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Apple Watch: Capricious gardener

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I mentioned last week that Apple insists its focus is purely on Apple users - in other words, that it doesn't waste that much energy worrying about what users of other systems need or want. It spends, instead, a lot of time on its own users' wants and needs.

This may have been a throwaway comment, but it came from a long-term Apple employee at the Sydney office - and I think it's true.

Going back to the 'Apple is walled garden' accusation, I don't refute it. As I've said to many people before, a walled garden is perfectly nice when you're in it. It's safe, for one thing, and this one's well tended.

However, that garden is being managed by a gardener who's not responsive to your direction. The gardener might listen sometimes, and perhaps you'll even have a tiny impact, but there are millions of other people with access to the garden as well. You can smell the flowers and even pick some fruit and vegetables sometimes, but at your next visit the flower bed might be gone, or moved, or replanted with something else. The gazebo may have changed shape and your access to it might be different.

Welcome to the future - you're in it. As I've pointed out, for example at SeniorNet, which has very active Apple divisions in Christchurch and in Auckland, you might have bought a good hammer 30 years ago or even 50 years ago, and it's probably still going strong.

Tech isn't like that. Unfortunately. Once you get your first computer or even your first smartphone, you're buying into a line of devices that stretch ahead of you into the future. Some people really resent this.

I'm not saying I endorse this model. I'm conflicted. Sustainability should be embraced by everyone. I used to upgrade my Mac every four or five years - but that's accelerating. In the last six years I've had three laptops. I'm still very happy with my current 2012 MacBook Pro, as it still competes benchmark-wise with the latest (I did specify some excellent options when I got it). Partly my upgrading is driven by having to have a machine I can install and run the latest software on (like Logic or Final Cut), since I like to write about that. That middle of the last three machines was troublesome - not the machine itself, it's still excellent. My daughter uses it at Art School. But my laptop was coming to the end of its life so I was forced into a purchase near the end of a model cycle. Within three months, a new MacBook was twice as fast, and software scaled up to take advantage of that to the point it was pointless trying to run it. I managed to cope for a year, but then it just had to go. But I still meet people with Macs five, seven or even ten years old. A bloke I know is only just migrating from a PowerPC!

As far as iPhones go, I'm seriously blown away by how good the iPhone 5s is - but actually, in this instance, I have no complaints about the performance of my iPhone 5, so I'm not changing. That's more likely to happen when my partner's iPhone 4 starts misbehaving, or just not coping.

Anyway, back to that Apple walled garden: Apple recently changed lots of things. You may have seen those sites and tweets about people freaking out when they upgraded to iOS 7 on their iDevices. You're obviously different, since you're reading this, but a lot of people simply don't keep up with tech and didn't know what to expect. Fair enough - but some were so shocked they must also walk around with bags over their heads.

And even I was thrown by the look of iOS 7,and I have to look at stuff all the time and I always seem to be upgrading software all the time - but luckily, for me, the new capabilities of iOS 7 outweighed the strange new look very quickly.

And it's been a bumper couple of months for Apple users. First iOS 7, then Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks. Thanks to both system updates, Apple changed a lot about its other apps at the same time, plus Apple released all its iOS apps free for the first time (some, like Keynote Remote, had carried price tags) and also, more significantly, the complete number change (OS 10.8 to 10.9) was for free, and Apple made the iWork apps on new Macs and iDevices for free as well. (You still have to buy them for existing Macs that don't have them.)

The GarageBand, iMovie, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps are now free on all iDevices.
While Pages, Numbers and Keynote gained significant features on iDevices, to reach something approaching real parity, the same apps on Mac OS lost features and changed the way they look, so there has been a lot to cope with. At the end of the day, the good changes are very good, and the lost features will, hopefully, not be deal breakers - at least for those who regularly use both.

It does mean you have a slick office-style productivity suite you really can easily use between your iPad and your Mac. And no, it's not as powerful as Microsoft Office (by any means), but there is a phenomenon where people will ask 'What's the most professional solution for this?' and get software accordingly. But I have met so many people who have sworn they can't live without Word and yet who barely scratch the surface of it and who, after analysis, would probably be perfectly well served by Text Edit, the free word processor on every Mac that, indeed, even writes and reads Word files anyway.

I also hear people who swear they can't live without Photoshop and believe they are masters because they use Unsharp Mask. OK, for 1, Smart Sharpen is way better, and 2, I use about 25 per cent of Photoshop's capabilities and I know damn well I'm nowhere near a power user - luckily for Adobe, despite lots of lots of people using more like 5-10 per cent of its power, they buy it anyway.

Meanwhile, iPhoto and even Preview on every Mac can pretty much cater to most people's needs.

But I digress. If you're struggling with the changed iMovie, GarageBand, Numbers, Pages etc, I put a link on my own site that should help you adjust. Have fun.

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