Thursday, February 26, 2009

The iChat abandonware problem - a sign Apple is in trouble

There's a feature in iChat, Apple's videoconferencing software, that's supposed to allow users to auto-accept chats.

It looked promising for what I want to do -- set my mother up for videoconferencing in the simplest possible way.

Problem is, when you activate it, you get this message:
AppleScript Event Handler Error
... Event: When I Log In
File: Auto Accept.applescript
Error: Error -1708
It's not a new bug, it was recognized at least two years ago. Apple hasn't fixed it in 10.5.6.

It's not the only sign that iChat is abandonware.

Apple didn't used to be this bad. My recollection was that with 10.3 they tried to fix egregious bugs and they incrementally improved their bundled apps.

Something changed after 10.3. Maybe it was losing Avie Tevanian, or maybe it was when Apple decided that they would stop adding significant new features with OS point releases, possibly related to their interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley revenue recognition (aka technical accounting) ...
Gordon's Notes: Sarbanes-Oxley means no features in future software updates from publicly traded companies?

... Update 3/10/07: I'd read some coverage that claimed Apple was interpreting Sarbanes-Oxley incorrectly. I'd written our representative to ask about this, and Betty McCollum's office replied "Apple has to account for the separate value of a software upgrade that allows for additional capabilities from the hardware.... a nominal fee ... establishes a reportable value for the upgrade." So Apple has interpreted the law as congress understands it. At least when it comes to enabling new hardware capabilities, SO means Apple must account for the value delivered. A nominal fee is one way to do that.
Of course here we're talking bug fixes, not new features, but I wonder if there's an indirect connection.

I see similar problems across OS X applications, such as iCal, Address Book, etc. They're pretty competitive when the OS is first released, but they're very buggy. After a point release or two the biggest bugs get more or less worked out, but then they slowly fall behind the competition.

Apple doesn't improve them, so over time they're less used. They become abandonware. Unfortunately, their bundled existence also prevents vendors from easily filling the gaps with aftermarket products.

Then a new OS release comes along and the cycle begins anew. Of course the new release often requires purchasing new hardware ...

This has become a kind of sickness for Apple. They desperately need better quality in their non-core OS applications, but they also need to find a way to stay competitive with these apps. They could change their interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley, they could change the way they recognize revenue, or they could separate these core apps from the OS (the way they did with iLife -- some of those apps used to be bundled with the OS).

I'm not a representative Apple customer, so I can't say this sickness is all that harmful to them. I think though, if they wait for signs of retail trouble, that they'll find they've waited too long. Maybe Apple should consider customers like me to be the "canary in the coal mine".

This canary is looking for a new mine.

No comments: