Apple's Windows Problem

You know what makes a phone or computer great? Amazing software. You know what doesn’t? So much rubbish software that you can’t find the amazing stuff.

Apple doesn’t quite have the problem. Yet. But it’s close.

Developer Will Shipley nailed the issues facing iOS and macOS devs in his scathing response to a survey from Apple. The whole thing is worth a look over but this is the crux for me:

Having thousands of third-party developers coming up with great ideas is the way Apple thrives. Right now GOOD third-party developers are dying out. Yes, there are a billion terrible apps in the App Store, so it’s easy to say, “Oh, we have developers.” That’s what Microsoft told themselves for years, “We have tons of (bad) software! There’s no problem!”

I built a gaming PC a little while ago. There’s a pandemic on, I was bored, my Xbox is uninspiring. Things happen. And it was fun: I bought a Mac-like case, put the thing together, now I have a lot of sensational games to play.

I won’t be doing any work on it, though. When I rebuilt kites can’t fly, I did it on my MacBook Pro. When I write, I do it on my MacBook. When I have to do anything that isn’t playing games, I’ll be doing it on my MacBook. That won’t be changing any time soon.

Why? Because the Windows software scene is bleak. Sure, it’s functional but it’s not much more than that. Even the software I use to monitor my PC – and this is software that comes highly recommended – is a nightmare to use. It’s as if the obtuseness is the point.

Taste matters

A little back, I was looking for a nice markdown editor I could install on one of my work laptops. It was a decrepit Windows thing. There were a few that seemed okay. But there was nothing nice.

There’s iA Writer now. And Mark Text. But not a whole lot else. Meanwhile, macOS is lousy with beautiful, robust markdown editors. And that’s just one type of app.

I appreciate functionality, of course. But I also have taste. And I want the developers whose software I use to have taste too.

The good ones do.

Here’s Will again:

Apple should be doing everything it can to support good third-party developers that make the real Apple apps that make Apple devices unique, and provide cool Apple-only experiences. But, again, all the developers I know who do this are dying off, because of the App Store’s policies.

I used an Android phone for a year or so. Didn’t take. Went back the iPhone. I have a Pixel 3 for work, now. Figured I’d try the platform again in a non-committal way. Hasn’t taken either.

The phone is fine, in most ways. I could even get used to the OS. It’s just the apps. Everything I rely on may have functional equivalents on Android but none of them are as nice. As tasteful.

Fantastical. Drafts. Overcast. NetNewsWire. That’s just on my home screen.

Apollo. CalcBot. Elk is the single most elegant currency converters I’ve ever seen.

It’s a currency converter. Why does a currency converter need elegance? It doesn’t. But it has it. Because some Apple devs – the good ones, the ones that make Apple’s platforms worthwhile – value elegance alongside functionality and pragmatism.

I’m sure a lot of Windows and Android devs do too. But, for whatever reason, they’re a lot harder to find. Maybe the Apple’s App Stores do a marginally better job of it. Maybe the Apple communities I’ve stumbled on spend more time lifting up elegant apps than the Windows once I’ve found.

I don’t know what it is. But it’s something I value about Apple’s tech.

More than marketing

Apple seems to value it too. Or they like saying they do. Every WWDC, the company does something to signal that the devs that make stuff for Apple’s platforms are special. That they’re appreciated.

That’s what they say. But that doesn’t always line up with what they do. The requests in Wil’s tweet aren’t new. But Apple seems to be going in the opposite direction.

Maybe it’s easier to produce a five-minute video once a year to tell people they’re loved than to make the course correct required to really demonstrate it.

That’s just speculation on my part. Maybe Apple are doing the right thing, on balance, for most people (according to the data they value). Maybe I’m being unfairly cynical. But it’s hard not to be.

I’ve taken a stroll around Windows’ and Android’s avenues recently and I’m not a fan. The apps and software on Apple’s hardware aren’t anything like that at the moment.

They still have taste. I hope they keep it.