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Reader Comment: Apple Core Rot

More about Apple Core Rot.

Reader Andrea D writes:

I wanted to write you about the Apple Core Rot. My opinion is quite simple and not an original one. I once read that in Engineering there are three factors:

  • Quality
  • Features
  • Time

And in a project you never can have all three. At most two.

If you want Quality and Time (e.g. delivery date) then you have to forget (reduce) Features. By my limited knowledge about Steve Jobs I'm sure he always seeked Quality + Features rather than Time. He waited years of prototypes before introducing the iPad for example. So the equation is quite simple.

It seems Apple is now seeking Time + Features, believing naively (or on purpose) that also Quality can be archived (or is unimportant). It's just not possible. Also, Managers aren't much aware of the fact that there is nothing worse than letting entropy grow in code, which is inevitable if you are under time stress (instead of quality stress). It makes developers unhappy too. On long term those are really bad decisions.

Since OS upgrades are free I'm sure that Apple would get a much better feedback if they focus on Quality+Features or at least on Quality+Time (if you are eager to show many upgrades frequently). For various reasons I really disagree with fixed delivery dates, especially so short (a year is nothing for development).

And personally the look of Yosemite is horrible, I would say "without character". For years I loved the quality and uniqueness of the Apple Icons. Yosemite looks to be a clone of a recent mobile trend instead of proposing it's own view. Also, if you change completely your own look, it means that you don't believe anymore in the existing one, you admit it. Instead I loved the consistency of OS X maintained for years opposite to the many Windows OS revolutions. Puah. Double Puah.

MPG: models like this drill down on reality, and I would agree in general, having been a professional software engineer and manager for 25 years in my “previous life”.

Fixed delivery dates are the worst possible choice, because what always happens is that poor managerial judgment ends up being the norm: the pressure to deliver what was promised, on time, with a hopper-full of promises to out of the gate. And what manager wants to ever say “we didn’t get it done in time” or be dissed as the one that says “we can’t get it done on that schedule with quality”. Might as well beat your head on a brick wall.

Moreover, more features inherently means more bugs and it’s a non-linear growth rate in bugs as modules combine. So the more there is, the more bugs, the more security holes, etc. Less is almost always more. Or at least fewer features, but very well thought out ones that always help and never hinder. But when selling to millions, you hype and you sell. And what sells today is constant changes (visuals in particular), with each rev “better” only because it fed the ego of the latest designer not because some hard metrics proved that it works better.

I want my iPhone to be more like a toaster.

Kevin B writes:

I heard yesterday that Apple is developing an electric vehicle... One that may be driver-less no less. Well.

This comes at the exact same time that not only are you reporting widespread rot, but as of about a month ago my own 2013 iMac cannot safely eject either one of my two Thunderbolt external backup drives without crashing... 100% of the time. (After contacting tech support, they are aware of this issue and "hope" to have a fix with one of the next OS updates.)

I personally could list other firsthand issues (rot) but what you are cataloging on you site will definitely suffice.

Could it be Apple is spreading itself a little too thin? Or is Apple simply not taking seriously the products it already sells/features, i.e. rather than concerned with hardware/software stability it's endlessly focusing attention on the next shiny new thing? (Rhetorical questions all.)

Given the increasing rot, I wouldn't dare get into the new electric -- driver-less or not.

MPG’s guess is that the best and brightest (speaking in percentages) have long since been pulled off the OS X team, leaving less than a critical mass of experienced and talented engineers, with a corresponding reduction in good judgment, along with donut-holes in the knowledge base.


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