Apple’s software division was busy in 2013. Not only did we see a massive overhaul to iOS, but OS X, iLife (iMovie, GarageBand and iPhoto) and iWork (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) all received a new suit and tie. The most obvious changes were, of course, to iOS, with the Jony Ive’s design team taking what was beginning to look like a tired operating system and injecting new features and a fresh coat of paint. The overall response to iOS 7 has been a positive one, with only a few naysayers complaining about the colourful layout and swooshing animations. Structurally iOS 7 brought a new control panel for quick access to useful features (much like Android has had for some time now), a tweaked camera app replete with filters and shooting modes, plus the ability for apps to update in the background. In all there were around two hundred new features in the OS, but there are a few things left for Apple to address in the upcoming iOS 8.
Notifications still remains an area where iOS feels clumsy. Replying to an iMessage requires the launching of the app, rather than a simple dialog box as it is on OS X. There’s still no universal control to clear all of the past notifications at once, with the user having to manually delete each app’s entries, and iMessage itself has had problems again this year, with customers reporting missed messages and sporadic performance. We think Apple could easily fix these issues in the next version of iOS, which is more likely to be a nip and tuck after the major surgery of iOS 7. One interesting acquisition made by Apple in 2013 was for a small software house called Cue, that specialises in smart assitant programming. With Google Now becoming an incredibly impressive service on Android it's possible that Cue could be how Apple catch up. Siri hasn’t been as useful as the ads promised, with search results often foxing the digital assistant. Now that Cue is on board we could see smarter push notifications, providing us with the information we need when we need it.
See also: Apple Software reviews / OS X Mavericks review
What next for OS X?
The release of OS X Mavericks assured us that Apple’s fully fledged OS will be around for a while yet. Or at least until it runs out of Californian surfing beaches. With so much of the company’s business centring on iOS devices, rumours were beginning to be heard that OS X and iOS would move closer together until finally they merged. Reports recently suggested that Apple is considering a redesign of the interface on OS X to make it more in keeping with the new iOS 7 look. Now, while there may be visual similarities we don’t think the functionality of OSX will be reduced to that of iOS, at least not for a good few years yet. OS X is built for different users and with Apple not introducing a touch interface for Mavericks the two operating systems remain distinct from each other. That doesn’t stop the them sharing a certain amount of design features and applications. Maps and iBooks both made the transition to OS X from iOS this year, and we think this will see the much vilified Maps app continuing to be improved and refined as it becomes more integrated in the Apple eco-system. There’s very little information yet about what will appear in the next iteration of OS X, but one snippet we do know at the moment is that it currently goes under the codename of Syrah.
What next for iLife and iWork?
Alongside Mavericks becoming a free upgrade, iLife and iWork also lost their price tag (at least for anyone upgrading from iWork '09). Sadly they also lost some high-end functionality, with the free versions appearing to be more akin to their iOS counterparts. The dumbing down of iWork was noted in particular. User interface expert Nigel Warren explained that by restricting the formatting and advanced features Apple was making iWork a universal product across iOS and OS X. This means that documents and presentations created in the apps will work on either system, or on the web version, without compatibility issues. While this is good for new users, those already invested in Pages, Numbers or Keynote could well feel aggrieved at this change in direction. Apple has done a similar thing in the past with Final Cut Pro X, which caused uproar in the filmmaking community when the new version was released with many important features missing. Over time Apple has replaced some of these functions, but it lost customers in the process. Apple has confirmed that it will reintroduce some of these features to iWork during 2014.
What next for iCloud?
Moving customers to the web versions of iWork needs Apple to address an area that it has never particularly excelled in - that of online syncing. The introduction in Mavericks and iOS 7 of the iCloud Keychain shows that Apple is looking at the web seriously, and adding the collaboration features in iWork is a step in the right direction if it’s going to take on Google’s office suite. The availability for the software to run on multiple formats is a huge advantage, as it stops the data lock-in problem that made some reticent to use the apps in the past. Photostream has shown how effortless Apple can make syncing, so we expect to see more and more use of iCloud in the next year as the company increases its presence on the web.
When will Apple update Final Cut Pro X and Aperture?
With the new Mac Pro due for release any day now there is also wide speculation that this will mean upgrades to the Apple Pro apps such as Final Cut Pro X, Aperture, and Logic. Some even think that the new machine will come with the apps already installed, continuing Apple’s drive to make its software free. This would be an interesting move if it does happen, although we can’t see the free model stretching down to customers who buy consumer level Macs.
One final service that should appear on these shores in the first quarter of the year is that of iTunes Radio. Initially launched in the US with Mavericks, Apple has been hard at work negotiating deals with the various music publishers in order to bring the service to the UK. The ad supported music portal give listeners access to a wealth of new artists, and is free if you are an iTunes Match subscriber.