At WWDC 2012, Apple Senior Vice President of iOS, Scott Forstall, did NOT announce the following:
Next up is a brand new app we're calling Files
Now Files is:
The simplest way to get all of your documents in one place
There are a lot of really great apps in the app store that let you create and edit documents, text files, spreadsheets, and presentations, inside apps. There are Apple's own iWork apps, as well as some competitors, and a host of note-taking and text-editing apps that all let you work with documents right in the apps.
Now this is great but the problem is, when you need to find a document you have to try to remember which app you created it, hope you still have it installed, fumble around your Home screen to find the app, and then find the document or not within the app.
So Files takes all of these documents and combines them together in one place. And integrates it right into the OS.
That would have been the simple, user-friendly, file repository I've been asking for in iOS going on several years now.
And it would solve the current problem of users having to remember which app holds what document. (Or deleting documents b
What Forstall and Apple announced was almost exactly that, but for coupons, tickets, cards, and other forms of vouchers instead. It was Passbook.
Passbook has a lot of the functionality I've been asking for for documents for years, but it's for commerce rather than productivity.
It does show -- once again -- that Apple isn't philosophically against repositories in iOS, and can handle them in a way that's drop-dead simple for iOS users. But it also shows what Apple's current priorities are.
Here's the actual Passbook announcement:
Next up is a brand new app we're calling Passbook
Now Passbook is:
The simplest way to get all of your passes in one place
There are a lot of really great apps in the app store that are starting to put passes, boarding passes and tickets, into the apps. There are some airline apps, like this one from United, where you get your boarding pass right in the app.
There are some store card apps, like this one from Starbucks, where you get the store card right in the app and you can use it to scan and pay coffee.
And there are some movie ticket apps like this one, where your movie ticket goes right into the app.
Now this is great but the problem is, when you get to the movie theater or to the airport, you fumble around to find the app, and then find the ticket or the pass within the app.
So Passbook takes all of these passes and combines them together in one place. And integrates it right into the OS.
Now, I'm thrilled with the idea of Passbook. The less I have to carry around in my analog wallet, the better. And it's not difficult to imagine the day when PassKit (the framework behind Passbook) layers QR codes behind more advanced systems like RFID/NFC, all tied to iTunes' hundreds of millions of credit cards-strong checkout system.
It's easy to see why Apple gave Passbook that attention as well -- mobile ecommerce is going to be huge. Billions of dollars huge.
File access isn't that goldmine. It's just a point of friction for iOS users.
Having to remember which app you created which document may be an unnecessary cognitive load. Having documents tied to apps, when apps can be removed or replaced from devices with a touch, jiggle, and tap, may not be the kind user experience Apple is famous for. But it's also not a high-order bit for Apple at the moment.
For many users, especially professional and productive users, files and documents are as important as pictures and coupons, maybe more so. But they won't be shared socially, or paid for or redeemed by the masses.
Apple showed they could do simple, user-friendly, flat file repositories back in iPhone 1.0 with Photos.app and the Image picker. For anyone silly enough to doubt it, they've shown us again with iOS 6 and Passbook.
Maybe in a future WWDC we'll see a Files.app and docs picture bullet pointed, and given the same few seconds of attention pull-to-refresh in Mail got this year. Or maybe iCloud's document system will simply evolve into this, automagically surfacing any compatible file type in any app capable of editing it. That would solve 80% of the problem all on its own.
Bottom line, however, Apple has proven once again that they can do repositories and do them well. They've simple chosen not to do so for files. At least not yet.