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Apple’s Loose Ends

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While Apple (s aapl) has been releasing fancy new products recently, like the iPad and the iPhone 4, this last week something brought my thoughts back sharply to some products that have been languishing for some time without an update. There are a number of products that Apple has let sit for too long and badly need some attention.

The top of this list would probably be the Apple TV, but recent rumors of an imminent refresh of the device, perhaps built on iOS, has bumped the “hobby” project in favor of some other devices and features that are waiting for a little love from Apple.

Airport Express

The Airport Express was last updated in March 2008 when Apple added 802.11n capabilities. The Airport Express was the first device to sport AirTunes remote speakers so you could play iTunes audio in another room, but it is the last device to still have 100baseT ethernet. When 802.11n can hit transfer speeds of 150-300 megabits, it seems silly to be bottlenecked at 100 megabits on the ethernet side. The Airport Express would also benefit from AirDisk support in addition to the printer facilities it currently provides through the USB port. Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi as found in the Airport Extreme would also be a nice update.

30″ Cinema Display

[inline-ad align=”right”]A lot has already been said about the lack of updates to the 30″ Cinema Display, introduced in June 2004. The 30-incher is still a great display, but the newer 24″ LED Cinema Display sports a lot of upgraded technology that needs to make its way into the 30″ model too. The 30″ is crying out to be updated with LED backlighting and Mini DisplayPort inputs. I know it is a bit un-Apple-like, but I would really like to see multiple HDMI and Mini DisplayPort inputs so that the next 30″ display could be connected to a MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and/or a Blu-ray player, game console, etc. While we’re at it, both displays could use an upgrade to a higher resolution iSight sensor and Firewire 800 connectors.

Front Row

Front Row is not exactly a product, but this feature of Mac OS X provides a 10 foot interface for your iTunes content. Unfortunately, it has not been updated since Mac OS X 10.5 in November 2007. Front Row does not even understand newer content like iTunes U or iTunes Extras. The new interface on the Apple TV introduced with version 3 would be a good place to start, but frankly the whole thing could be redone. Adam Jackson pointed out to me that a new Front Row would be great for the Mac mini because the new HDMI output makes it the perfect Mac to connect to an HDTV — where you actually need an interface that you can use from across the room with a remote.

Apple Remote Desktop

Speaking of remotes, Apple Remote Desktop is supremely useful for managing large numbers of Macs in a school or enterprise setting. But the last major update was April 2006 and has only seen three minor updates since then, the most recent coming out last summer which consisted of bug fixes and sending function keys to the remote machine.

Apple TV

OK, I know I said I was going to leave this alone since the Apple TV update is rumored to be coming soon. Still, I love my Apple TV and I have to point out a few things that need updating in the next release. Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n at 5GHz, 1080p video,  HDMI bitstreaming of advanced audio codecs, and support for iTunes U are a few of the features that I really want to see in the next Apple TV.

Other Thoughts

  • I know the Finder has been a frequent contestant on these lists of things to be updated but I am never sure if anyone really knows what needs to be done. Most of the Finder wishlists I have seen look like notes from the Norton Commander fan club, but there might be something here.
  • iTunes Home Sharing should evolve into a more general iTunes content server.
  • It is great that iBooks 1.1 lets you read ePUB and PDF files on your iPad and iPhone, but iBooks for Mac is still missing and publishers cannot submit PDF books to the iBookstore.
  • Geoffrey Goetz wants to know why you can control presentations on your Mac with Keynote Remote, but not presentations on your iPad.
  • Andy Boothe wants key rebindings for every feature in Mac OS X.
  • Chris Ryan wants consistent features across the iPod lineup — cameras from the nano, voice over and speech from the shuffle.

What Else?

I have probably only touched the surface of Apple products and features that have been languishing. What products or features do you want to see Apple update this year?

42 Responses to “Apple’s Loose Ends”

  1. I would really like to see a refresh of the OS interface, Microsoft has gone for the “shiny” look, which looks very elegant, apple has seen the “bubble” buttons since 10.1! The dock also needs some attention, along with mac not being customisable, Windows 7 Has over 100 000 different themes on the net! Mac only having 2, Blue or Graphite. ShapeShifter was great until Apple made sure they were gone by changing the way the code works,

    Come on apple!

  2. I love most things about my Mac. I invest in Apple. I like it even though I must use VMware for some programs not available for Mac. I have owned this machine for almost 3 years and one glitch indicates when I have to upgrade. If you touch the lower left hand quadrant below the keyboard with any part of your body, the cursor jumps into space or somewhere else on the page, you get a “tingle” like a small electric shock in your arm or hand. This is so disconcerting I have been forced to hunt and peck one handed for most typing on line or off line. I tolerate this only because I enjoy using the Mac. With the new hardware revelations about Apple Iphone4, I would expect this issue to be corrected in the MacBook or I would not buy again.

    • ScottJ

      That’s a rather weird issue, although I must admit that it does hew to the author’s theme of “I have probably only touched the surface of Apple products and features that have been languishing…”

      It’s not clear from your post if this is a metal-cased laptop you’re using, though that’s my suspicion. If so, does it happen only on the charger? It should not be difficult to diagnose by a competent technician. Possibly a ribbon cable got pinched in assembly, or a problem exists in this unit’s upper case which includes the keyboard and trackpad. Really, the only element of the system that can cause a “tingle” should be the (old-style) fluorescent display backlight and its associated circuitry and cabling. So that’d be where I poke around to see what’s happening. Be assured it’s by no means a common issue with new or old Macs.

    • Glenn Carter

      You need to disable the remote receiver on Macs that you do not want the Remote to control. System Prefs > Security > Check “Disable remote control infrared receiver”.

      I have 3 Macs in the home and my Apple Remote only controls the AppleTV.

  3. CUT and PASTE. Resize a window from any edge, delte key that works in finder.

    OS X is off the Apple radar, iOS is the future. Macs are for creating iOS apps, or that is until iOS replaces OS X on Macs.

    iWork needs to be able to save in Office 2007/2010 formats as the default and not some export option.

    • “…that is until iOS replaces OS X on Macs.”

      They are completely different platforms, with different uses, needs, and input methods.

      If Apple actually did replace OSX, which is pretty much inconceivable, first, it literally wouldn’t make any sense, and second, no one in their right mind would buy a $1k+ computer where there is any limit as to what applications you can install.

  4. sjinsjca

    OS X’s handling of scanners took a usability dive with Snow Leopard. I mean: click the Apple logo, select System Preferences, select Print & Fax, click the Scan tab.

    Now, let’s count the ways that’s wrong. I don’t want to print. I don’t want to change a preference. I don’t want to fax.

    Scanning needs its own application in the Applications or Utilities folder, or it needs to be built into the File menu of scanner-aware applications next to the Print function.

    It’s enough of a pain in the arse to scan something without Apple hiding the functionality deep where it doesn’t belong.

  5. chano

    I think we can expect a big increase in dpi resolution in the next meg display. Not Retina-like 326 dpi, but maybe a tripling to 216dpi. That would mean a price rise but it would also mean about 4 x Full HD!
    I’ve been waiting for an update for 5 years now. I always had this feeling that a better model was due rsn. 5 years is a long time but I settled for a 27″ iMac until the great day comes.

    • Adam Jackson

      Unfortunately, the iPod classic is hard drive based and has the highest fail rates of any other iPod because HDDs aren’t made to move around so much.

      Apple really would rather sweep it under the rug but it remains because some people need that much storage. We know that apple hates buttons, large formats and small screens….

      It’s only a matter of time before the iPod Classic is gone forever, but Nanos and iPhones have to hit that 120GB capacity first.

      Personally, I bought a 120GB iPod classic Waiting for it to be discontinued so I can have it for nostalgia reasons.

  6. Brianm

    The finder was a major update with 10.6. Although some features are worse than before, some are indeed better, especially folders with thousands of files.

    I believe that with the 10.6 update the finder is now Cocoa, all previous versions have been Carbon. While it is pretty smooth, it isn’t surprising that some things broke, and may take at least a few updates to get them resolved. (I suspect that this Cocoa finder has been worked on since early in Mac OS X history, but had too many bugs to release until now)

  7. The MacBook Air. At 13 months since it’s last update, it carries all the excitement and noteworthiness of a Dodge Durango. Come on Apple. 13 months? You’ve given us two new iPhones since then. Are you sleeping?

  8. KsbjA

    Ummm… the infamous iPod touch with a camera? And while we’re at it, the nano should get iPhone 4’s camera. Yeah, I’m pretty sure of this one. The nano is getting iPhone’s camera.

  9. Plug-in support for Front Row (for Netflix and Hulu) – yeah, I know, not going to happen since it would eat into iTunes revenue stream.

    If new AppleTV is based on iOS, can we see Netflix and Hulu apps for it?

    For either product just mentioned, how about COMPLETE integration with an iPad for remote control?

    • Robert

      Noting “wrong” with it, per se, but there are too many Option-, Command-, and other sequences to remember as it is. DELETE should mean delete, not Command-DELETE. I’m pettifogging, I know, but work with me here, eh? :)

      • I think the reason there is the CMD modifier is because when you send something to the trash, it goes straight there. In windows, you would get a confirmation dialog (so, there’s still a second step). Otherwise, if you accidentally hit delete, your file would go straight to the trash. If your sound was off, you wouldn’t even know. So it comes down to would you rather:

        • Have a confirmation dialog when you hit delete on a file, or
        • Hit an extra key to make sure you don’t accidentally delete a file

        I will agree, however, that there does tend to be a lot of modifier usage. Is this good or bad? I don’t know. I think it can get a little crazy when you need to use three modifiers (i.e. cmd+shift+opt+your key).

  10. Robert

    The word DELETE was mysteriously removed from my last message. It should have read:

    “Something extremely simple: How about Apple finally integrating a functional DELETE key into OS X? If I highlight a series of files and/or folders, a simple press of the DELETE key should send them to the trash. PCs have had this since their inception and I don’t understand why OS X can’t make this work without scripting.

    • Alejandro Perez

      You can do that by pressin Command + Backspace it sends the file selected to the trash, if you press command + shift + backpace it prompts foe immediate deletion.

  11. Robert

    Something extremely simple: How about Apple finally integrating a functional key into OS X? If I highlight a series of files and/or folders, a simple press of the key should send them to the trash. PCs have had this since their inception and I don’t understand why OS X can’t make this work without scripting.

  12. -An airport utility app so you can modify the airport express/extreme settings from an iPad without the need for a laptop. (Or just allow logging in via browser.)

    -The Macbook Air crowd of course want an update.