Friday, January 06, 2012

Can Apple produce first class software?

I use most of what Apple makes. Their hardware design is top notch. Their iOS and OS X systems are better than the competitions. Nobody beats them at retail or operations. Their service was always pretty good, but I think it's improving.

After that, things get dicey. Consider iWork ...

C’mon Apple, upgrade Numbers! | ZDNet

… Numbers performance is anything but speedy. In fact, it’s abysmal. I have a relatively tame no-formula five column table with 6000 rows and changing a value in a single cell requires 20 minutes to update the graph. That’s 20 minutes – not 20 seconds. With all the processing horsepower of a MBP, that’s absurd...

I'm amazed performance is that bad, but I've never done anything serious with I have done a bit more with, enough to suspect it doesn't scale well either. Overall iWork is an excellent start -- that needed a major follow-up in 2011.

Reading this, I thought about the other Apple products I use. The latest release of iPhotos is dismal. Aperture doesn't seem to try to compete for the pro market any more. Final Cut Pro is being abandoned by power users.

Their bundled apps are similarly miserable. ICal. iChat. Address Book. It's a veritable Hall of Software Shame. Safari is stabilizing again, but its performance issues have driven power users to Chrome on OS X.

The only Apple product that seems to rule its niche is iTunes.

Really, Apple is no better at applications than it is at Cloud services. If it didn't own the OS, none of its products would survive in the marketplace.

This is a Steve Jobs legacy. Tom Cook can't do worse. I'll close my eyes and cross my fingers and hope Cook's Apple can do better.


Charlie Stross said...

Point of note: I'm currently working on a book using Pages (latest version). For actual writing of large amounts of text with some basic semantic mark-up (based on user-defined styles) it's remarkably painless and reminds me of Microsoft Word 5.1 for MacOS, possibly the best MacOS word processor ever -- back in the days before Word became a bloated monstrosity.

I'm not sure how it'd do for complex documents with lots of tables and diagrams and inserts, or for page layout, but that's not the game I'm in. And it's a little slower than I'd like at importing or exporting other file formats, and the lack of iCloud integration is regrettable. But as a good basic word processor it does what it says on the tin, it's a lot more aesthetically pleasing than OpenOffice/NeoOffice/LibreOffice, and it's a lot cheaper than the other competitors (Word, Nisus Writer, and so on).

(Yes, Scrivener is way better at handling complex multi-threaded narratives. But Scrivener isn't available for iOS yet, and my workflow involves iPad and Macbook use coupled via DropBox.)

JGF said...

Charlie - you should put that review in your blog. Seriously - it's the strongest Pages review ever. In fact, please do a blog post on "the tools I use" -- go over your tools and workflow. Or at least the parts you can give away without sacrificing competitive advantage.

Incidentally, hope you see my Rule 34 review: You might say I liked it.

I have found several bugs in Pages -- maybe because I use styles and outline mode so much. Despite that, I agree it's the best WP available today. I was probably unfair since, bugs aside, I was really expressing a fear about how it scaled in the absence of true experience. My ongoing Divorce from Google is making me ever more worried about where Apple is going. I'm going from reassuring bigamy (Google/Apple) to nerve wracking monogamy (Apple) with a few friends on the side (WordPress...). Ok, maybe I shouldn't press this metaphor too far.