iSad

The Great and Powerful Tim* took to the stage yesterday to tell us about shiny glass and metal things that are coming.

On the one hand, I’m in the camp of slavering desire, wanting the shiny iPad Pro, the Apple TV, the new phone, and new watch straps. Let’s face it: I’m firmly their target market.

On the other hand, there were times during the session that I thought “these guys are trying too hard”. This is a company that is struggling to explain why their new things are amazing.

Here’s the problem: they are amazing. Looking back at Star Trek and Dick Tracy and Knight Rider and Kubrick’s 2001, these slates of glass and aluminium are exactly what we want. Not only can you now tap and swipe on a piece of glass, but you can press it too.

I am so excited by the possibilities. Everyone should be excited. The iPad Pro is 12.9 inches of glass with 5.5 million pixels, and only limited by the software in what it can do. The iPhone 6S Plus can take 4K video at 30 frames per second with its 12 megapixel camera.

THIS IS AMAZING!

All I heard yesterday was a collective “meh”, without enough enthusiasm to elicit an exclamation mark, and I was part of that.

It’s not just Apple inventing cool things. They’re leading the way with design and interactions, but it’s really not just them. The curved glass of the Samsung Edge series, with a ticker down the side? CURVED CAPACITIVE GLASS!

My first cellphone, which came after my pager, was a Nokia 1610 I inherited from my mother. Now I’m able to create 4K video at 30 frames per second, with optical video stability, on a device that is roughly the same size. I didn’t even see the point of a camera on a phone as recently as 2008.

I worry that Apple is losing momentum, not in the way it produces new things every year (and it astounds me that they do), but in the way it sells it to us as what is possible, and how far we’ve come. Not to compare their devices against last year’s model (or in the case of the iPad Pro, the first iPad), but to show where we can go.

Remember Microsoft’s cute and impossible visions of the future? They used to put out videos of people doing amazing things with near-transparent glass surfaces, the desktop computer all but a memory.

Somehow we’ve lost sight of the fact that we are living that future. Once transparent aluminium becomes cheap enough to manufacture en masse, and once flexible displays are strong enough to withstand everyday use, we won’t ever use computers the same way. Battery technology is already at a point where it conforms to the device, as opposed to the other way around. We can recharge things without even plugging them in.

The mobile web is already just “the web”. That happened in a little over seven years. Seven years ago, the most powerful computer I could buy had 4GB of RAM. I can get that in an iPad Pro now, with a similar size screen.

I can dictate using voice recognition, even with my crazy South African-English-Canadian-American hybrid accent.

I can talk to family and friends all over the world with zero lag.

I can draw and sketch with almost zero lag, on a piece of glass, without worrying about scratching it.

I am sad that we don’t have more appreciation for the fact that the future is happening all the time, all around us.


  • I’m not going to talk about the Adobe “making a woman smile” fail, nor the lack of representation, because that’s a topic that would negate this entire piece and make me even sadder.