By Jason Snell
January 31, 2018 1:38 PM PT
New year, new stuff
I’m not one of those people who does New Year’s resolutions. I do see the change in the calendar as an opportunity for a little bit of reflection, but more in the sense that every once in a while it’s worth stopping and thinking about what you’re doing. It’s a reminder that time is passing and that might be worth some consideration, but in the end it’s arbitrary—the Earth goes around the Sun every 365 days and at some point someone decided that roughly midwinter was the right time to flip the calendar over to a new year. (Yeah, I said midwinter, southern hemisphere people—the person who made that decision was almost certainly someone in the northern hemisphere, don’t you agree?)
Fortunately, the turn of the year is a natural time to reflect because there’s also generally an extended holiday around then. This year I didn’t travel anywhere over the winter break, but in many ways that was better—I was able to work a lighter schedule (my boss, who is me, is a real jerk about giving me time off!) and otherwise relax and reflect.
Anyway, late last year Dan and I were talking about this newsletter and where we wanted to take it in 2018. And we decided we wanted to change it up a little bit! So this issue has a couple of new features in it that we made up and we think might be fun to try out this year, Applications Folder and A Thing We Like. We’ll see! If they don’t work out, we’ll find something else to write, but it’s nice to have a new theme to riff on from time to time. Feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com with what you like and what you don’t, as usual.
The revolution of the Earth around the Sun is also an opportunity to reflect about the larger world around us, which is the motivation in creating the Apple Report Card every year. I just posted the most recent edition, in which I report on the opinions of 50 people who closely watch Apple and get a general sense of how they think it’s going, in terms of Apple’s platforms and other areas of interest. I don’t think the results of the poll are surprising—in fact, I think they are never going to be surprising, because the people in the survey have been talking about all the issues covered in the survey for the previous year. But it is, I think, a valuable summary of the current mood of the room, if you will—where the pundits and developers and writers and podcasters think Apple is right now.
Now that it’s been going for a couple of years, it’s also a tool to measure trends. What products, platforms, or other items are trending up? Which ones are trending down? One of the more lowly rated areas in the poll—HomeKit—has risen in estimation every single year. It’s still not graded highly, but I think it says something that people’s view of Apple’s Home Automation/Internet of Things strategy keeps improving.
Do I think Apple looks at something like this survey and reacts to it? I do not. But again, I do think that I am asking people who create the “vibe” around Apple criticism and commentary throughout the year, and it’s the trends in opinion that end up potentially influencing Apple.
Does Apple listen to external criticism? Let me tell you, it absolutely does. Apple seems like it’s a black box that is entirely non-reactive to most of the things written about it, but let me assure you, the people at Apple are paying attention.
Does Apple act directly on external criticism? Not usually. Anyone who writes or speaks about Apple on a regular basis thinking that they’re going to make a difference on their own is probably fooling themselves. But I do know that external criticism (or praise) is often used as ammunition by individuals within Apple as ammunition when they’re arguing for a particular course of action.
I’ll grant you, “I provide the raw material for people within Apple to use while debating in meetings” is not as exciting a concept as “Apple quakes in fear when I criticize them,” but it’s much more accurate. Unless you’re Walt Mossberg, and he retired.
Happy new year, everyone! I hope you like the stories in this issue. Let us know if you don’t. Thanks for supporting the site.