Apple: Stop the iOS-Mac merger

Apple: Stop the iOS-Mac merger

Summary: The fiasco of the Mac iWork revamp continues, despite Apple's recent release of a punch list for missing features and bugs. Management hubris and lack of oversight appear to be the primary wrongdoings here. Still, some of the blame should go to Apple's attempt to merge Mac and iOS interfaces and workflows.


The litany of complaints about the release of iWork '13 keeps growing. Every day we are presented with a new set of bugs, missing features and mismanagement of user expectations. The entire community of Mac and iOS users are clamoring over the removal of features and inexplicable changes to the programs.

At last week's BMUGWest user group meeting in San Francisco (held at the Exploratorium museum, Pier 15, on the first Monday evening of the month) , I heard many complaints about the new iWork '13 versions, as well as concerns about the file changes. When users open a document authored in the older, iWork '09 software, the document is changed to a new, backwardly-incompatible format.

The good news is that users can revert the document with the Revert To command in the File Menu. It presents a Time Machine-style file picker that can return the file to its previous, Version '09 compatibility. However, all changes made with the newer version will be lost. So, if you want continue to use iWork '13, but think you might want to go backwards, duplicate all files before opening them in an iWork '13 application.

Apple's Mavericks version of OS X for Macs.


Attendees at the meeting discussed returning to iWork '09. Depending on the upgrade, the software may still be on your drive. Owners of the software, can reinstall it and it reportedly works fine with the new OS X Mavericks systemware update. I notice a number of iWork '09 installer discs for sale on various sites.

On his Monday Note blog, Jean-Louis Gassée, ran down Apple's missteps with software and services releases, and worried about a pattern of mismanagement. His list of iWork '13 problems include: Mobile Me (quality sucked) and Maps (performance sucked) and now iWork.

[Apple expecutives] did it again, they bragged about their refurbished iWork suite only to let customers discover that the actual product fails to meet expectations.

We’ll get into details in a moment, but a look into past events will help establish the context for what I believe to be a pattern, a cultural problem that starts at the top (and all problems of culture within a company begin at the executive level).

Apple has tried to absolve itself of the criticism with an announcement of fixes that will be addressed over the course of the next six months. My colleague, Jason D. O'Grady, points out that the loyalty of iWorks customers had been tried over the past four years with Apple's inattention to the suite.

And what is their reward? This mess.

In his Monday Note post, Gassée runs down a short list of his own complaints and then asks some pertinent questions.

First. Who knew and should have known about iWork’s bugs and undocumented idiosyncrasies? (I’ll add another: Beware the new autocorrect.)

Second. Why brag instead of calmly making a case for the long game and telling loyal customers about the dents they will inevitably discover?

Last and most important, what does this new fiasco say about the Apple’s management culture? The new iPhones, iPad and iOS 7 speak well of the company’s justly acclaimed attention to both strategy and implementation. Perhaps there were no cycles, no neurons, no love left for iWork. Perhaps a wise general puts the best troops on the most important battles. Then, why not regroup, wait six months and come up with an April 2014 announcement worthy of Apple’s best work?

Now, we have heard these complaints from Apple of slim programmer resources in the past. Too many programmers were working on a major software product to get things done properly elsewhere in Cupertino, they said, whether it was an iOS update, or a OS X update, or a blah-blah update. It appears that only one thing can get done right at Apple at any one time.

Perhaps in addition to some of its $146.8 billion in cash being spent on a shiny, new headquarters building, Apple executives could hire more coders to get work done efficiently across the company's software offerings, simultaneously, and in parallel.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Apple is more the iOS company — a majority of its sales are for iPhones and iPads. At the same time, sales of 4.6 million Macs last quarter was a great number, and there are more Macs in the installed base than ever before. Still, Apple removed the word "Computer" from its name in 2007 as the iOS revolution got going. In the plain just-call-us-Apple company, resources and internal mind-share are focused more on iOS, and less on the Mac.

The fundamental problem is clearly articulated in this paragraph from the iWork '13 press release:

An all new iWork for Mac and iOS makes creating, editing and sharing documents easier than ever. iWork introduces a new, unified file format, delivering perfect document fidelity across Mac, iOS and iCloud, and the iWork for iCloud beta now includes support for real-time collaboration. Now you can create your document on iPad®, edit it on your Mac and collaborate with friends in iWork for iCloud, even if they’re on a PC. A brand new UI makes iWork even simpler to use, yet provides all of the powerful tools you need to create amazing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

My take from this is that Apple's concern isn't about users of the Mac version of iWork, rather, it's all about a new cross-Apple-platforms version of iWork that spans Mac, iOS and iCloud — a workflow that doesn't currently exist. To equalize the experience and expectations, some of the product feature list got a haircut, which for the Mac version started well below the chin.

Almost two years ago, I worried that Apple's success would kill the Mac as we know it. And the villain of the story would be Apple itself. With the rollout of iWork '13, this trend appears to be continuing.

Support for AppleScript Scripting. One of the technologies often used in professional content workflows is scripting, which lets customers pass data between applications from various vendors and the Finder. Most applications and certainly applications aimed at pro content creation workflows, have long supported these AppleScript additions. This events technology lets customers of Mac applications leverage products from other, small developers that may provide a unique tool to accomplish a specific job.

But will Apple continue to support AppleScript? We don't know. The Sandboxing requirement appears to be in conflict with it.

AppleScript support is mostly gone from iWork '13. The previous version of Numbers had decent support for scripting support, and now has no AppleScript dictionary whatsoever. Pages '13 has only support for Export. Keynote scripting is now a joke.

Apple's iWork '13 Features and compatibility Support Note only promises "improvements" to scripting Numbers and Keynote.

Scriptability is the mark of a professional Mac application. Apple product managers appear to have forgotten this. Or they consider it to be a new, third-party opportunity. It all reminds me of time some dozen years ago, when Microsoft products and servers paid more attention to AppleTalk networks than Apple's product lines.

I suggest that anyone who wants to script iWork '13 or any other Apple product, let Apple know. If you're a developer, submit a bug report. There's a Feedback Page for customers, but who knows if anyone who counts at Apple reads it. Still, like the lottery, if you don't buy a ticket there's zero chance of winning, and with a ticket there's just a sleeper chance.

Worse, is what I call the merger of Mac and iOS, or the iOS-ification of the Mac OS. The thinking in Cupertino it appears is to have a single OS experience across handheld, tablet and portable/desktop. This makes no sense.

Here's what I wrote about this iOS-ification a couple of years ago:

What users want are OSes and applications that can express the best performance on their respective hardware. What works on one computing platform may not work as well on another larger or smaller one, or one with more expansion or network connections or power. Users also want flexibility in the OS and apps to have different ways to do things, something that the Mac user interface has previously prided itself on.

But there is little flexibility in iOS than there is on a Mac.

It is natural for a small tablet like the iPad to have a modal interface with everything packed into the app and screen rather than a layered multi-windowed environment like the Mac OS. Power users can take advantage of multiple screens, or just one big screen, to place various pieces of content, files and other resources. It lets users eyeball the elements.

Now, the iOS interface creep continues. This single-screen interface keeps making its way into the Mac interface. We're supposed to be grateful in Mavericks that now you can have one full-screen app running on multiple monitors — so, it's more like two iPads! The whole idea of full-screen apps presupposes that items on the desktop, the windows of other apps and moveable palettes with tools, are seen as distractions.

Don't get me started ranting on iTunes.

Apple can make its programs serve multiple constituencies — longtime Mac users, newbies, former Windows users, iOS users. There can be multiple ways to do a task within an applications or between applications. The user interface can behave and look differently for different users and the sky won't fall in.

In fact, that was the Mac way, way back when.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPad, Operating Systems, Software

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  • Re: only one thing can get done right at Apple at any one time

    This is not unique to Apple. You could observe it in any company. This is just how things work. Successful companies learn how to do many good things, one by one, instead of spreading thin over many projects and then delivering nothing.

    What I believe Apple should have done, to at least reduce the pain is to let you save in the older iWork'09 format, at least in the desktop version. File format and user interface are two parts of the software design that need not be connected with each other. What I understand as goal for Apple was to unify the file formats in iWork'13 -- something they should have done earlier, in my opinion --- and I believe the new format is introduced primarily to support collaborative editing (why not between an iOS device and a Mac, too).

    As for scripting.. AppleScript might be in need for some modernization, but I do not believe Apple intends to kill it. There is of course a way to make it sandbox-aware. I believe it has the appropriate architecture for that.

    Anyway, I agree that with more quiet moves and less boasting Apple could do better, as they are much closely watched now than before.
    • And yet.... ding MS for the same growing pains.

      Apple could do better with "more quiet moves and less they are much closely watched now than before." So what you're saying is that Apple didn't have much by way of clothes before either, but it didn't matter because hardly anyone was looking. Now that allure of their flashy iBarrette is beginning to fade, people are starting to notice. How embarrassing.
  • Re: Apple: Stop the iOS-Mac merger....

    The title of this article sounds more like the start of a petition. There is no real evidence of iOS and OS X becoming one. In fact quite the contrary. With the release of OS X Mavericks Apple have only gone further to cement their stance to retaining the traditional desktop.
    Any applications that can be found on both the iOS and OS X systems are merely for compatability between the two which has to be positive. Furthermore the inclusion of applications such as iBooks in OS X is a bonus for the Apple consumer in that they now have the opportunity of reading their purchases on their Mac without being limited to their iPad. That is very positive.
    Obviously such applications as iTunes have to be common and have been since the introduction of iPods, iPhones and iPads. That is an example of an application that originated on OS X so it works both ways.
    There is no need to worry Apple are not going to do a Metro on us. The closest we will get to that is what we already have in Launchpad.
    • I don't like Launchpad

      any more than I like that flaming dock! Sometimes I'm forced to use the dock (nearly always my own fault) but I stay right away from Launchpad.
      Laraine Anne Barker
      • Re: The Dock....

        The Dock has always been a feature of OS X. So nothing new there. There is no room for complaint as you are obviously working with OS X by choice.
  • "The entire community of Mac and iOS users are clamoring over the removal"

    Really? EVERY Mac and iOS user is "clamoring"? OK, whatever.
    • Not every Mac or iOS user...

      but looks like there is a big quantity of people that didn't like what Apple did to iWorks. At least iWorks market share is so small that most people doesn't care. It looks like even Apple doesn't cares for iWorks. At least there are excellent options, like MS Office.
      • Not every iOS user...

        ... hated what they did to iOS in version 7, but a large quantity did. Count me and my wife among them. It's sad when average people have to go into Usability Settings to change the OS in order for it to be usable. Even with the adjustments, it's nowhere near as legible as iOS 6 was. Apple seems to be on a trend of annoying their customers with frivolous back-steps in the functionality of their products.
        • Bill, it must be only long-sighted people who are having problems

          I'm short-sighted (and suffer from astigmatism). I also now have to have a reading prescription in my spectacles. But I don't use my spectacles when I'm on my iPad and I'm having no trouble with the legibility of iOS 7.
          Laraine Anne Barker
    • Nope, Love the new Numbers and Pages

      Had them before and they were "meh".

      These new apps are awesome. Yes, some features are missing - they will be back.

      But for what they are, they are awesome.

      Near perfect Office compatibility is awesome.

      The fact I can start a doc on my Mac, edit on my iPad, iPhone, or web and it's all in sync is awesome. The fact it works seamlessly is awesome.

      Yes, it's not perfect but it's a start and I'm using Office 2011 less and less.
      • This was the Best zdnet article of 2013

        I'm glad you think a program you didn't use before is now awesome because it can now be used "seamlessly" across your Apple devices...

        But that statement really misses the point of the article in a big way.

        NO ONE is complaining that iWork 2013 is more compatible across devices. NO ONE is complaining that iWork is now more compatible with MS Office. We all think that is awesome.

        The problem is Apple deliberately impaired highly functional software that real businesses depend on, and it didn't have to to get that cross device compatibility.

        Lobotomizing iWork so it has the same features on all Apple platforms is like Raul Castro declaring that all cars in Cuba must have their engines replaced with 4-cylinder engines so that parts can be compatible across every car in the country.

        If you never owned a car before that's no big deal, but if you are an existing BMW owner, it's infuriating.

        And if your business depends on the V8 in your truck, then it is outright crippling.

        The willful deafness of Apple (and others) to consider what they are doing to us with decisions like this is a stab in the back for those of us who trusted our businesses to Apple and Apple's roadmap.

        I absolutely regret leaving Office to use iWork years ago.

        The only good thing about iWork 2013 is that installing the new iWork didn't remove iWork 2009 from my hard disks.
  • Do they read/understand feedback?

    I wrote my concerns about the update for Pages on the feedback site. I said that, based on what I had read about the loss of important features, I would not load it & asked for improved usability. I got 2 emails saying, "I understand that you cannot open a document" & was sent a link to user discussions. I am assuming that people in another country, who barely speak English, are manning the feedback site. Apple seems to believe that they can do anything & that we will all follow with our tongues hanging out. So many people I know are switching to Android phones because of iOS 7's little girl appearance & lack if adaptability. Apple isn't the only game in town but they just don't get that.
    • Re: Do they read/understand feedback?....

      At no stage was this article intended to address the shortcomings or otherwise of iOS7. Your take on the appearance of iOS7 is merely your opinion and no more. This subject has been covered in numerous other articles which were directly related to iOS7.
      Android is an alternative and no more and to voice opinions such as yours on the appearance of iOS7 will do no more than encourage the tiresome trolls and fanbois.
      • Are they listening...

        Not to speak for mmbrownie but I understood his comment to reflect a trend with Apple in not listening to user feedback on many fronts. Windows users got the same treatment with Windows 8 as the preview was out for a while and MS just ignored the thousands and thousands of complaints about the missing startmenu and Metro.
        Rann Xeroxx
  • Let's get one thing clear

    One of the big reasons for features being removed in iWork 13 is really because large portions of the application were completely rewritten. The narrative that they did it in some dumbing down to make it feature parity with iOS is funny, but it isn't true. iWork 13 is a massive rewrite.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • It's just clickbait

      Yeah, but "Apple rewrite iWork" is hardly click bait, is it? o_O whereas "Apple completely destroy a once useable App" whether true or not is likely to draw more clickage...
      • I guess

        It just seems wrong when they put up such blatantly false information..
        Michael Alan Goff
    • Apple has, for years, ignored backward compatibility at the expense ...

      ... of it's customers. Oddly, Apple customers don't seem to mind the inconvenience of having to buy a new copy of their applications whenever a new OS version suddenly appears on new hardware and the new hardware will not run the old OS or the old code - or, in this case, even offer backward file compatibility.

      Yet, Windows customers throw a hissy fit if they cannot run five-year-old, third-party code or peripherals on the latest OS. At least they can roll back to the old OS (even on new hardware) to keep running.
      M Wagner
      • Different companies

        different expectations.
        Michael Alan Goff
  • What do you want? Egg in your beer?

    Major rewrites take time and resources, and you never get it right the first time.
    InDesign wasn't ready for prime time until the third go-round.
    OSX was all but unusable until version 2 or 3.

    The goal is not to merge the iOS and Mac versions of the apps the goal is to match the capabilities so documents are equally capable cross-platform.

    You are certainly welcome to use textEdit if you feel so disappointed in Pages. ZDNet will be able to read your columns just fine.
    Dan Robinson