Four breakthroughs you won't see from Apple today

Four breakthroughs you won't see from Apple today

Summary: Apple makes amazing portable devices and has a great success in the iTunes store, but there are important technology pieces they won't innovate on. The result: a company whose shiny new devices are undermined by mediocre infrastructure.

TOPICS: Storage, Apple, Mobility

Control of the entire hardware and software stack has been Apple's advantage with the Mac and the iDevices. That's enabled them to build an integrated customer experiences.

But as mobile device power grows become more powerful, innovation must include the back end infrastructure that powers services. That is the fight between Apple and Google. And that is where Apple is losing.

So where won't we see sparkling Apple innovation tomorrow?

Synchronization support. Apple has yet to figure out how to enable intelligent synchronization between devices. If I have 100 GB of music on my Mac how can I easily synchronize a subset of that to my iPad? What if I don't want every iPhone photo immediately propagated to every device I own? The synchronization interfaces are clunky and dumb and limit the pleasure in owning multiple Apple devices.

Storage products. Apple is been retreating from offering shared local storage services for years, canceling its Xserve RAID and server products. If an office of Macs wants to share many terabytes they must leave the Apple ecosystem and deal with traditionally obtuse network storage interfaces.

Data and filesystem integrity. Apple's HFS+ filesystem offers the ultimate in 1990s technology. Data corruption in files and directories is a fact of life in the Mac and iOS world. That won't change soon.

Web services. Apple's spotty record — eWorld, Mobile Me, iCloud — of online services is more than a branding problem. It's a failure of investment and imagination.

The Storage Bits take
Apple clearly has the ability to out-spend Google in leading-edge infrastructure technologies. But they choose not to.

They built an enormous 500,000 square-foot. data center, but what exciting new services has that infrastructure delivered? The Apple maps fiasco, the continuing failure of synchronization technologies, me-too customer web services — where is the innovation?

Apple's device-centric focus has created breakthrough products like the iPhone and iPad. But it is a paradox that as the devices get more capable, the supporting infrastructure needs to get smarter too.

Controlling the hardware and software stack today also means controlling the underlying infrastructure that delivers services to mobile devices. That's where Apple is losing control.

Comments welcome, as always. What areas do you not expect Apple innovation?

Topics: Storage, Apple, Mobility

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  • Customization

    apple has many great apps, but of course you can't interact with any of them on your lock screen. Everyone copies from each other, why apple has not copied the functionality of widgets is beyond me. As for innovation, there is very little these days with any company. Mobile elctronics is a mature industry and other than faster processors, crisper displays and perhaps better batteries, I don't see where any innovation is going to come from.
    • Lock screen and apps

      If I can interact with apps from the lock screen, why have a lock screen? Isn't that a most egregious security flaw?
      Frankly, I wish Apple would eliminate the lock screen UNLESS the user asks for it to require a password. I hate having to swipe when I want to use my phone.
      iOS 7 allows access to apps on the lock screen, but the user can turn that off if he wants his phone to be secure.
      • No, it's not

        I use a widget to turn my wifi and bluetooth on and off. I also check the weather, not much of a security flaw there. I woudl love that functionality on my ipad.
  • Apple, and now Microsoft, are focused more on

    consumer sales. Unfortunately, most consumers have no problem wasting hours trying to get their way on their devices because that's what they bought them to do, waste time.

    Besides my 4 Mac Books, I have only a classic iPod that sits in the car for music on the road and an iPod Touch that sits in my computer bag rarely used. Neither device is frequently sync'd. As for the Mac Books, one does nothing than act as a DVR and music center. One is my wife's computer and the last two are used extensively for my work. Since I must keep files sync'd on these two as well as their Windows doppelgangers, I use NAS storage in my office.

    Since Windows machines need to be in the mix, an Apple only synchronization method is superfluous. I guess I could use a service like drop box but it will be snowing down below before I ever release my data to a cloud service provider.
  • This article sounds like it was written on another planet

    The photostream feature (on iCloud) isn't tunable in a super granular way, but that in a lot of respects adds to its utility. Your photos are just there, on all your things. It doesn't require a ton of thinking - it just happens. Those are the most useful features of all, the ones that just work, without a computer science degree.

    iCloud is supposed to be bad - but I keep asking people who say that, how exactly is it bad? The movies I've bought in iTunes stream on my Apple TV - I don't need to store them permanently. Ditto, iPod Touch. My Apple TV can show my PhotoStream - again without thinking about it. My Mac can do this. My documents are just there, on everything I have. I can log in and make changes in a pretty fantastic version of iWork.

    Again, I keep hearing iCloud is a problem. So how come I'm not having any problems?

    As to the ongoing stuff we're always told about how bad HFS+ is... I just don't see these problems that people keep saying I should be having. Its HFS ancestor was pretty bad - byebye resource fork, and bye bye useful file. But I just don't have these problems with the current system.

    Same thing with NTFS - people rant about that, and like... what's wrong with it?
    • Missing the point

      It's great that all you want is for everything to sync everywhere. But what if you wanted more control over that what do you do? As a default option I agree with you but I would like the option to exert a more granular level of control when I want to, not this all or nothing approach.
      • Sharing

        If you don't want everything to go everywhere, set up individual shares, and select what you want to go where.
    • You're forgetting one important fact

      ZDNet is an Advertizing device for Microsoft. They have never brought up any problems with Windows 8, Windows Phone 7, or 8, Nokia's total lack of Q.C. Or the fact that Windows users Pay Microsoft, for the Privileged of being beta testers. Sky Drive has had it's share of security problems, yet no mention here. Why? Because Microsoft will "reduce the money" if ZDNet point out Microsoft's flaws.
      I hate trolls also
    • iCloud

      Talk to developers about iCloud
  • I think the Message from Microsoft/ZDNet

    Is pretty clear: "Microsoft = Good, Apple = Bad". Integrity is not a strong point at ZDNet.
    I hate trolls also
  • Apple does not innovate

    Apple markets. Apple steals ("We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." - Jobs).

    "Apple clearly has the ability to out-spend Google in leading-edge infrastructure technologies. But they choose not to." Margins are better on stolen tech, and Apple is all about margins.

    Before long another company will come up with another good idea, Apple will steal it, market it, and be praised for "innovation".
    • Reality Distortion Field

      Wow ... and Jobs was credited with a reality distortion field.
    • Apple vs Google

      I doubt that Apple can spend nearly as much as Google. Much of Google's 'products' are virtual, while Apple deals in hardware. Great difference in development times, and budgets, and less lattitude about what is possible/feasible to produce.
  • Paradox is not the right word, Robin...

    Paradigm is probably closer to what you meant but still not right. Truism or axiom is better.

    "Apple's device-centric focus has created breakthrough products like the iPhone and iPad. But it is [an AXIOM / a TRUISM] that as the devices get more capable, the supporting infrastructure needs to get smarter too."
    • Yes, and . . .

      In the world of storage capabilities migrate between levels - from CPU to controller to storage server, say - which is what happens with more powerful devices. But you're right - the mobile world is different.


      R Harris
  • Microsoft, uh huh moment.

    Ironic, Microsoft can't design a decent touch OS/hardware device. And yet it is at least geared up for providing the services, Apple needs. Gee Bill and Steve, must have been having those meetings for a long time after the case with the Department of Justice. Steve Jobs started in hardware, Bill Gates started in Software. All we want are all the features these two can give us at a good price. And we are still running years late on the personal information cloud. When will we get what we want? When the market can a) afford both together and b)Joe public can afford to use the two together. Horses for courses as my old IT manager used to say, let's hope someone can bring the two together in form factor, price and usuable interface, sooner instead of later. Microsoft may already there? Except for that desktop legacy of theirs.

    Like your article hypothetical of course? Or perhaps maybe this was the original plan for these two tech behemoths to co-exist, without destroying their monoplies?
  • Will authors please read what they write before submitting?

    Robin Harris writes:

    "That's enabled them to build an integrated customer experiences."
    "an ... experiences"??? please don't mix singular and plural in this way!

    "But as mobile device power grows become more powerful"
    Please use one or the other, not both!
    Also, again don't mix singular and plural:
    "as mobile device power ... become more powerful"

    "Apple is been retreating from offering shared local storage services"
    either "is retreating" or "has been retreating" but please don't mix present and future like this.

    Need I say more? (I haven't finished reading the article yet so there may be more examples of mangling the English language).