.

Apple: Stop the iOS-Mac merger

Attendees at the meeting discussed returning to iWork ’09. Depending on the upgrade, the software may still be on your drive. Owners of the software, can reinstall it and it reportedly works fine with the new OS X Mavericks systemware update. I notice a number of iWork ’09 installer discs for sale on various sites.

On his Monday Note blog, Jean-Louis Gassée, ran down Apple’s missteps with software and services releases, and worried about a pattern of mismanagement. His list of iWork ’13 problems include: Mobile Me (quality sucked) and Maps (performance sucked) and now iWork.

[Apple expecutives] did it again, they bragged about their refurbished iWork suite only to let customers discover that the actual product fails to meet expectations.

We’ll get into details in a moment, but a look into past events will help establish the context for what I believe to be a pattern, a cultural problem that starts at the top (and all problems of culture within a company begin at the executive level).

Apple has tried to absolve itself of the criticism with an announcement of fixes that will be addressed over the course of the next six months. My colleague, Jason D. O’Grady, points out that the loyalty of iWorks customers had been tried over the past four years with Apple’s inattention to the suite.

And what is their reward? This mess.

In his Monday Note post, Gassée runs down a short list of his own complaints and then asks some pertinent questions.

First. Who knew and should have known about iWork’s bugs and undocumented idiosyncrasies? (I’ll add another: Beware the new autocorrect.)

Second. Why brag instead of calmly making a case for the long game and telling loyal customers about the dents they will inevitably discover?

Last and most important, what does this new fiasco say about the Apple’s management culture? The new iPhones, iPad and iOS 7 speak well of the company’s justly acclaimed attention to both strategy and implementation. Perhaps there were no cycles, no neurons, no love left for iWork. Perhaps a wise general puts the best troops on the most important battles. Then, why not regroup, wait six months and come up with an April 2014 announcement worthy of Apple’s best work?

Now, we have heard these complaints from Apple of slim programmer resources in the past. Too many programmers were working on a major software product to get things done properly elsewhere in Cupertino, they said, whether it was an iOS update, or a OS X update, or a blah-blah update. It appears that only one thing can get done right at Apple at any one time.

Perhaps in addition to some of its $146.8 billion in cash being spent on a shiny, new headquarters building, Apple executives could hire more coders to get work done efficiently across the company’s software offerings, simultaneously, and in parallel.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Apple is more the iOS company — a majority of its sales are for iPhones and iPads. At the same time, sales of 4.6 million Macs last quarter was a great number, and there are more Macs in the installed base than ever before. Still, Apple removed the word “Computer” from its name in 2007 as the iOS revolution got going. In the plain just-call-us-Apple company, resources and internal mind-share are focused more on iOS, and less on the Mac.

The fundamental problem is clearly articulated in this paragraph from the iWork ’13 press release:

An all new iWork for Mac and iOS makes creating, editing and sharing documents easier than ever. iWork introduces a new, unified file format, delivering perfect document fidelity across Mac, iOS and iCloud, and the iWork for iCloud beta now includes support for real-time collaboration. Now you can create your document on iPad®, edit it on your Mac and collaborate with friends in iWork for iCloud, even if they’re on a PC. A brand new UI makes iWork even simpler to use, yet provides all of the powerful tools you need to create amazing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

My take from this is that Apple’s concern isn’t about users of the Mac version of iWork, rather, it’s all about a new cross-Apple-platforms version of iWork that spans Mac, iOS and iCloud — a workflow that doesn’t currently exist. To equalize the experience and expectations, some of the product feature list got a haircut, which for the Mac version started well below the chin.

Almost two years ago, I worried that Apple’s success would kill the Mac as we know it. And the villain of the story would be Apple itself. With the rollout of iWork ’13, this trend appears to be continuing.

Support for AppleScript Scripting. One of the technologies often used in professional content workflows is scripting, which lets customers pass data between applications from various vendors and the Finder. Most applications and certainly applications aimed at pro content creation workflows, have long supported these AppleScript additions. This events technology lets customers of Mac applications leverage products from other, small developers that may provide a unique tool to accomplish a specific job.

But will Apple continue to support AppleScript? We don’t know. The Sandboxing requirement appears to be in conflict with it.

AppleScript support is mostly gone from iWork ’13. The previous version of Numbers had decent support for scripting support, and now has no AppleScript dictionary whatsoever. Pages ’13 has only support for Export. Keynote scripting is now a joke.

Apple’s iWork ’13 Features and compatibility Support Note only promises “improvements” to scripting Numbers and Keynote.

Scriptability is the mark of a professional Mac application. Apple product managers appear to have forgotten this. Or they consider it to be a new, third-party opportunity. It all reminds me of time some dozen years ago, when Microsoft products and servers paid more attention to AppleTalk networks than Apple’s product lines.

I suggest that anyone who wants to script iWork ’13 or any other Apple product, let Apple know. If you’re a developer, submit a bug report. There’s a Feedback Page for customers, but who knows if anyone who counts at Apple reads it. Still, like the lottery, if you don’t buy a ticket there’s zero chance of winning, and with a ticket there’s just a sleeper chance.

Worse, is what I call the merger of Mac and iOS, or the iOS-ification of the Mac OS. The thinking in Cupertino it appears is to have a single OS experience across handheld, tablet and portable/desktop. This makes no sense.

Here’s what I wrote about this iOS-ification a couple of years ago:

What users want are OSes and applications that can express the best performance on their respective hardware. What works on one computing platform may not work as well on another larger or smaller one, or one with more expansion or network connections or power. Users also want flexibility in the OS and apps to have different ways to do things, something that the Mac user interface has previously prided itself on.

But there is little flexibility in iOS than there is on a Mac.

It is natural for a small tablet like the iPad to have a modal interface with everything packed into the app and screen rather than a layered multi-windowed environment like the Mac OS. Power users can take advantage of multiple screens, or just one big screen, to place various pieces of content, files and other resources. It lets users eyeball the elements.

Now, the iOS interface creep continues. This single-screen interface keeps making its way into the Mac interface. We’re supposed to be grateful in Mavericks that now you can have one full-screen app running on multiple monitors — so, it’s more like two iPads! The whole idea of full-screen apps presupposes that items on the desktop, the windows of other apps and moveable palettes with tools, are seen as distractions.

Don’t get me started ranting on iTunes.

Apple can make its programs serve multiple constituencies — longtime Mac users, newbies, former Windows users, iOS users. There can be multiple ways to do a task within an applications or between applications. The user interface can behave and look differently for different users and the sky won’t fall in.

In fact, that was the Mac way, way back when.

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