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Apple Core Rot

Forbes weighs in a nearly year after I first wrote Apple Core Rot, though Mr. Kosner seems to have missed MPG entirely. MPG doesn’t need a chorus to recognize trends early.

Declining iOS and OS X Quality Imperil Apple's Future Growth And Retention

The iPhone 6 has set sales records since its first week of release and led to Apple’s most profitable quarter ever. There have been some bumps in the road, but the market—and Apple’s customers—continue to have that loving feeling. What could possibly go wrong?

In a word, software. A growing chorus of developers and Apple-watchers is raising the alarm that the buggy releases of iOS 8 and Yosemite are part of a systemic decline in the quality of Apple’s software. The now-yearly release schedule for both iOS and OS X combined with the increasing complexity of the overall Apple ecosystem have put a strain on its engineers, these voices say.

MPG: A strain on engineers without a doubt.

But how about a strain and constant headache for users who actually have work to do, and developers? The schedule-driven worm-eaten OS X upgrades are getting old for their newness. A barrage of updates for this and that baffles an older friend of mine (and feels like a hassle to me). This ain’t no toaster; it’s a demanding taskmaster that delivers burned spots on the toast.

Today, OS X is a forest after rain—mushrooms sprouting, singly and in clumps (inedible ones). The genius that carried Apple has departed. In its place is the conductor of a million-ton train by a leader whose abilities are of another nature entirely. But friction will prevail, especially self-inflicted friction, if not corrected. Praise lavished on Apple designers now goes beyond accolades to acolytes. Truly elegant form is manifest in bringing flawless function to fruition, but are we now at the stage of “outstanding form, good enough function” so as to drive the profit train?

Apple Core Rot is accelerating. I deal with it every single day many times over. Stuff that worked for years breaks, while new visual crapware is piled on endlessly. Apple Mail deletes my VIP list every day, file open dialogs are sluggish in most programs, to 4-8 second delays in DreamWeaver and with display glitches. APIs are removed breaking apps some users depend upon. In 10.10.1, Apple broke display scaling APIs in 10.10.1 leading to all sorts of issues with Photoshop and dual and 4K displays, so much so that I cannot use a large 4K display as the main screen and still with problems as a 2nd.

The OS X file system, a critical layer of OS X still has a nasty bug I reported to Apple a year ago. Individual sites regularly hangs on my Mac Pro even while working fine on the same connection at the same time on my MacBook Pro. GPU support broken for months with the 2013 Mac Pro last year, the usability kitchen sink abomination that is iTunes, the pathetic Apple Calendar, the annoying 20-prompts-in-a-row demands to login to iCloud—it’s about crappy little stuff too. Crapware sprinkled in little bits all over the place. I’ve just given up documenting and reporting the are too-many issues—I have real work to do.

The level of sophistication required today to use OS X and even iOS has crept steadily higher; this is self evident whenever I work with an older friend; it has almost become unusable for some tasks—the assumed skill level is too high a bar. The young generation designing more and more fails to understand that less is more. Perhaps it’s a brain disconnect, quite literally, with brains trained by the tens of thousands of hours staring at electronic gadgets.

Don’t get me started on the dumbing-down of Apple hardware; a Mac Pro that is not pro, dual core limits on formerly 4-core machines (MacMini), all in one models that preclude significant upgradeability, a fixed 16GB memory limit on laptops, 32GB on iMac, 64GB on “pro”. The bar keeps coming down for capabilities.

As for iOS, gratuitous visual changes are forced upon users along with changes that impair readability for those of us with older eyes. Its core function of being a phone is compromised, and capabilities I’ll never use are forced into key parts of the UI. This is not elegance or usability; it is a failure to innovate, and it started several years ago.

Windows? Heck no, not yet, lesser of evils principle applies there.

Stan B writes:

Couldn’t agree with you more. I haven’t upgraded to Yosemite yet because of obvious, widespread user problems in forums.

iTunes and IOS are exercises in frustration for what used to be simple and intuitive. It’s sad to see the proliferation of crapware and the lower bar for quality.

MPG: a dissonant mass murmuration is developing, faint though it is relative to the massive sales engine that is Apple today.

Mitch Z writes

I completely agree with your comments and observations.

I have worked on Macs one way or another since learning Basic on an Apple IIe back in the early 1980s, and am currently part of a small team supporting 1,500 Macs in an enterprise environment. I thought it was brilliant when Apple moved to OS X, and the stability of it convinced me to finally move all of my home systems over to Macs about the time that Microsoft Vista came out.

But not now. Over the past few years I've been seeing much the same sort of behavior as you:

0 OS X instability -- particularly with Yosemite, which I find to be about as stable as Win98. Seriously, system lockups and the black-screen-of-death on simple web page loads with Safari? WTF, Apple! Where's the legendary UNIX stability of BSD now?

- GUI design decisions that make no sense from a usability perspective and break workflow routines.

- Continued problems with Thunderbolt connections to external peripherals, particularly large screen monitors (why do we even see this happening with Apple displays? There should be NO compatibility issues with gear from the same vendor).

- iCloud prompts are an immense aggravation with the frequent password changes required in the enterprise environment.

- Enterprise support from Apple is laughable (even our Apple account reps tell us that there isn't any, because they have largely transitioned over to being a consumer mobile device company now).

Bugs? What bugs? Apple won't acknowledge bugs in their products. As you noted, the bar being lowered for both hardware and software (Aperture anyone?), but yet the prices have skyrocketed in recent years. My wife needed her 5-year old MacBook Pro recently refreshed and I gave her a choice -- a MacBook Pro workhorse at $2,848, or a Win7 laptop with even better specs for $899. She went with the Windows machine.

Based upon my recent OS X and iOS experiences with new hardware purchases both at home and at work, I'm going to begin switching back to the Windows camp with my home computers. I don't know what I'll do about phones next year, but I'm presently of the mindset that they'll be something other than an iPhone.

MPG: MPG is not advising switching to windows, but this note points out how Apple is now a consumer gadget company: hitting on all cylinders in that regard, but also turning off various classes of professional users by dumbing down hardware and destabilizing the platform for professionals.

Workflow: iPhoto was once slightly useful, but is now a disaster. Aperture has been killed, Final Cut was the best out there, but users turned away in droves when arrogance made it incompatible with prior version (see note below), the unwanted iCloud password prompts are indeed intensely irritating (multiple phones and Macs), many my Mail VIP list gets deleted every day (unless iCloud is used!)

William H writes:

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, the radical overhaul (demolition?) of the best professional editing software Final Cut Pro and the end of support for Aperture clearly moves the Mac OUT of the professional domain as far as I’m concerned.

These were once the BEST applications, so why kill them? WHY? The only answer can be (unless we consider sheer reckless stupidity …which might actually be the case) is the drive for profit from constantly upgrading (enforced redundancy) rather than innovating. And by innovating I mean sincere innovation that actually improves the product rather than ruining it - an alien concept for the rotting apple.

And I am constantly screaming at the 10.9.4 for doing something that costs me time rather than saving, especially when I have to find out what the thing has actually done such as an application suddenly hogging the full screen or whatever so I can’t get to my other applications.

Now, back to Aperture… WHY? Just WHY? I know Aperture isn’t everybody’s favourite and I know some nit-pickers noted the noise reduction was a tiny bit better with Lightroom (I’d guess non-professionals to which I’d say ‘learn your business and take better photos in the first place’) but I can still import, retouch and export top-quality work from Aperture in a fraction of the time it takes with LR. I know. I do it everyday and I HAVE tried LR many times. LR is 3rd-rate by comparison. So, WHY? WHY? What are you thinking, Mac? WHY?

MPG: professional users have very different requirements from those with time to kill with movies and music and selfies.

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