The products Apple doesn’t have time to improve

“Collin Donnell: ‘The dearth of good Safari extensions compared to what Chrome has is a good example of Apple’s tendency to get something going, get kind of sidetracked and then not give it the attention it needs to succeed,'” Marco Arment writes for Marco.org.

“My main concern for Apple’s future is the growing list of such products, especially the increasing number of major Mac applications,” Arment writes. “iWork for Mac is a worst-case example. Its series of substantial updates every 12–18 months completely stopped in 2009, and the 2013 rewrites don’t feel like nearly 4 years of work — they feel a lot more like a rushed 12-month effort in response to marketing threats against the iPad’s suitability for office ‘work,’ prioritizing Apple’s marketing needs at significant expense to iWork customers’ needs. The iLife apps feel abandoned, too…”

Read more in the full article here.

32 Comments

    1. I wish Apple didn’t drop iWeb, it’s a very good program. Easy to use, and some really nice templates for creating a nice professional site. I still use it for my site, but certain things don’t work any longer. For me, I miss the excellent blog support it used to have. Why Apple, it was a very well done product.

      1. Actually I am totally pissed by that decision, it has effectively knocked me out of producing web sites. Just finished one for a charity as a favour in iWeb and have partly mirrored it in the trial version of Everweb its natural successor. It has many of the improvements iWeb needed but retains its ease of use and simplicity. However it lacks a few things like text wrap and limits how you can publish your work and now I’m informed will cost me $90 a year to retain plus tied in hosting et al for a moderately better product with restrictions. So no real alternative sadly.

  1. It’s true about Safari. Even Firefox is more extensible.

    Wasn’t there a rumor that one of the companies Apple purchased might help them re-structure the App Store? That would be wonderful. I recently thought about buying a new game, which I haven’t done in some time as Twitter eats up most of my free moments. But searching for games that are similar to those I already like is not possible in the App Store, a weakness I hope they’ll strengthen.

  2. Some things that really suck:
    1] Releasing Mavericks server without functional VPN service
    2] Releasing iOS7 and Mavericks VPN clients that won’t authenticate with existing pre-Mavericks VPN servers
    3] Safari upgrades that refuse to scroll and require a restart to scroll again
    4] Weak email program, especially with regard to Rules

      1. Guess again doof. It’s not really trolling if its true.

        You would find out what kind of things “really suck” if you had upgraded your office server immediately after release and found that the VPN simply didn’t work. Funny that the release notes didn’t mention that detail.

        I’m glad I missed that. It would suck to have angry users unable to connect to their files and other information. It would suck to get calls all evening and having to tell people they’re going to have to drive to the office. It would suck to have to roll back a production server to 10.8.

        There’s always something that is broken. AFP authentication to OD users in 10.5 server, not fixed until 10.5.4. Crashy PostGres SQL in Lion. Or how about services that disappear or get stripped of features in the next release? How about the Mail service in 10.7-10.8? I hope nobody was relying on that.

        You’re still in “Apple is Perfect” land. Apple makes better products than a lot of others, but they’re not always perfect and sometimes they just do inexplicable things. Sometimes they burn people, then take months to fix the problems. The wiser man waits for the dot 3 update.

        1. This is why they are called bugs. Because they didn’t know prior to the release that these BUGS existed. Also they only existed for me with L2TP, to fix it I just enable PPTP until the authentication fix was released.
          Also I never experienced the safari issue because I don’t fall into the right crowd to be targeted by the issue. But that’s okay to nit-pick about the few bugs that get fixed with each release because the magnitudes of fixes released in windows has such a less I left on the user community????

          It’s simple, regardless of your choice if OS, bugs exist. You upgrade in a test environment then if all works to proceed to your production environment. If you are doing this stuff at home and test environments are cost prohibitive then you wait before you upgrade at least a few days or weeks to ensure all things you use are behaving correctly.

  3. Ditto on iWeb, iWork and the iLife apps, especially iTunes. I know Apple has an enormous workforce, and it seems unthinkable that they’re just sitting on their laurels, but there it is. iWeb is a great example of how Apple can drop the ball mid-court, Aperture and Final Cut may be headed the same way if this trajectory continues unabated. Why drop iWeb? Why?

    This is how RIM got sideswiped. Come on Apple, hardware is important, yes, but the synergy you created between hardware and software is what made Apple what it is, or should I say, was? I think the operating systems are mature enough that the work can shift back to those apps now.

    I don’t want to get on the “fire tim Cook” bandwagon, because the man is a genius with hardware supply chains, but he does seem to lack the vision Steve had, and most of his posse seem to be hardware gurus as well. Now that Apple has the incredible HW, it’s time to re-focus (eccch, I hate that word) on the software. If it means bringing Scott back, then do it. If it means looking outside the loop, do it. Without the synergy, Apple will wither. Without the vision, Apple will wilt. Without the drive to “get it right” Apple will stumble. It’s time to return to “insanely great” ideas. Combined with Tim’s ability to execute, Apple could soar, and I sincerely hope they do.

    dmz

    1. Problem is most of the problems trace back to Scott’s and Steve’s tenure. Any decisions on software Cook has overseen are only beginning to be seen or will do so in 2014. IWeb was clearly sidelined by Steve. Pity some of that money pile can’t be used to develop the software quicker and preserve the likes of iWeb so as not to piss off long time users taken in by previous promises.

    2. A lot of the app rot began when Steve Jobs was still CEO.
      I concur with the sentiment expressed for the inexplicable demise of iWeb.
      Then iWork languished for almost half a decade (4 years & 9 months) – an eternity in the IT world. In fact, there is no shortage of both software and hardware that Apple has allowed to wither on the vine for no obvious reason and to the detriment of both Apple and their users.

  4. It is very difficult to criticise Apple in any meaningful way because we have no real idea what is going on in their R&D labs and where Apple is taking us. Apple is a company that is always in transition – new products, new markets and new ideas mean that R&D priorities are constantly reset.

    It would be fair to say that the success of the iPhone and then the iPad has been, if not beyond expectation, then certainly at the upper end. In short order the Mac has become a 3rd tier produce for Apple, behind iPhone and iPad – and you would expect Apple to deploy their best, and the bulk of their expertise on their best selling products.

    We can deduce, from recent software releases, that Apple are working hard to bring iOS and Mac OS/X closer together, hence the focus in iWork on interoperability rather than pure functionality. We have seen, with Final Cut, that Apple will abandon a code base and start over even if it means a loss of functionality in the short term. By all accounts, however, Final Cut is now meeting the requirements of the video industry and the new Mac Pro shows that Apple take a holistic approach to requirements: perhaps the old Final Cut codebase could never have taken advantage of the enormous power increase in the new hardware.

    Yes, there are gaps – Mac mail is a good example. Again, however, this is an old application and it seems likely that work is afoot within Apple R&D to rewrite this application from scratch – messaging, twitter, Facetime and other methods of communication have changed the landscape here.

    IPad has changed the landscape for business, so any work on iWork must now focus on iOS – it is iPad which will replace business desktops, not the Mac – or perhaps a new iPad/Mac hybrid is in the pipeline.

    Applications acquired through acquisitions such as (I believe) Aperture present their own challenges. The codebase will be nonconforming and the development team have a steep learning curve to transition to “the Apple way”. Again, a rewrite is probably coming provided Apple believe that the user base is large enough to warrant a share of their limited development resources.

    The Final Cut transition is a good indicator of how Apple works: we weren’t to know that the Mac Pro was going to set a new bar and the initial loss of functionality created an uproar. However, the end result is an astonishing quantum leap for those working with video.

    When I look at Apple I see a company which has established an extraordinary set of standards and has created an operational model to implement these standards. Apple is also ruthless in response to any failure to meet their high expectations. Because of this, I feel that it is important to take a longer term view and trust Apple to deliver something magical, even if there are periods where nothing seems to be happening. Patience is occasionally required…

    1. As per FCPX, I beg to differ, and I’m afraid a lot of video pros will agree, Apple lost a large number of customers, and it is still nowhere near parity with other offerings, like Premiere.

      Apple has also had a loooong time to upgrade Aperture, and is again being eclipsed by other products, like Lightroom.

      iWork, don’t get me started.

      No, we don’t know what is going on in Apple’s labs, so your speculation is moot. What is evident is Apple’s lack of forward motion with the above-mentioned products. Just the facts, ma’am or man, just the facts.

      I am an Apple die-hard, if you cut me, I will bleed in six colours, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure, to paraphrase a great song.

      dmz

      1. I fully agree, especially as it relates to Aperture. I really tried my best to stick with it. I have been using it for about 8 years. But it really needs attention. With thousands of images to manage each year, I have essentially been forced to make a move to Lightroom. I just could no longer work well with the frequent crashes.

    2. “It is very difficult to criticise Apple in any meaningful way because we have no real idea what is going on in their R&D labs and where Apple is taking us.”

      I don’t think that is valid at all. We most certainly can – and should – criticize Apple. They could just take a billion dollars — pocket change for Apple — and make ALL of these various programs THE industry leader.

      “I feel that it is important to take a longer term view and trust Apple to deliver something magical, even if there are periods where nothing seems to be happening. Patience is occasionally required…”

      Five years and they produce the crippled crap that is Pages 5!!! I have patience, but this is completely outrageous… a Microcrap Vista kind of move. And I don’t have so much patience that I want to be on my death-bed before Pages is a good program again.

  5. Well the article certainly chimes with me in this festive season. Aperture certainly feels neglected these days compared to Lightroom whereas FCPX is much improved. But we have lost iWeb and more importantly iDVD from the latest updates. iWeb sites never seemed to load properly on Windows computers perhaps because I only used Apple’s servers. I have to distribute movies on DVD so make use of IDVD several times a week. Toast has its uses but for more stylish menus it’s iDVD for me.

  6. Apple always has time to improve its products so long as it continues to be a going concern. It will not cater to the instant-gratification-graving customers, but keep true to the bigger vision.

  7. I wonder if Apple couldn’t spin out their software products to something like FileMaker? Make it a stand alone company. They would have have a much larger incentive to keep things current.

    1. Totally agree if Apple had no intensions to develop iWeb further or even supply it then why not spin off or allow outside developers to sustain and develop it, no skin off Apples nose surely and would display good will to its customers. Even aged as it is there is no real alternative that units me.

  8. The author has no idea how much effort Apple’s putting into the iWork apps. In the last two years, they were re-written to make them 64-bit Hi-DPI, and web integrated. Each of these is a major undertaking, and it was done for both the Mac and iOS versions of the apps.

    -jcr

    1. I have been a loyal Apple customer since 1984 (Lisa 2-10, and MANY Macs & iOS devices since then. . .). Having also been a user of Excel since it first arrived on the Mac, I have witnessed its evolution from a speedy capable program into the current cluttered bloated mess that it has become. When It first appeared I purchased a copy of the iWork suite, and eventually updated to the ’09 version. Numbers had become sufficiently capable that I spent hundreds of hours rebuilding my home grown accounting system in that program. It was so so cool to finally be able to make my forms look the way I wanted them to. Many of the forms that I created, print out on pre-printed forms, such as McBee check forms. Like everyone else, I was excited to hear that iWork was finally re-written in 64 bit code and a unified file format. I updated my iOS devices first, promptly discovering that, in spite of appearance tweaks for iOS7, the functionality hadn’t really changed much. I was really hoping to see implementation of some or all of the more sophisticated features that were in Numbers ’09 (especially the ability to specify custom printer margins in all print-capable iOS apps). I had noticed that all of my old iOS files were converted to a file format that was no longer readable by iWork ’09! This alone was a catastrophe.
      I figured that the fix was to update one of our newer computers to Mavericks and the new Mac versions of iWork, and enjoy the new, supposedly more capable version of Numbers. Horrible mistake!!!!! Mavericks is great except for a few minor bugs and oversights (that will surely be addressed in an update). iWork 2013, especially Numbers is an unmitigated disaster for me. Virtually every iWork 09 document that I opened was stripped of any features or formatting that was no longer supported in the new version. Even if I exported backwards to iWork 09 format, that version no longer had the formatting that had been stripped-off. Luckily, I know better than to use a new program on any files didn’t have multiple backups. I have purged the new iWork 2013 programs from my system until the previous functionality of iWork ’09 has been restored to the new versions. I only wish that there was some way to return to the old versions on my iOS devices, because I no longer have backward compatibility to Mac iWork ’09, and they permanently corrupt older documents created in previous versions. Grrrr!
      In addition to converting the new versions of iWork to clones of the crippled iOS versions, the Mac versions have a horrible, space-inefficient tablet-like user interface (following Microsoft’s misguided Windows 8 philosophy?). The loss of Numbers capability to layout and enter data in “Print View”, along with any way to set printer margins, is nothing short of catastrophic. WHY was the floating Inspector Window abandoned in favor of a gigantic space-wasting sidebar that is permanently tethered to all open document windows? These are just a couple of the myriad screw-ups that make the new version of Numbers unusable for anyone above the preschool level.
      Software authors should be compelled to subscribe to the part of the Hippocratic Oath that says “. . . above all, do no harm. . .”. I know, firsthand, many other friends and business colleagues who have had similar experiences to ours, with the new iWork programs, I don’t know if Apple realizes the gravity of this problem. This is FAR WORSE than the the Final Cut Pro X fiasco (releasing a new software version, long before it’s ready). These iWork problems are FAR more serious for users, especially with a user-base that is orders of magnitude larger than that of FCPX.
      Thanks for letting me vent my utter frustration. I can’t believe that these illogical changes were made without consideration for, or corroboration with, their loyal user base.

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