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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. I totally agree on the quality issues with MDN. I sent a email last week to Tim regarding the fall in Apple “It Just Works!” quality. I have been seeing the following issues with both OS X 10.10.2 (Developer Preview) and iOS 8:

    1. Network performance is absolutely abysmal. (OS X & iOS 8)
    2. Network reliability is terrible. (OS X & iOS 8)
    3. Finder is extremely slow even when accessing SSDs
    4. Finder hangs/crashes with a spin dump occurring a lot.
    5. Safari performance is terrible. (May be related to #1 & #2)
    6. Safari has a problem with a lot of pages from different websites and causes them to reload a lot. (My ATT, Amazon, PayPal are just a few.) (occurs in iOS 8 too)
    7. Safari hangs when attempting to view imbedded Vimeo or YouTube MP4 videos. (occurs in iOS 8 too)

    BTW, My SSD/HD combo on my 2010 MacBook Pro 17″ passes all permission and volume checks, so I know that that doesn’t factor into the above issues. I am currently using Google Chrome instead of Safari (yuk!) and PathFinder instead of Finder to workaround these issues. Also, note that I am using the latest developer preview of Yosemite 10.10.2, so it looks like Apple still has NOT solved these issues!

    1. It’s their focus, 10.10 came out in Oct…its Jan, we should be on 10.10.3

      No one expects a bug free OS, but, there should be a team of software people working on bug fixes all the time. They have the money, they just don’t have the focus.

    1. There will always be someone who hasn’t been affected by any actual bugs, and don’t take issue with any changes Apple has done, and I’m glad that you’re one of them and content.

      But it’s very telling that MDN, one of the most, shall we say, “assertive” of the mainstream Apple-centric websites in backing and promoting the company, has been sufficiently affected by issues themselves that they cannot stay silent any longer.

  7. I have been using Macs for 7 years and I completely agree that a new operating system every year is crazy. I try to use Mail but there are so many bugs that a recent support call (rules don’t work) (I bought a 5k and did a clean install of everything to rule out Yosemite becuase I could not believe Apple would put out software like this) level 2 support person stongly suggested that I use Outlook. I was floored. I already use BusyCal but from what I know there is no really strong email program for Mac. Apple needs to fix the huge number of bugs because I am already running windows in Fusion and it may become my primary operating system.

  8. Stupid article. Yea, because in the 80’s, with the original mac team, they had plenty of sleep. The real artists ship manifesto is basically get it the hell out, and we’ll deal with the bugs later.

    I don’t know what good drugs you guys have been on that have given you this selective and rosey version of history, but apple has had is fair share of crap releases. OS X has generally been better, more so for the underlying unix than necessarily anything else, that it’s old and battle tested.

    There’s a bit too much of a circle—erm—back patting event going on MDN. If you’re bored, go blow bubbles, and not put out this swill.

    Expecting Apple or any other company to put out releases with no bugs is not a statement of how poor apple is doing so much as how poorly the writers at MDN are thinking.

  9. My open letter would also remind him to place his personal social advocacy to the side until Apple has met all these software and hardware issues.

    To those that say they don’t have issues. Your not a power user that is used to how easy it used to be. It used to just work, work fast and simple. Apple is the new Microsoft. That’s what Tim needs to address.

    1. You have selective memory. I’ve been using Apple products since the early 80s, and there have always been buggy launches and releases, some more severe than others. I see nothing new here, except perhaps that Apple is covered more rigorously in the blogosphere / echo chamber.

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