Tag Archives: OS X

Good Old-Fashioned Marketing

You can’t swing a dead cat today without hitting any number of (at least a dozen so far) reviews of Flexibits new version of their popular calendaring app…

That’s what the Loop’s Shawn King had to say about the release of Fantastical 2 from Flexibits today. He’s not wrong. My Twitter stream is also full of Flexibits today.

And that’s exactly why I always watch Michael Simmons very closely when he’s launching a new product. The guy never fails to get great press coverage. And it’s not by chance.

Having spent some time chatting with Michael on different occasions over the years, one thing is clear: He knows how to make you feel like he values your opinion. Even if he were faking that (and I don’t suspect he is), it’s a remarkable skill. Most of us suck at even pretending to care what other people think. But Michael has a natural enthusiasm for his work, and he wants you to feel it, too. And he really does want to know what you think.

Now, multiply his chats with me by the dozens of other people he must have similar chats with, and you start to see that he’s investing an incredible amount of time—pre-launch—to getting other people invested in his products. To gather feedback, listen to suggestions, and, of course, fix bugs. By the time the launch happens, you can’t help but be rooting for him. And, as a result, you end up tweeting, blogging, pitching in with the promotion yourself.

It’s brilliant. And it obviously works. But only because it’s genuine. And only because he’s willing to put in that time. That incredible amount of time. Not coding. Not designing. (That’s all getting done, too.) But good old-fashioned marketing.

Notice I haven’t even mentioned anything about the quality of Fantastical 2? It’s, of course, an amazingly good app. Took away my final few reasons to ever want to launch the built-in Calendar app. But you know that already, if you’ve read any one of those dozens of reviews out there.

But at the same time, I could easily see an app this great sitting on the store shelves, getting ignored, if it weren’t being marketed properly by an experienced expert. As Shawn King might say, You can’t swing a dead cat on any day without hitting an app that is incredibly well crafted, yet a complete financial failure.

If you’re out there building great products, don’t short-change their chances of success. Start caring about promotion. The best products deserve it.

I Still Have my Doubts About New Hardware Next Week From Apple

Now that these iOS 6 banners are making their way around the Internet, I’m reminded of why I’ve been skeptical that Apple would release new Macs during the WWDC keynote next week. I’m particularly skeptical that they’d release updates to almost the entire lineup, as many have predicted. 

Apple only does about 4 of these live press keynotes a year. They like to make them count. And by that, I don’t mean that they like to jam pack them with 50 different announcements that generate tons of stories about various topics. Quite the opposite. In recent years especially, Apple has focused these events on just a handful of new products, so that there’s only one or two clear stories for the press to write about. Tons of stories either way, but since no one but a nerd like me is going to read them all, it’s best to have 10 stories about iOS 6, say, than one story about the Mac Pro, one about the iMac, one about the MacBook Air, etc. 

Releasing new Macs, unless there’s some really important new hardware feature that they all have in common, doesn’t make for a good press day, in other words. It mucks up the focus and squanders the opportunity to control what the press writes. If you’ve got one shot at making the local evening news, you don’t give the editors ten different options. You want to make sure they’re all talking about the same thing all over the world.

I’m not saying there definitely won’t be any new hardware; I’m just saying that if you listen to all the hoopla surrounding the Keynote this year, you’d be expecting new Mac Pros, new iMacs, new MacBook Pros, new MacBook Airs (with retina screens), a new MacBook line that’s neither a Pro nor an Air, a new Apple Television set, and the announcement of the next iPhone that won’t ship until later this year. And that’s before you start talking about Mountain Lion and iOS. 

Does anyone think it would be a good idea to announce all that at once? How long is this keynote going to be? Six hours? And what’s Apple going to do for the rest of the year, go to Maui? 

And if you’re David Pogue, which one of those things makes your column next week? 

If I had to bet, I’d say that 90% of the Keynote on Monday (after the customary update on market share, the Retail stores, etc.) will be devoted to Mountain Lion and iOS 6, and particularly how both of those relate to iCloud. And maybe, since it’s WWDC, and there are an awful lot of TBA sessions, some new area where developers can start writing apps, such as the AppleTV. 

The demo of the new Maps feature in iOS 6 alone is going to take at least 20 minutes. 

(I can totally see the live blogs and my Twitter stream, after we’re 40 minutes in, and Craig Federighi is still demoing Notification Center. “WE’VE SEEN ALL THIS BEFORE!!!!” “WHERE’S THE GOOD STUFF??!!” etc.) 

Hardware just seems like a distraction. Even to spend two minutes putting up a slide saying, “hey, we’re updating all these Macs today” detracts from the more important story of where Apple is taking its two OS platforms this year. Save that for a press release.

I had guessed that Apple would have updated the Mac line THIS week, ahead of WWDC, as they have in the past, just to get that out of the way. Perhaps they’ll do it the week after this time around. I don’t know. Maybe all those Mac updates will be trickled down over the coming months.

Unless there really is a common link between all those updated Macs and whatever Apple really wants the story to be. I never put it past Cupertino to surprise me. But to me, if there isn’t that common thread, it would be a mistake to announce so much at once.

I Wish More Developers Were This Frank and Responsive

Red Sweater Blog – MarsEdit 3.5.3: Mea Culpa:

“So the focus on MarsEdit 3.6 was instantly sidelined, and MarsEdit 3.5.3 was brought to existence in the space of about an hour today, taking this critical bug fix and a couple other less urgent fixes that didn’t make it in time for 3.5.2.”

(Via The Red Sweater Blog.)

I love when developers are this communicative and up-front about their mistakes. Amazing how the little one-person shops tend to do this way better than the big corporate powerhouses.

I didn’t run into this bug, but if I had, I would still feel good about the way it was handled. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s all about what you do to fix them.

My First Impressions of the Messages Beta

I’m hearing tons of complaints about the new Messages Beta for Mac released on Thursday. But my experience with it has been great so far.

My favorite feature: the way Messages handles multiple alerts on different devices. This is one of those things that is just about impossible to make perfect, but I think what Apple has done here is clever, and probably the least annoying way to handle it.

The problem? I have an iPhone, an iPad, and three different Macs I use on a regular basis. (A desktop at home, a desktop at work, and my Air for cafe/travel use.) I have Messages running on all of these machines at once. So what happens when I get a new message from someone? Well, I get an alert on my iPhone, my iPad, and all three of my Macs. Considering I have at least three of these devices within arm’s reach most of the time, that means I get three different alerts showing up in my face, and two others on the other machines that I’ll have to address later. All for the same message.

The wrong way to handle this would have been to force me to dismiss this alert on all five machines manually, or worse, to try and “guess’ on which machine I want the alert to appear. (While that approach sounds good, in practice, it would probably guess wrong more often than not.)

Apple took a better middle road and had the alert go off on all machines, but as soon as I acknowledge the alert on any one of my machines, it goes away on all five. So I only have to dismiss or reply to the message once, and all my other machines get updated. My iPhone and iPad take the alert badge off the Messages icon and remove it from Notifications center. The Macs do the same. I’ve read the message once on one machine, but all the others still have the message, so I can still reply on whichever machine I like later.

How can you complain about that?

Now sure, it doesn’t always work perfectly. I’ve had to dismiss a message on two of the five machines a few times. But it gets it right most of the time.

If it doesn’t work this way for you, there’s probably something wrong with your configuration. Make sure all your devices are set to the same Apple id, and your iPhone is set up to get messages from your email, not just your phone number.

This works so much better than the way Apple has historically handled Calendar Alerts. I can only hope they apply this same logic to those soon.

And as far as the noise goes, if you don’t want multiple devices beeping at you, do what I do. Mute all your devices except the iPhone. For me, the iPhone is the one device I’m guaranteed to have on me at all times. So that’s the one that becomes the official attention grabber. When I’m working on my Mac, I hear the iPhone SMS sound go off, but I can check the message using my Mac.

My iPad is also always set to silent. I don’t even have my iPad vibrate on new alerts, as, again, all of those will go off on my iPhone, which is always with me. Problem solved.

OS X Turns 10 today

On Sept. 13, 2000, Apple released its Mac OS X Public Beta, a limited-time trial run of the ultra-modern, groundbreaking operating system that would replace the old Mac OS. Priced at $30 for a CD distributed via Apple’s online store, the beta gave the general public their first taste of an operating system that would go on to win popular acclaim and attract scores of Windows users to the Macintosh.

I remember it was a Saturday when I got my FedEx delivery of the Public Beta. I didn’t pay for express shipping, but Apple had upgraded my order, anyway, along with everyone else’s.

I had recently moved to California from the my home town of Philadelphia, and I was using a PowerBook Wall Street. The FedEx guy asked me “What is it with the Apple deliveries today; this is the fifth one I’ve done already.” I knew I had moved to the right part of the country.

Like most Mac heads who was sticking it out with Apple through the “beleaguered” years, I was very excited about the prospects of OS X. Unlike many Mac fans, I almost immediately jumped on the benefits of the new OS, despite its MANY shortcomings early on.

The Public Beta ran like crap on my years-old PowerBook. I just barely made the cutoff for compatibility, and it showed. But I didn’t care. Aqua was so wildly different from the restrained look of OS 9. The Dock was a great new tool. Column View was awesome. I couldn’t begin to imagine going back to the Classic Mac OS, though I’d be forced to for a few years while software companies got their programs in order.

It was bad enough listening to all the anti-Mac Microsoft zealots telling me that my Mac was a piece of crap. Now I had to listen to fellow Apple fans bash OS X because “OS 9 was so much better.” But Apple showed no signs of capitulating. We were being shown the future, and that was that.

I’ve never been afraid of technological change, and I give Apple credit for doing then what it continues to do now, which is to move the ball forward, no matter how unpopular that can sometimes be. OS X was a HUGE gamble; developers as well as users were threatening to jump ship for good, and many were making good on those threats. But Apple went ahead and shipped OS X anyway, and the last decade has proven them right.

OS X was supposed to be a new “OS for the next decade.” I have a feeling it will be around much longer than that. From the iPhone to the new Apple TV, to the iPad, I think OS X has proven it is modern and adaptable enough to suit Apple for a long time to come.