Apple’s Trial Run

Apple’s trial run is an undefined (fictional) period of time that marks their wading into uncharted waters, a timeframe Apple uses to figure out what really differentiates their product aside from their top-notch design. Generally, the trial run takes place in so little time that it is hard to remember in hindsight. However, in each scenario, they have something to learn, something to prove, and something to market the hell out of.

In each of these announcements, Apple left something to be desired, something that pundits considered lacking from the product. For the iPod, perhaps it was Windows compatibility or DRM-free music. For the Apple TV, it may have been apps or perhaps we are still waiting. For the iPhone, it was the App Store. For the iPad, it was the maturation of iOS or the Apple Pencil or the Pro line. For the Watch, it is arguably watchOS 3 and more fitness focus. Each product had reasons why it could have been a failure: its trial run could have lasted too long or the addition that made it a success could have never materialized. Apple’s record, however, is notoriously good at figuring out that lynchpin.

The majority of people view these situations with admittedly rose-colored glasses after the fact. Of course the iPhone was a success.” But was it that obvious at the time of its announcement? Even to Apple fans, the success of the iPhone was not immediately apparent; the lack of copy and paste was infamous and John Gruber literally called the lack of native applications in favor of web apps a shit sandwich”. Without the App Store, what would the iPhone be now? What would the world of smartphones in general be now if Apple hadn’t realized the App Store was in the best interests of their device’s (and the ensuing platform’s) longevity? Even Apple didn’t see the App Store as necessary initially, but the iPhone’s—and arguably the iPad’s and Watch’s—success has largely been because of it. The iPhone is also the only Apple product that can attribute its trajectory to a single feature addition with confidence.

As a counterexample, the Apple TV was famous for being a hobby at Apple, the clearest example that the trial run period exists; unfortunately, its trial run is still in progress. Though apps (and universal search and Siri integration) may be the answer that the Apple TV was always looking for, the newest generation of the Apple TV product (announced in late 2015) might as well be entirely new, thus resetting the clock. The Apple TV, much like the iPod Nano line, has gone through many iterations, revisions, and complete revamps on its road to success.

Apple is almost never the first to announce a product category; they are innovators, technological refiners. So the technology they are announcing is not new, but their rendition is. They work to better understand the playing field and their strength within it, often by entering the race. There is no way Siri would be what it is now if not for the trillions of combined hours of usage the system now has under its belt and maybe it still has work to do. It is not until they have hundreds of millions of active devices or more that they can get a real-world view of their products’ strengths and weaknesses. Then, the iteration begins.

The Apple Watch’s second series is the most recent example of such focusing, such iteration. The device has already been a success by any reasonable measure, but Apple-level success comes with time and attention to detail, permeation of devices so much so that seeing them is a natural daily occurrence. Apple learned from the first generation, now often referred to as Series 0, in a number of key ways. The software was too battery conscious, too interested in a communication method that users didn’t care about, and too broad in focus to the point of a muddled user interface. Most of these issues were taken care of with a simple OS update and Apple’s second series of Watch hardware focused on the most important features to most current and potential users: fitness and power (both in processing and battery). It stands to reason that the Watch is now exiting its trial run and has established its trajectory.

The end of the trial run should not be confused with product maturity. Arguably, the iPhone is only just now reaching a level of maturity, which may be why its design is changing less and less year over year. Similarly, the MacBook Pro line reached maturity when the unibody design was released; from then on, the MacBook Pro has (and really all MacBook lines have) had the same general design, only getting thinner and subtracting ports as necessary to that end.

The trial run is fictitious, but Apple’s products appear to have a standard lilt: Apple releases a product, the product often has great features at the start and appeals to a certain crowd, Apple iterates to broaden the install base, the product grows in success and capability. By the second or third generation, Apple’s understanding of the product’s purpose is clearer based on a real-world dataset and user feedback from early adopters. Much like many software development methodologies, the cyclical nature of product development is nothing new, but if the trial run is a real approach to Apple’s product understanding, it is at the very least working.

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The Challenges of 2020

TL;DR: Follow this link.

One of the craziest things about Christianity during the protests of the last few weeks is the fact that there are churches out there not discussing the issues honestly, not taking the time to have the hard conversations, not devoting their Sunday services to betterment of the world and people around them. If you’re church isn’t talking about racism right now, if they don’t mention that black lives matter, instead focusing on platitudes that equate to the all lives matter” sentiment, it is time to start looking for a new church.

My wife and I meet with my home” church virtually via Zoom since the pandemic is still a thing. Kimball Avenue United Church of Christ & La Iglesia Episcopal de Nuestra Señora de las Américas (KANSA, together) combined in a collaborative way to create a single denomination focused on the needs of their community. They follow Christ together toward the vision of love, reconciliation, peace and justice. The justice looks like the demolition and rehabilitation of an old church building and its grounds into a community garden and labyrinth open to all who seek peace through contemplation.

I give this elevator speech to mention that COVID has not been kind to faith communities in general. Budgets have been slashed, funding and grants have been cut, and congregations in need are also working to serve those in need, who are less likely to be able to financially support their church in these times. KANSA in one of the good ones. They speak truth, they have the difficult conversations, they preach in a loud voice every Sunday that black lives matter, that racism has no place in the church, that the LGBTQ community deserves respect and support, and that Jesus was a social justice warrior, who fought for the least of these no matter who they were, where they were from, what they looked like.

In fact, Jesus was most harsh to those who had the means to help and decided not to answer the call.

These systems of oppression we are protesting have been around a long time; they have screwed up a lot of lives, they have been the reason for revolution and the downfall of entire civilizations, they don’t work. We need to find a better way to live by supporting each other. And support has to come in systemic, social, financial, and political ways, both national and local.

I am not local to KANSA anymore, but I support their mission, the way that mission manifests in the world, and the simple fact that they follow Jesus no matter how ostracizing that position can be at times. Which brings me to the point:

Thanks to a $10,000 matching gift’ from an anonymous donor, the challenge has become an opportunity. Over the next two months, we plan to raise at least $10,000 to meet the challenge. Through August 31, 2020, every donation we receive toward our 2020 Challenge” no matter how small or how large will be doubled by the matching gift.

KANSA is hurting financially and needs support, they do good work and are unabashedly progressive in their approach to our world. Donate now and see your contribution matched to keep one of the good ones fighting the good fight.

Thank you for your consideration.