Interview with Apple’s global vice president: imagine where the future is, not wait for the future to happen

Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along and changes everything. People are very lucky to be involved in a product like this in their lifetime.

What Jobs called a "revolutionary product," Bob Borchers was lucky enough to witness and participate in two. As Apple's vice president of global product marketing, he is now in charge of a larger burden, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch…

In the year Bob joined the company, the iPod mini was launched with the Click Wheel. This iconic design that supports both rotary touch and click not only left a strong mark in the history of human-computer interaction, but also opened the door for Apple to follow the personal computer. the next era.

▲ iPod mini first introduced the interaction method of click wheel, picture from: minimallyminimal

The idea of ​​reinventing the mobile phone was born from that era, and the iPhone project was the first product Bob Borchers worked on when he joined Apple.

It took a lot of courage to launch the first phone without a keyboard. The prevailing voice is that users want bigger and faster keyboards. But we went the opposite way. We use your finger as the only input device. Why do people sacrifice half the screen for a keyboard that is not always needed?

▲ The mainstream form of smartphones before the release of the original iPhone

The metaphor behind the iPhone's reinvention is that for a portable device, content consumption is more important than the keyboard.

The market and time have proved the team's vision: in the following ten years, the mobile phone shapes of smartphones have become more and more similar, but the content presented on similar screens is unprecedentedly rich.

If the iPod put 1,000 songs in a pocket, the iPhone and iOS put the Internet in everyone's pocket.

After Windows Phone and several niche operating systems died down, iOS and Android dominated the tens of billions of smart terminals. With the help of the App container, smartphones are almost connected to people's daily life and daily necessities.

You no longer need to pinch to check the weather forecast, you no longer need to walk to the side of the road to call for a taxi, and you no longer need to walk outside to find restaurants. Almost all your needs can be met in one app between your thumbs.

AI, Algorithms, Privacy and Humanity

In 15 years of evolution, iPhone OS 3.0 can be regarded as a pivotal iteration – the first time that the iPhone can implement Push Notifications.

Push has changed the way users get information. It allows the app's information notifications to automatically reach the user. In a sense, the mobile phone has become a private secretary.

Until people found out that the secretary was a little noisy and there were a lot of advertisements.

In our life, more and more things attract our attention. But we hope to design more tools and capabilities to allow users to walk the world, to turn off the noise and noise whenever needed, and return to the real world.

Under the wave of digital health (Digital Wellbeing), Apple has made some actions that are contrary to commercial interests, such as adding "screen time" in iOS 12 to count the usage of your mobile phone, and being able to set the duration of use for the app. upper limit.

In the latest iOS 15, Apple has also innovated the form of notifications, using a notification summary to simplify the content and frequency of notifications.

At the same time, iOS 15 also brings focus mode (Focus). It allows users to allow different apps to send notifications according to different scenarios.

Ten years after apps ruled the rules of human-computer interaction, software is still eating the world, but while apps provide services to people, they also unknowingly isolate the once open and shared Internet content on a server.

Algorithms use a logic of "instrumental rationality" to set up issues, which consumes human curiosity and curiosity, and objectively stimulates opposition in the world.

Anti-intellectual remarks and controversial topics can fill your timeline when algorithms discover that hate allows you to retweet and comment. The algorithm may not know what anger is, but it knows the traffic and revenue behind anger.

Bob believes that the problems of "instrumental rationality" and "information cocoon room" should be solved by "protecting privacy". He also explained some details of Apple's artificial intelligence algorithm:

It is very important that when we process data sets such as images, materials, etc., what kind of data will we choose to feed the machine learning model, we work with teams around the world to ensure that nothing is introduced in the process. bias.

Unlike other big companies that use cloud computing for machine learning, Apple's calls below AI capabilities come entirely from the capabilities of local chips.

How big is this "brain"? How much user data cache is available on the iPhone for machine learning to call?

For most companies, this brain may be terabytes of cloud data, but for Apple, it’s only an average of 200 MB—these are as big as your voice and face data, as small as your swipe trajectory and habits, All are stored in encrypted form on the iPhone's chip.

The protection of user privacy and data has always been our top priority.

The future of operating systems

After 15 years of development, the iOS system is becoming more and more mature. It is hard to imagine that such a mobile phone operating system has gradually undertaken some tasks that were incompetent on computers in the past.

With the passage of time, the smartphone is no longer the only smart device for the user. From the watch on the wrist, to the iPad on the sofa, the home entertainment center, and then to the ubiquitous smart home, there is no doubt that the Internet of Everything is the next step in intelligence.

This means that in different scenarios, users will constantly flow between devices, which also means that developers need to adapt different apps for different terminals.

Just as iPhoneOS was born out of Mac OS X in the past, iOS is now full of peach and plum, and has differentiated into five major operating systems such as iPadOS, watchOS, and HomeOS. Another approach of industry giants is to try to use one system to open up the Internet of Everything, such as Huawei's Hongmeng and Google's Fuchsia.

Regarding these two ideas, Bob's attitude is that "continuity is important, but the unique experience of these devices cannot be sacrificed because of continuity."

He cites iPads and Macs as examples:

Many people will ask: Why doesn't the iPad simply share the same operating system as the Mac? But if you think deeply about these two devices, you will find that their experience is completely different: the iPad was designed from the beginning with fingers as the main interaction method, and it is a touch-first device. Of course, over time, it has also extended some other capabilities, such as keyboard and cursor, but even if there is a cursor, you will find that the cursor is also in a touch-based environment. macOS, on the other hand, is designed around the keyboard and mouse interface.

Bob said that all of Apple's operating systems share many frameworks and components, so the interoperability between devices is fully guaranteed, which is a balance.

Like Universal Clipboard, you can copy on iPhone, paste on Mac, and you can share between two devices using AirDrop.

Software, Hardware and Services

Apple's status in the rivers and lakes is often overly attributed to the foundation of the iOS and App Store ecosystems.

Try to think about it: The last time you thought an Apple product was good, what made it?

Is it the pleasure of no lag after pressing the shutter? Is it the elegance of the screen pop-up window after the AirPods is opened? Is it smart to auto-center while video chatting?

What you see is the interface, but behind it is the combination of software, hardware and chips.

In fact, for the past 15 years, our philosophy has remained unchanged, that is, the combination of software, hardware and services. From the multi-touch of the original iPhone, all the way to today's Apple Silicon. "

Bob calls this combined idea – Holistic.

He believes that the imaging capabilities of the iPhone 13 Pro are the best reflection. Behind every photo, there is the credit of computational photography, the cooperation and collaboration of photosensitive elements, ISPs, algorithms, and even machine learning.

This is not easy. The advanced development of programming languages ​​makes software engineers not master the physical characteristics and working principles of the underlying hardware like computer scientists in the early years.

In 2019, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller revealed in an exclusive interview that the chip development cycle is about 2-3 years and involves multiple teams. During this period, architecture engineers have to work with a large number of software and hardware personnel.

For example, the camera often calls the GPU. The GPU designed by the chip department can tell the camera department how to use it best, and the needs of the camera department will guide the future development of the GPU.

When talking about the combination of software and hardware, a well-known example is that Jobs quoted scientist Alan Kay at the first-generation iPhone conference:

People who are extremely serious about software should produce their own hardware. (People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.)

Looking ahead, this sentence can be regarded as a reflection on the iTunes Phone Waterloo – Apple had cooperated with Motorola on the ROKR E1 music phone, and Jobs was extremely dissatisfied with its experience.

In retrospect today, it is more like a foreshadowing for Apple's self-developed chips.

But in fact, Holistic's genes can be traced back to at least the following video of Jobs, and you can hardly even imagine that this is an insight from 42 years ago:

The combination of software and hardware is becoming more radical… Yesterday's software is today's hardware. These two things are merging. The boundaries between them are getting thinner. One of the many things we need to do is predict trends a few years from now; try to make some assumptions about the convergence of different tech fields, understand customer demand for high-end tools, and find the intersection of the two.

The reason why Holistic is valuable is that it requires manufacturers to have strong vertical integration capabilities – control of core components and operating systems, control of ecosystems and partners, and forward-looking exploration of human-computer interaction.

At the end of the interview, I asked Bob to recall what it was like to join Apple in early 2004. He thought about it and exclaimed:

What surprised me most at the time was that one company could bring about so much change. All the people from Apple are keen to think differently. These changes come from passion and occasionally breaking the rules to accomplish goals. Push boundaries and imagine where the future is, instead of waiting for it to happen.

Bob says he especially likes to quote hockey player Wayne Gretzky:

I always skate to the point where the puck will reach, not chase where it was. (I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.)

Love the News Feed and Menu, and am trying to make the amount of information processed every day exceed the fat intake.

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