Has Apple's success elsewhere hurt it in the cloud?
Apple's online services are in high demand, Cue said, and that demand is on the rise. The company delivers as many as 200,000 messages via its Messaging app every second; users upload billions of images to Apple's Photos app every day; the App Store and iTunes complete 750 million transactions every week; 11 million people currently subscribe to Apple Music; and the company completed "billions of dollars" in payments via Apple Pay to date, according to Cue.
"You look at the scale of Messages, you look at Apple Pay, you look at our stores, we run some of the largest services in the world very successfully," Cue said. "The scale of this is huge and I would compare it to any company out there."
However, Apple isn't complacent and the company knows it has to keep up with the market for software and services. "I know our core software quality has improved significantly over the last five years, but the bar just keeps going up and that's a bar that we embrace," Federighi said. "Every year, we realize that the things we were good at last year and the techniques we were using to build the best software we can are not adequate for the next year because the bar keeps going up."
Apple executives and other leaders frequently meet to discuss the state of its software and online services, as well as how the company can improve both, according to Federighi. "The bar is higher and we will continue to adapt every year to meet that challenge."
Apple downplays role of cloud
Apple seamlessly ties together hardware, software and services so that users don't necessarily know that they're using cloud services, according to Federighi. "Apple Pay is a hardware feature, it's a software feature, it's a cloud feature and it just works," he said. "It's a tremendously complex undertaking, but the customer doesn't have to think about any of those component pieces."
Apple's Cue was also careful to specify that the company doesn't want its customers to focus on Apple's individual services, but instead see the brand as one overarching experience. "The service isn't the thing — it's the experience," he said. "So when you're typing a note on your iPhone and it's on your Mac, we're not advertising this as note services or anything."
"We're frustrated of course to hear it overall characterized as the quality is dropping … because we know that's not true," Federighi said. "At the same time there's certainly a reality that if people are having these experiences then there's something we can improve."
Some of the criticism that surrounds Apple's services is directly related to unwelcome changes it made in the past, such as moving users from iPhoto to the new Photos app, according to Federighi. While such transitions can be jarring for people accustomed to certain ways of doing things, Apple pushes users to new features and experiences when it believes they will benefit the greater good. "When you have more customers, those things are harder to do," Cue said. "We're still willing to push, we just have to make sure that we think about the ways that people are using the product, and when we make the changes that they're not significant, and we're improving more than we're taking away."
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