And this brings us to what iOS 7 might reveal about Apple's intentions. Today, says Speirs, iOS "does a wonderful job in the lower-left corner of the chart" -- with light-to-medium complexity tasks, over relatively short durations. The real opportunity lies in the upper-right corner of Speirs' chart -- enabling iOS to handle new classes of tasks.
"[T]here are various sources of complexity in the use of a computer for a task and some of them still either overwhelm iOS or simply become too awkward to tolerate," Speirs says. Here's a partial list of these "complexifiers" and how they can be cut or minimized:
Problem: "One source of complexity is having to use multiple tools to achieve the result you want. On the desktop, the common transport for doing this is the filesystem: save a file from one app, open it in another. iOS needs to support the user in that task without breaking the filesystem abstraction that has been so valuable in making iOS approachable for less technical users. ... If I want to take a PDF stored in Evernote, edit it with PDF Expert and save a modified version back into the same Evernote note, I simply can't do it today."
Solution: "If iOS had a generalized 'send this piece of data to apps that claim to handle it' service - yes, like Android does - all the work to allow posting a link to Flipboard from Tweetbot would be in the hands of Flipboard and not Tweetbot." Easier, more transparent handling of files and non-file data in iOS is a change called for by many others also. Microsoft has a similar service, called contracts, in Windows 8. CodeProject.com has an analysis of how contracts work.
Problem: "Moving data between two iOS devices without using a Dropbox-like service, email or, worse, a Mac has always been annoying. Apps like iFiles leverage Open In ... to work around the problem but, again, you end up with a copy of your data in iFiles' sandbox as well as the originating app."
Solution: "iOS should support AirDrop, and it should be available as an 'Open In ...' target." AirDrop is Apple's peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection, apparently based on a subset or customization of the Wi-Fi Direct peer-to-peer standard. It's currently supported in OS X. Just in the last few days, there have been reports that Apple is testing AirDrop for iOS 7.
Problem: Big data. "One of the bigger limitations of iOS has always been that, every so often, you'll try and do something that's 'too big' for an iOS device to do. ... Examples include: trying to import a video from the Camera Roll into an app, opening a large Keynote file, applying a complex set of adjustments in iPhoto."
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