Good is the enemy of Great for the iPad

While probably not the first person to say it, Jonathan Ive has been quoted as saying “Good is the enemy of great”, and this is likely one of the mantras at Apple. Apple has often resisted the urge to create “good” products, and waited until they could release a “great” product.

In my view, this is probably how Apple is tackling issues with the iPad right now.

Some examples of Apple not releasing “good” products;

  1. Apple did not release a two-button mouse. They waited until they came up with the idea to use sensors on the surface of the mouse, which would ultimately result in multi-touch mice. Hence the transition from a one-button mouse to the “mighty mouse” and then the “magic mouse”. What Apple did was to forgo the “good” solution (two-button) and wait for the “great” one.
  2. From the original Mac Pro (2006) to the newly released cylindrical 2nd generation Mac Pro (2013), Apple waited a full 7 years. No doubt they could have made “good” minor changes in the design somewhere in the middle. However, they focused on the “great”.
  3. Apple did not include copy-and-paste on the original iPhone. Apple waited until iPhone OS 3.0 for that. They were waiting to make their implementation “great”. Android rushed, as always, and their implementation was only “good”.
  4. Apple did not allow multi-tasking on the original iPhone. In fact, multitasking was only allowed starting on iOS 4.0. The reasons are straightforward; Apple was waiting until iOS could multitask without draining battery-life. They were forgoing the “good” solution until they had a “great” one.

Given Apple’s history of resisting “good” solutions, it is unlikely we will be seeing the suggested evolutionary changes that are being discussed on the web. In that article, they mention a slotted clipboard among other suggestions.

In the link above, former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée states his view why Apple won’t create a “Hybrid” tablet. His reason is simply because the iPad and the MacBook have high customer satisfaction, so there is no reason to ruin it. He also relies on the hindsight that Microsoft’s Surface was a flop.

That kind of reasoning is what makes me happy that Jean-Louis Gassée is not at Apple anymore. There is very little logic to his statements and no underlying understanding of what is making Apple successful.

If you consider that Apple is not about making “good” products but making “great” products, then the logic flows naturally.

Jean-Louis Gassée makes the statement;

Still, preparing a mixed media document, even a moderately complex one, irresistibly throws most users back to a conventional PC or laptop. With multiple windows and folders, the Mac lets us accumulate text, web pages, spreadsheets and graphics to be distilled, cut and pasted into the intended document.

and suggests the slotted clipboard as a possible solution.

This is the wrong approach. What he is discussing is how can we make it possible to do on iPads what we were doing on PCs. He is trying to find a way to bring iPads closer to PCs. This is the “good” approach.

The “great” approach would be to find a way to make creating mixed media documents easier on an iPad than it is on a Mac. Maybe not easier for people who have been downloading and storing files in folders for 20 years, but for those who have found that overwhelming and complicated.

In fact, Apple has been doing just this for photos and videos. Consider how you would attach a photo to a Twitter post on a Mac. You would drag-and-drop the file. Compare that to how you do it on iOS. In iOS, you click a “photo” button inside the Twitter app, and you are presented with your photo library. Simply chose the photo you want, and it will be inserted in your tweet. No need for a clipboard of any kind.

Apple hasn’t done anything similar yet for other kinds of content like text snippets. It is more likely however, that they will pursue this path rather than a slotted clipboard approach. Why? Because it is simpler.

In summary, trying to get iPad to do what Macs are currently capable of is only the “good” approach. Given Apple’s track record, this is not the path they will take. Apple is most likely taking its time to come up with a “great” solution. A “great” solution that will make the same task much easier on an iPad than on a Mac.