Walt Mossberg: Apple’s software needs work

“People think of Apple as a maker of excellent premium hardware. In fact, many reviewers regard Apple devices as the best you can buy. For instance, I’m on record as saying its most important product, the iPhone, is the best smartphone on the marke,” Walt Mossberg writes for Re/code. “But there’s more than just metal, glass and silicon to these products. Apple’s built-in software is a huge part of the experience, and has been since the company introduced the 20151021-Walt-Mossberg-Steve-Jobs-laughing-D5first Mac in 1984. Whether it’s the operating systems or the core apps, a major aspect of what makes both users and reviewers value Apple products is software that melds power, reliability and ease of use. ‘It just works!’ was a favorite Steve Jobs phrase.”

“In the last couple of years, however, I’ve noticed a gradual degradation in the quality and reliability of Apple’s core apps, on both the mobile iOS operating system and its Mac OS X platform,” Mossberg writes. “It’s almost as if the tech giant has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to these core software products while it pursues big new dreams, like smartwatches and cars.”

” hold Apple to its own, higher, often-proclaimed standard, based on all those ‘It just works’ claims and the oft-repeated contention by Mr. Jobs and his successor, Tim Cook, that Apple is in business to make ‘great products,'” Mossberg writes. “In ways big and sometimes just small and nagging, I think they too often fail to meet Apple’s self-imposed standards. Sometimes this is on iOS, sometimes on OS X, sometimes on both… Lots of small software disappointments and aggravations, adding up gradually over time, are putting the sterling experience of using Apple hardware at risk.”

Muchd more in the full article – highly recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: We said as much over a year ago. Unfortunately, our opinion still holds true today, nearly 13 months later:

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.”

Sincerely,

MacDailyNews, January 5, 2015

SEE ALSO:
2015: Apple’s year in beta – December 29, 2015
​Apple’s dirty little secret: Sucky software – why Apple’s entire UX/UI team needs to be fired – November 19, 2015
What Steve Jobs gave Apple that Tim Cook cannot – November 18, 2015
Alternatives to Apple’s bloated iTunes – November 17, 2015
Apple’s new iPad Pro debuts with forced reboots, missing Apple Pencils – November 16, 2015
Apple’s perplexingly incomplete launch of the iPad Pro – November 16, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015
Apple’s major problem is Tim Cook – November 16, 2015
At Apple, it seems as if no one’s minding the store – November 13, 2015
Houston Chronicle’s Silverman reviews new Apple TV: This cake needed more baking – November 9, 2015
The new Apple TV has more rough edges than a sack of saw blades – November 3, 2015
Apple Music one month later: Not loving it, but I’ll be subscribing to it – August 10, 2015
The tragedy of iTunes: Nothing ‘just works’ – July 28, 2015
Apple Music, both on iOS and OS X, is an embarrassing and confusing mess – July 10, 2015
After many of complaints about Wi-Fi issues, Apple dumps discoveryd in latest OS X beta – May 27, 2015
OS X 10.10.2: Wi-Fi problems continue to plague some Mac users – January 30, 2015
The software and services that Apple needs to fix – January 14, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015

61 Comments

  1. I’m using a Mid-2012 Macbook Pro with standard screen but retrofitted with a Samsung 512 SSD & 16GB Crucial Ram. I’ve never been so happy with my Mac (now my 5th) and the software gets better with every update. El Capitan is solid and best OS since Mountain Lion!

    1. Best OS since Mountain Lion is not exactly high praise.

      Snow Leopard seems to be the high bar for desktop computing by all real measures. All the junk Apple as added since is bloat that should be optional apps installed by the user.

  2. Ever since my wife upgraded her 2009 MacBook and went from Snow Leopard to El Capitan, I have felt like an IT guy at a Microsoft only company. Everyday I have to help her with something that does not work anymore.

    The comments here indicate Apple is hurting and does not know it. It is really a sad day for me.

  3. Can we to stop with the “Steve Jobs would’ve” crap? The company is far bigger and far more complex than the day he died. I don’t think the problem is Tim Cook or the fact that Steve Jobs is gone I think the problem is that Apple’s number one Core competence before used to be in hiring and recruiting. I just don’t think the younger talent coming along has it in them. So for me if anyone needs to be replaced at Apple it’s the HR VP.

    1. HR people are obsessed with numbers and filling diversity checkboxes, they rarely have ANY valuable knowledge of what kind of hire is needed for a given department. The person making the final call need to be the particular department manager, etc. HR people think like accountants, they don’t care if the building is on fire as long as the reporting of the event is well crafted black ink on white paper.

  4. The more I use the Apple Watch the more I love it! It definitely is a well engineered piece of technology.

    I think Eddy Cue is perhaps the weakest link for this services bungling. iTunes should be broken up and emulate focused well run businesses like Netflix. Apple shouldn’t slam it altogether. No one wants bloated bundling things anymore ‘just ask the cable companies’

    Put Eddy Cue in charge of the iBook store division and break up ITunes into Music and Video businesses independent of each other. The Podcast app is a good example of what works still.

    1. Note the focus on the customer!

      How can we help the customer?

      Not a focus on connecting with the hip or fashionable crowd.

      Focus on doing something really well and the fashionable crowd will come.

  5. This may or may not get voted on at all, so those on page 3, thank you for reading me! ^.^

    Before I bought a cheap 2010 Macbook (7,1), I emulated my Linux Box (Linux Mint 17.x) like OS X in design, GUI, and actions (start-up, re-boot, and terminal usage.) This helped me gain enough exposure, so when I actually moved myself to OS X, I felt comfortable using the software. However, three things I did do before anything else where:

    1) Installing XCode, Macports, and Homebrew. And the updating all outdated Unix commands via terminal.

    2) Finding alternative open-source software that has similar functions like the Mac native apps on OS X. However, I do like Notes. Apps that I use are Chromium, Onyx, Cdock, TimeMachineEditor, and VLC.

    3) I currently only own this one Apple device because it is upgradable and researching Apple, Waiting nearly a year to upgrade to the next version of OS X seems to be the best way to go. I went from 10.9 to 10.5.5 in a year. I’ll wait until the summer to upgrade to 10.11.x. IOS seems to lockdown for me to do what I want on the Macbook. And it appears, just as buggy, regardless of who is CEO or was.

    It all comes down to the engineers, designers, and the testers. Coming from a Microsoft and now a Linux/Unix background…waiting six to twelve months seems to be a way of letting the bugs get fixed. Even if it is available for use for the public at-large.

  6. Kudos on your letter, MDN. Well stated and true. About the comment “…taking the time necessary to do the job correctly the first time?” I posed this same question repeatedly as an “individual contributor” and as a manager over the course of a 20+ years career in the software industry and if ever there was a voice crying in the wilderness! I have learned to have no respect for MBAs and technical mangers who simply are incapable of understanding that rework costs far more money (and market share eventually) than taking time to do things right the first time.

  7. MDN: 20151021-Walt-Mossberg-Steve-Jobs-laughing-D5

    You require an editor MDN!

    Walt Mossberg: In the last couple of years, however, I’ve noticed a gradual degradation in the quality and reliability of Apple’s core apps, on both the mobile iOS operating system and its Mac OS X platform.

    Quite Right! I’m surprised it took Mr. Mossberg so long to notice. I’ve been ranting about Apple’s dropping its eye off the ball since I participated in their OS X 10.10 Yosemite AppleSeed beta testing, which was a nightmare. It could not have been clearer that on Apple’s end of the testing, they no longer cared. The result was the worst version of OS X since 10.1. My beta feedback complaints were ignored. I literally refused to use Yosemite once it was finished.

    Apple’s lazy attitude regarding software has also been reflected in over a year’s worth of awful attention of software security exploits. It’s as if Apple forgot everything they learned from the bad-old-days of hackers shaming them back in 2007. Apple is still sitting on the nightmare security problems caused by their poor Enterprise developer certificate system. I directly compare that situation to Google’s lax attitude toward Android security. Apple apparently needs another round of sound shaming in order for them to fix all these software problems. I’ll happily continue to oblige. 😛

  8. “the hip or fashionable crowd” – read as “Gayness” factor. Every great civilization throughout history was brought to its knees by these people – and Apple is no exception.
    They need to take that stupid guy-on-guy photo in iTunes startup screen out and stop pushing that Sodomized agenda on the majority.

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