Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Reading the Room

MG Siegler:

When I look at Apple’s recent stumbles — things like the aforementioned HomePod, the Mac Pro, the education market, the Airport, the Apple Stores, the strange recent events, the Apple TV, the Touch Bar, the entire line of new MacBook keyboards, and so on, I see a company that is failing to read the room. Again, a company that is directionally misguided in some areas, and the products (or lack thereof) simply showcase this.

My favourite products and services that Apple has done all sort of boil down to a single idea: they resolve the most complex near-universal frustrations through simplicity, elegance, and refinement. That sounds more hoity-toity than I intended, but it’s pretty accurate. You can associate this with the iPhone or the Mac or any of the other painfully trite examples, but I have my own pet favourite thing they’ve done in the last few years. They’ve practically gotten rid of passwords in two ways:

  1. Your face, fingerprint, or device proximity is used to determine your identity. Rather than something you know, it’s something you are. If you use a recent Mac, iOS device, or Apple Watch, you can go password-free to unlock.

  2. Apple can’t unilaterally replace passwords for the web and in apps, so they’ve done the next best thing by generating secure passwords, storing them, syncing them between devices, and making it all work with the face and fingerprint stuff above.1

This is reading the room perfectly. Not only does it resolve something irritating and complex, it does it in a near-seamless way and it encourages people to buy more Apple hardware, which ought to make the company’s stockholders very happy.

Many of the products that Siegler lists off don’t really do any of this. Not everything they release needs to be iPhone-calibre because I don’t think there’s likely to be another product of the iPhone’s calibre. It is likely the most successful manufactured good of all time.

The room is excited about Macs that are powerful and have bulletproof reliability. The room has been asking for a better Apple Store servicing experience. The room is looking for a sense that these products add up to something. There are indications that sometimes make me question what room Apple believes they are in.

  1. Apple was not the first company to have a fingerprint scanner, nor a facial recognition system, nor a password manager. But they were likely the first and have done the best at integrating all of these things at the system level across multiple platforms. ↩︎