My fiancé Wil works with app developers who are fond of saying, ‘No application is feature complete until it does email.’ That’s an exaggeration, of course, but it describes the ongoing requirement of continually adding new features. Even Apple is guilty. Here’s how and why.
Features As A Disease
Despite a number of shortcomings and ongoing issues, Apple seems to do a decent job keeping some data synchronized between devices that use iCloud.
I’m thinking Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, et al. All work well for what they do and keep each elements more or less in sync between Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
That should tell us that Apple’s future product plans probably include a notes app which does a little of what Evernote does.
Steve Jobs once said Dropbox was a feature, not a business. He may be proved correct. Evernote and Dropbox have plenty of money thanks to investors, and they use that money to add ever more features, but a profitable business model seems evasive.
Meanwhile, Apple keeps adding useful features to OS X and iOS which integrate well on each platform, and end up spending substantially less than it would cost to purchase Evernote and Dropbox.
Fearful Feature Creep
What bothers me about such acquisitions isn’t that Apple may save a few billion dollars by not purchasing the likes of Evernote or Dropbox. It’s the growth of more built-in features which must be engaged and managed by the user.
I like what Apple is doing with iOS’s integrated Share button, now available on OS X. Sharing options (Message, Mail, Twitter, Facebook, Save, et al) are built into the OS, and made available to third party apps (as well as Apple’s own apps) so they don’t need to do it themselves, thereby mucking up the user interface.
I also like Evernote but I’ve noticed in the past couple of years that it’s become unwieldy with ever more options, new but useless features, and more new choices than I care to engage. At least Dropbox has stuck to the basics and hasn’t added built-in email.
One aspect of using a Mac and OS X, as well as an iPhone and iPad on iOS, is the inherent usability. Too many features with too many options starts to make both more like Windows and Android. If less is more, and small is beautiful, I hope Apple continues to exercise restraint when it comes to acquisitions and feature creep.