Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better

This subject was addressed by us in a MacDailyNews Take on the Monday before Christmas and also last October.

Of concern is the quality of Apple’s operating systems, software, and services.

In case you missed it, we post them here, combined as an open letter and with certain additions, subtractions, and language adjustments, to Apple CEO Tim Cook:

Dear Mr. Cook,

“It just works.” That’s getting tougher and tougher for us OS X and iOS users to say with straight faces lately.

Apple, while certainly still the best when it comes to desktop and mobile operating systems, needs to do better. Our expectations, some of us as users of Apple products since the early 1980s, are not being met when it comes to the quality and reliability of operating systems, software, and services. Used to be, you could pretty confidently install brand new operating systems from Apple. Recently, we’re more inclined to wait for a few point releases than not. It’s downright Microsoftian. Lately, for the past couple of years, your software seems rushed. Is “rush job” really the impression you want to give your customers?

Slow down! Getting it right is far more important than getting it out.

Frankly, we don’t need a new Mac or iPhone/iPad operating system every year and Apple Inc. doesn’t need it, either. Annual OS releases shouldn’t be mandated. What we all really need, customers and Apple Inc., are operating systems that are rock solid and do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it. Why not just add new features/services to existing OSes with continued point releases that refine and extend the experiences and services you want to deliver? Why not just release new operating systems only when they are rock solid and ready?

In other words, take a step back, take a deep breath, and focus on making sure that what you have now just works. Because too much of it doesn’t (Wi-Fi connectivity for one ongoing, glaring, vexing example). Getting it right is far more important than having two “new” free OSes to release each year. Seriously, nobody outside of Cupertino very much cares. We do, however, care very much that Apple’s software and services work as flawlessly as possible.

We occasionally hear things about the company from Apple employees.

Some of those things lead us to wonder if perhaps you should rethink some aspects of the culture at Apple? Specifically, what really should constitute a badge of honor at Apple? Working all day, all weekend and all night in order to squat out iOS 8.0.1 and then have to turn around and do it all over again, in a panic, to get iOS 8.0.2 out the door in order to clean up the mess? Or taking the time necessary to do the job correctly the first time?

People with proper sleep and lower stress levels do better work. Many major medical studies prove these facts. Shouldn’t quality, not quantity, of hours worked be the utmost badge of honor at Apple?

Working long hours simply for the sake of working long hours is counterproductive. It really doesn’t prove anything except that you have no life and that, despite all of their work on Apple Watch, Apple executives still do not understand basic human health requirements and are incapable of properly staffing their departments so that they can function without requiring sleep-deprived, mistake-prone employees who feel that it’s a job requirement to be able to reply to emails from managers at 2:00 am. That’s idiocy.

Driving too hard, too fast, and for too long leads to accidents.

We speak from experience, albeit at a far, far smaller level than yours. We’ve tried and been exposed to several methods as both managers and employees in the television, financial, and online media industries. Regardless of the size of your department or company, people are people. You can push people to a point that’s very productive, but when you exceed that point, it’s all downhill for everyone involved. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s not an “I love this company!” statement. It’s simply mismanagement. It’s verifiably unhealthy and it leads directly to diminished quality, increased turnover, and productivity declines. And customer satisfaction ultimately suffers. Hence this letter.

Bottom line: We long to again be able to confidently say of our Macs, iPhones, and iPads: “It just works.”




    1. MDN shut up already. Why don’t you run a company like Apple. Blah blah blah. Crawl back into your basement where you sit all day and night calling the shots of the world after they happen.

    2. Excuse me, potty mouth.

      What the hell does an MDN App, in development most likely, have to do with the most in-depth spot on take EVER constructively advising the greatest tech company in history?

      The software problems at Apple have been reproducing like rabbits lately inflicting pain and downtime, have you NOT noticed?!?

      And while I am at it, you are threatening rigging false down votes? Maybe I missed something, but I always thought the dishonorable matters LEAST.

      But I was wondering how you got 102 five-stars at the time of this writing. Hey, for yucks, order me up 500 one-star votes Mr. Powerful.

      Like it matters, Sheesh.

      What MATTERS is the bottom line of MDN’s laser focused critique. Get it right Apple, later if you have too rather than sooner … Godspeed.

      Apple user since my Lisa. :^)

    3. I think the real problem has to do with a big transition now going on at Apple. That of integrating IOS, OSX, Swift, and iCloud. This is a huge undertaking and problems have and will occur.

      Unfortuntely, once you start down this road, you have to push pretty fast to get all the pieces working together. I think the enormity of the changes they have started is what is causing both the problems we see and the rapid upgrades/fixes.

      It will take some time for things to smooth out.

      Imagine Microsoft trying such a thing. They can’t even get on OS working right.

      1. Sorry, I’m going to disagree with the big transition thing.

        There are plenty of companies that want to push the employees for way more than 40 hour work week. Calling employees at 2 a.m. ? If that were me on the receiving end, “see you in court. Don’t call me ever again.”.

        1. Same here, Apple’s problem is focus. They have resources to go back and debug every OS since Snow Leopard.

          Having unstable software (which is the case since Snow Leopard) is out and out killing Apple rep and experience.

          Simple solution, drop a billion or two on debugging every version. But whatever they do DO NOT RELEASE ANOTHER OS UNTIL YOU FIX THE ONES YOU HAVE ALREADY!!!

          1. I would like Apple to clean up it’s OS releases also, however, I would also like a call to clean up their cloud services.

            iTunes, iDevice syncing, iMessage, FaceTime, Photo Stream, Family Share = all great services, that are better (as a package) that what any competitor offers, but still too many glitches and issues for the Apple I have been following since the early ’90s.

            Clean out all the bugs, please do not rest on your laurels Tim and company. In history, every big company that rested on their success has been ultimately un-successful.

            Having said all this Apple is still the best tech company out there. I just want it to stay that way. Don’t be ruined by success.

    4. Apple botched programming of the day number 5: in iOS text app and email app, the spell checker doesn’t seem to work as well any more, but what is certain is that you can’t cancel a proposed word any longer. You must accept it and back up and type it again. Awful.

    5. I never upgrade Apple Software beyond maintenance upgrades on whatever os version I am on. Why ? Does performance and reliability improve ? Not that I have seen. Each iteration of mail and calendar seems to be worse than the one before. Apple has trained me to avoid using apple application software wherever possible. I’m actively looking for replacements for mail and calendar. Dropbox does everything I need so I would never turn on icloud. Nothing apple does gets my attention anymore. One thing that would get my attention would be if Apple officially supported one of the package manager standards. They never will of course.

    1. Every damn software company of any size whether as an OS or one making applications wants yearly releases so the “pump the stock.” That is what the CFO pushes for.

      At this point in the development of software, stability counts for far more than new features for the typical user.

    2. Not sure it has anything to do with “rush”. More to do with having most of the talent walking out the door. Why would the top programming talent want to work for a company that cares nothing about computing. Apple is a marketing and toy/gadget company. Nothing interesting is happening there is the software world. The great programmers leave to go someplace where they have the freedom to create.

  1. Thank you for saying it MacDailyNews!

    I can tell you that some inside Apple recognize the issues and are working to correct them. I see things getting better already.

    1. I think a lot of this stems from the yearly updates we expect for the iPhone and iPad. It seems updates push sales, and Apple is applying the same paradigm to it’s operating system, OS X.

      Plus, I think they’ve had a lot in their pipeline as far as features and services that had to be put out due to competition from various places.

      Apple pushed out a lot of new services and features last year. Hard to get perfect with that kind of volume. Hopefully, they can now slow down a bit, and focus back to the quality of their wares.

      They tend to get things fixed and enhanced in a timely fashion for critical things, so give them credit, where credit’s due.

  2. Ridiculous, MDN, Ridiculous. Nothing has changed at Apple except for the fact that they are just the center of the tech universe nowadays instead of the obscure underdog. There have always been errors… (Remember the Panther upgrade that wiped out everyone’s external HD?) It’s technology, it’s uncharted territory, Apple always has and continues to explore it better than anyone else. Give the negative hype a rest.

            1. I don’t care what you say, when I upgrade my iPad and it no longer connects to the Internet and to this day, still not work very well…

              There’s problems, big problems.

              When I upgrade my Mac OS and it boots up with static and then the Black screen of death, and apple’s response is to release ANOTHER half baked buggy OS that doesn’t really fix the earlier problems…

              There’s problems, big problems.

            2. Yep! Apple continues to set sales records (5million Macs and 35m iPhones last quarter) and continues to be ranked 1 in customer satisfaction because there are nothing but half baked big problems!!!

              again, realist.

      1. Actually, I partially agree with MikeK. I differ with him in that something has changed at Apple – the increased complexity of the integrated OS X and iOS ecosystems and product lines along with iTunes and iCloud has increased the likelihood of errors and the number of errors.

    1. Changes at Apple
      1. size makes things more cautious
      2. size means bigger supply chain
      3. size means hundreds of thousands of apps instead of just depending on Photoshop and MS Word for PR.

      So, if Apple makes a mistake, much of the techie world will talk about it AND its billions of dollars quarterly on the line.

    2. I agree with MikeK, MDN is coming down with Golden Age Syndrome. There has always been some level of transition in every new product Apple releases. Nothing is perfect.

      However, I am also very ready for a Snow Leopard style release: a pause, more or less, in feature accumulation and super heavy focus on stability.

      Maybe they could even call it Sierra Nevada 🙂

    3. Exactly. Software that is incrementally upgraded until the perfect replacement is ready to go out the door sounds like the strategy that failed to deliver Longhorn, but did deliver Vista Sucks, and then Windows 7 Isn’t Vista, and then Windows 8 Sucks.

      Apple is doing just fine.


  3. ******
    Tim, Phil, Johny, Craig
    Apple is not just about slick, thin, quality , topnotch hardware..
    It is also about ROCK SOLID INTUITIVE SOFTWARE !!!
    Both Equally as important !

    1. No, rock solid intuitive software is infinitely more important than hardware being slick and thin. Apple has reached diminishing returns on its hardware, now taking away too many features that users really prefer.

      Get Jony Ive out of the software business, he’s just made everything less intuitive and increased the number of clicks it takes to do anything.

      Slowing down isn’t a realistic option for most Apple software. Apple has to keep pushing out new versions at a steady clip. Apple can’t afford to wait 5 years between iWork or Aperture or Final Cut updates, for example, or it will continue to see customers abandoning stale obsolete versions. Annual OS updates are probably not necessary but for the fact that Apple hardware requires it, and Apple DOES need at least one new iPhone model refresh every year (with a family of 3-4 phones, that could enable a 3-4 year hardware refresh cycle for each model, very easy to schedule). But Apple has all the resources it needs to release great software. The continued screwing up of Mac OS, iTunes, and other core Apple software is shameful. Apple needs to release another “Snow Leopard” that improves usability and stability and fixes the Mavericks/Yosemite ugliness.

      Finally — is Apple TV ever going to be updated? Apple displays? Mac Pro GPU and overheating issues? Will Apple stop issuing disposable non-user-upgradeable Macs? When will Apple cables and headphones have proper heavy-duty wiring that doesn’t break during normal use? Is Apple ever going to update the iPod lineup? With the resources Cook has at his fingertips, slower is not the right choice. Just get it right by focusing on the user instead of the musings of a designer obsessed with white stark unintuitive interfaces!

    1. I was shocked actually how bad Yosemite icons looked on mine when I upgraded I can’t deny it looks like my resolution has gone through the floor some are barely readable indeed, and far worse than the iOS 8 versions to my shock when I expected them to be more Mac like. As such I have held from upgrading my newest Mac which will remain on Mountain Lion for the foreseeable future especially as the iPad’s wifi is now unreliable and regular restarts are required to temporarily fix it not to mention my wifi settings were lost and I had to manually key in the IP address to restore the connection on my older Mac I did the trial upgrade when auto set up for the first time ever couldn’t do the job. Never since the introduction of OSX have I experienced so many annoying problems.

  4. Couldn’t agree more with MDN. I remember just a few years ago when IOS releases came along when they were ready and until that point you were happy with the current version. Please turn the clock back Tim.

  5. “Frankly, we don’t need a new Mac or iPhone/iPad operating system every year and Apple Inc. doesn’t need it, either. ”

    This is wrong… we do need these every year. For Apple to stay competitive, for the AAPL shareholders, so Apple keeps themselves in the right direction.

    Yes, these need to come out in a yearly time line, because if they don’t, it will have a negative domino effect… be careful of what you wish for.

      1. iOS already fell behind Android. It’s not about keeping up with the jones’, it’s about being better than them at what they do already do and to make the other stuff trivial.

        1. Android has been a laggy, buggy, unsecure, POS since day 1. It doesn’t matter if it once had “more features” if those features never worked properly half the time. For example, after a long-awaited update (on Android when updates are released by Google they take FOREVER to get on most devices) I couldn’t access the playstore any longer which meant I couldn’t download apps from Google’s store any longer. How would you feel if Apple pushed an update and you could never download apps ever again? How is that for an Android feature? What a piece of junk Android is. I spank my buttocks and howl at the moon every time I see the market share numbers. How can this be? Are people that dumb? Do they like to be continually reamed up the ass with horrible hardware and software? Is 80 percent of the market Opus Day or something? I can understand the poorest of the poor, but an iOS device is only a couple of hundred dollars more in most cases. Give me a break.

          And Microsoft? I’ve written about their crappy hardware, buggy development software, clumsy UI, crashed hard drives and hair-pulling-out customer service before (Samsung, HP, Dell, etc.). You people that been with Apple for some time have had it easy peasy.

  6. Apple can just as easily add new features and services to the existing OSes as point releases. No need to redesign the wheel every year. It’s painfully obvious that Apple can’t keep the quality up trying to pump out new OS versions annually.

    1. I’m not a programmer but don’t things like Touch ID going from 5 to 5S and instituting the ‘secure element’ coding require new OS’s?

      What about lock screen notification institution. I’m sure before that OS upgrade Apple had hard coded it to be impossible for apps to display anything there.

      I’m not saying many software features couldn’t be individually added one at a time. But to pretend they all can and that its that simple is a falacy.

      Upgrading OSs yearly has worked to keep the iOS community up to date on recent technology. If it weren’t predictable and highly adopted year after year we may end up with similar chaos to Android OS versions fissuring.

      There are also benefits to programmers and this system rewards the most engaged to the OS. Perhaps the reason programmers chose iOS first is not just that Apple makes better products, but also they keep their customers, programmers (and dissenters) engaged.

  7. As much as I love my Apple products there have been some serious misfires. Specifically for me it’s been Aperture. This software has been so ridiculously buggy it’s been maddening. I’m hopeful that Apple killing both Aperture and iPhoto will give them the man power they need to do a much better job with the rumored Photos. I too would love to see them increase time between products to make certain they work right out of the box.

  8. iOS and OS X both need a Snow Leopard release where there is no emphasis on new features and a laser on getting everything working as advertised, extreme stability and elimination of cruft.

    iTunes needs it even more desperately.
    Plug an iOS Device into a Mac running iTunes and set it up for wired sync and watch it eff up your choices as it does what it damn well pleases.

    1. Sounds like a user training issue. I sync with iTunes and have not had iTunes screw up my phone’s library in any way for the past several years. But maybe that’s because I use iTunes Match for music so I don’t sync music anymore.

      1. When you select allow me to manage videos manually is when the problem begins. I prefer to not sync entire series and control what is on the iPad/iPhone.

        iTunes will attempt to back up the device even if you select automatic backup to be off.

        All this started a couple of versions back and has only gotten worse.

        With data caps I do not want to download content from Apple servers that I have stored locally.

  9. I completely agree. I am new to the family of Apple products and OS’s. 2 years ago I bought an iMac – I really did over a year of research, comparisons of products, etc….but I will not update my Mac’s OS, due to problems I see verbalized from others. I would love to say I have 100% satisfaction——and mostly I do. I am agreeing with the below user, and countless others. Don’t copy Microsoft – everchanging, new updates / corrections/ “fixes”….I had enuf of that! That’s why I turned to Apple, I plan to stay an Apple aficionado > I LOVE YA AND WANT YOU ALL TO BE #1 as you have been….in customer service, product quality,new innovative products/services, and customer loyalty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’d LOVE to be your Realtor ! Brian Benzick Midwest Realty Network, Inc 1125 S. Frontage Rd., Ste#2 Hastings, Mn 55033 (cell) 651-208-6776 (office) 651-437-4424

    1. Instead of of assuming what others have posted is true, you need to either commit and upgrade. Most of the issues people have are very specific to their system. The wifi issue only affects a select few models of macs, and and only in certain configurations (for instance).

      I have 4 different Macs, all have been running 100% flawless since day one of the Yosemite release. No wifi issues, no system slow downs.

      The key is to backup to time machine, installing to a clean partition then restore from time machine. This will ensure you aren’t carrying over junk files from a prior OS install and provide you with an OS as Apple intended it to be installed.

      They cannot test every upgrade Sanrio. It’s just not possible.

  10. The one thing these criticisms ignore is that Apple is in the middle of making one of the biggest OS transitions in computing history: getting your iPhone, iPad, MacBook, Apple TV, and Apple Watch all working seamlessly together. Engineering-wise, it is a hugely ambitious task. I suspect this is what has been holding up Apple TV. Until Continuity and Handoff are working flawlessly they can’t launch it, and the only way to get it working flawlessly is having it out in the real world, bugs and all. Just a theory, but perhaps because of hardware launches they are pushing the software to support it too fast. It doubt it has anything to do with having annual OS releases just for the sake of it.

  11. Nicely put MDN! Thanks for taking the time to write on our behalf!

    One minor thing that has always bothered me about Apple is why Apple takes away minor things. For example, once iTunes icons are in color – they should ALWAYS be in color. Why would you take the color icons away, give us black and white icons, only to return to color icons, only to have them turn again into Black and White icons in iTunes 12? Why even bother taking away the icon labels (names) in System Preferences? The labels were fine. Understand completely if the fonts change to the new standard font, but you could have left the names in OS X.

  12. Have to agree with the MDN take. And quit making changes just for the sake of changes. It drives me nuts to have to relearn how to accomplish a basic task for no good reason.

    1. Hear hear! The number of programs that work better in full screen is the vast minority, yet Apple changed the green zoom button to trigger fullscreen. That’s my dad’s biggest beef and it’s right up there for me too; that’s almost 30 years of Mac convention tossed out the window for no good reason.

      1. The old behaviour of the green button was inconsistent and not really explainable, especially to switchers. Full Screen Mode is great, especially for small screens. You can use the old behaviour still, with pressed alt-key.

        1. So now the Mac requires multiple keystrokes or a 2-3 button mouse???

          Apple needs to stop becoming like Microsoft. There is simply no reason for hiding functionality like this. The user should not have to remember what functions are accessed from the “control” and the “alt” and the “command” and the “function” keys. The control panel should clearly allow the user to set the functionality that he wants, period. Instead Apple continues to leave the control panel in the dark ages while changing the functionality of the interface, removing window borders necessary for resizing and moving windows, etc. For basic desktop management, Mac OS usability is far worse than ever before. Hell, Windows 7 does a far better job allowing the user to manipulate windows, their appearance, and their functions.

    2. A LOT of things I do in OS X and iOS now take two steps (or more), instead of one. Not good. Oh, and bring back Save/Save As… the way they used to be. AND unsolder the memory in the mini. — I just had to throw those last two in. I don’t have a lawn to yell about.

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