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. The only one thing that I really dislike is the Mac OS’s inability to properly keep memory clean. I have had so many macs, running from Leopard on, and have never been able to keep the OS stable without a reboot every few days/sometime hours. I am curious to know if this is a UNIX vs. DOS type of situation, because Windows… what the FSCK is Meesa Sayin?

  2. Now it’s slow down. But let’s not forget when MDN was complaining about Apple not moving fast enough. I’m certain I could dig back in time on this site and find many occasions when MDN was crying for Tim Cook’s head because nothing was being launched “fast enough”. Like a child whose parents took away his favorite toy.

    Thankfully MDN is not Apple, because sometimes I don’t think MDN has a clue as to how a company works.

    We humans are so fickle. We complain when we don’t get what we want in a timely manner, then wish it was done better or “not rushed” when it actually arrives.

    Yeah everyone misses Steve Jobs. The reality is Apple is not quite the same nor will it ever be again. Apple today is much different than it was in 1997 when Steve Jobs came back. Mac users always feel special because Apple catered to the smaller market for years, but now Apple delivers to many, many others. The bigger you get, the larger the risk for errors. This is because you are not only trying to innovate, but out-pace the competition, and keep your marketshare happy.

    To throw out a cliché Ayn Rand here, but sometimes…Atlas shrugs. Quit your bitchin’.

    1. Oh but hey, while MDN is complains, I might as well complain too. Yo Apple, it’s been a year since the redesigned Mac Pro launched, so where’s the new next generation Mac Pro already? What’s taking so long?!!!


      1. Dishonest post. MDN was asking for larger iPhones for a long time. And we all know how that turned out. Now they are asking for Apple to JUST WORK again. Sounds reasonable.

  3. I don’t have serious problems with bugs, I like the new UI looks just like the old ones, but I do have problems with UI incosistencies. iTunes 12 is frightening in particular.
    e.g., where do I grab a window to move it? Do I really have to THINK about how to drag with a mouse?
    on podcasts:
    – no kind of listing (“my podcasts”, “my stations”, “my playlists”) makes sense to me.
    – Click on a download icon (the cloud), it vanishes and a download indicator appears SOMEWHERE ELSE.
    – To delete an already downloaded podcast file, I need to swithch away from “my stations” because it is no longer visible.
    – Switching between listings moves the “refresh” button (“Aktualisieren” in German) around.
    – Pressing the “refresh” button gives no immediate reaction indicating that something’s happening, bad idea!
    – …….
    altogether, this is pure chaos for me, no logic, no visible philosophy, no consistence.
    If the Finder ever becomes like this, I’m lost…
    iTunes 10 was OK.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with this open letter. I’m a small developer, and now every year I have to give up time to deal with validation on yet another OSX release. Oftentimes the problems in the newer versions of the OS will be related to low-level stuff (audio drivers, graphics, etc). I’d be happy to tell my customers to hold off (and they’d be happy to comply), but new Macs go out with the new OS and I’ve got to give up time debugging what often turn out to be Apple’s problems. Sometimes it appears to be change for the sake of change.

    What this means is that Apple forces me to take time away from improving my own products because they’ve been lax in improving theirs.

  5. Yes, but the problem is that with Apple going slower than their competitors, then we’ll just hear “Hurry Up Apple! Where’s my update???”

    Going slower is not the solution. Beefier and more comprehensive unit testing is needed across all products. I think they trust themselves too much (a form of arrogance?), and that’s dangerous territory to be in when managing such complex ecosystems.

  6. I have been using Macs since 1988. We have seven Mac computers and six iPhones in our family. We basically use only the standard software that comes on the computers and we usually only buy software through the Apple Store. None of us have bluetooth, WiFi or any other performance issues at all using Yosemite and iOS 8.

    Could it be that all the problems stem from the use of third party products that modify the systems in some way? Perhaps it’s not Apple that is rushing their products to market. Perhaps it’s the third party developers that are rushing their products, not testing them properly and pushing the limits of what OS X and iOS are capable of handling? There are millions of apps, so Apple cannot possibly check how each one functions and what kind of conflicts they create. It’s up to the developers to make certain that their products do not conflict with Apple’s software and cause problems that are then blamed on Apple.

    We’re careful of what goes onto our thirteen devices and we have no problems at all.

    1. Arnold, you ask a very reasonable question. I think your own use may in fact reflect a large number of users. But Apple computers have long been used for serious professional use and most of the time, Apple software simply won’t do the job. In audio it’s going to be Pro Tools or Nuendo. In imaging it’s likely to be something from Adobe. Serious spreadsheets will be based on Excel, etc. These are just examples: the field is really much larger.

      I think we’re long past the time that most third-party software tries to sneak around the O/S and cheat. I think instead that Apple is failing to imagine how their own system will host other software. Apple’s own engineers will do things a certain way, and other engineers are likely to do something differently. It’s all within the “rules”, but imaginative testing is required to really stress a system and whip it into something robust. This is where Apple is falling down. They need a larger team inhouse, empowered to beat the heck out of the system and eliminate weak points. I think Apple really is a little too trusting of themselves. These weak points in the system WILL be discovered and I’d rather Apple discover them than leave it to me.

  7. Sorry I was tied up all day and not able to join this discussion in the beginning.


    Tim Cook has run the company off the track of excellence which I thought was the essence of the company. Deeply imbedded in its DNA. That is no longer the case.

    Prediction – iCal this – nothing is going to change as long as Tim Cook is CEO. He is not capable of following the very good advice in MDN’s open letter – I’m not sure he even understands it.

    We are where we are and there is only one reason for it – his name is Tim Cook!

    1. Jay, very sorry to say but I am ever so slowly coming to the conclusion you may be right about Cook, after all.

      What bothers me is Activist Apple, at the expense of Clean Code Apple.

      Fingers crossed they get it right.

  8. I don’t agree with “slow down and get it right”, I would change that to “get it right”, they’re already slow. Their cloud services are awful and have been this way for many years. Why haven’t they gotten it right yet when there are companies a tenth of their size that have more complicated services that run perfectly. Their maps are still a mess, and they’ve had more than enough time to get those right, they should have just bought Waze and called it a day. Their watch should have been out already. I don’t see anything more complicated about their watch than what their competitors have put out in a quarter the time with more functionality. The iPhone 6 is long overdue, they lost so much marketshare because they took so long. Apple is already taking their time, they are just making tons of mistakes. My guess is that their culture of extreme secrecy is causing them to hire internally for many new projects instead of hiring outside experts or doing big acquisitions. That being said, their product lineup right now is really the best I’ve seen in years, they just need to get the software working properly and not break it again.

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