Friday, January 8, 2016 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Six Colors’ Apple Report Card

Jason Snell:

Generally, our panel praised the quality of Apple’s hardware design and reliability. As John Moltz wrote, “Apple hardware continues to be one of its great strengths.” “Better than ever,” wrote Stephen Hackett. “No one else seems close,” wrote Rich Mogull.

[…]

If the broad perception is that hardware remains an Apple strength, here’s the flip side: the perception that Apple’s software efforts lag behind.

[…]

Serenity Caldwell framed the issue as one of focus. “iOS still feels buggy and unfinished. iPad Pro launched without any key Apple iOS apps. Too many software projects for one year.” As James Thomson wrote, “iOS and OS X are improved, but it feels that many other things are barely held together with digital string.”

Other panelists were far less generous. “Software quality has really gone downhill,” wrote Khoi Vinh. “Apple’s software quality continues to drop,” wrote Adam Engst. Rob Griffiths praised iOS but had harsh words for OS X: “Longstanding seemingly ‘simple’ bugs don’t get fixed.”

I agree that Apple’s hardware quality continues to be great. Aside from reverting to mDNSResponder, I have not seen an overall improvement in software quality this year. With Mac OS X 10.11, I’m still regularly seeing problems with Finder, Mail, Safari, Disk Utility, Preview, Calendar, Spotlight, and Time Machine that were not present in previous versions. I hear a lot about Mail from my customers, and Mail in 10.11 overall seems to be even less reliable than in 10.10. And old bugs from 10.10 and even 10.9 remain. iOS has always been relatively less buggy for me, but it still has some annoying bugs as of 9.2. I hear people saying that Apple kind of did a Snow Leopard in 2015, but I’m just not seeing it.

Our panel’s message is clear: Apple has a lot of work to do to repair its relationship with third-party software developers. “Apple’s heading towards a crisis point,” wrote Andy Ihnatko. “In 2014, I said that I’d never seen Apple developers less happy. Things are even worse a year later[…]

[…]

The developers on our panel specifically cited long delays to process approvals and builds, with iTunes Connect being “the least reliable this year than at any time in the last seven years,” according to James Thomson.

I agree with all of this. Swift, and the way Apple has handled its open sourcing, is mostly a bright spot, though.

6 Comments

My theory has long been the better Apple is doing the worse they treat developers. So maybe the recent share price drop might see some love. Ha! Who am I kidding.

I do think we developers, particularly Mac developers, need to better organise ourselves into some sort of group that provides a common voice. Something to help us push back a little because at the moment we've got nothing. It isn't good for us and it certainly isn't good for our customers.

"My theory has long been the better Apple is doing the worse they treat developers."

This is pretty common for providers of proprietary platforms. The exact same pattern can be seen with console manufacturers. Nintendo, for example, wildly swings between showing obvious disdain for third-party devs, and actively courting even small indies, depending on how well their current platforms are selling.

That's why I think it's never a good choice to rely on platforms where you don't have some way of selling your product outside of the official channels. You never know how the gatekeeper will feel about you once your product is actually ready to be sold.

"I have not seen an overall improvement in software quality this year. With Mac OS X 10.11, I’m still regularly seeing problems with Finder, Mail, Safari, Disk Utility, Preview, Calendar, Spotlight, and Time Machine that were not present in previous versions ... I hear people saying that Apple kind of did a Snow Leopard in 2015, but I’m just not seeing it."

Actual, existing Snowy is still a champ, of course. Vote Bertrand Serlet for President! Vote early and often! (I do know I'm just an endless crank on the Snowy topic. But in your heart, you all know I'm right.)

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The software woes strike me as somewhat inevitable when putting a somewhat callow supply chain expert and hardware design guy in complete control of the whole show. What did anyone expect? The supply chain is great. The hardware is great. And after that...

To paraphrase a wise fellow: "Cook and Ive would be broader guys if they'd dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram."

@Chucky This also feeds back into the developer relations problems. Half the frustration of being a developer these days is the policies, but the other half is that we’re building on top of an unsteady foundation, spending a lot of time reporting and working around OS issues rather than directly making our apps better.

"This also feeds back into the developer relations problems. Half the frustration of being a developer these days is the policies, but the other half is that we’re building on top of an unsteady foundation, spending a lot of time reporting and working around OS issues rather than directly making our apps better."

Most definitely. One of my primary fears as an end-user about the MAS in the early days was that 3rd-party devs would spend all their time dealing with Sandboxing and iCloud, instead of innovating, as they had previously been doing at a breakneck pace.

The collapse of OS quality control, which I didn't foresee, certainly turbo-charged the whole downward spiral...

[…] Previously: Apple’s 2016 in Review, Six Colors’ Apple Report Card. […]

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