Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Apple's quality problem is a complexity problem too

Marco Arment, builder of a respected OS X app, writes
Three Things That Should Trouble Apple – Marco.org
... Apple’s software quality is declining.
I’m not just talking about the most recent releases of everything, or the last couple of months — I’ve noticed this trend for about 2–3 years. As Apple’s software has grown to address larger feature sets, hard-to-solve problems such as sync and online services, shorter release cycles, increasingly strong competition, and Apple’s own immense scale, quality has slipped...
I've noticed it for at least that long, but OS X Lion is a particular disappointment.

Siri is a recent example. After a promising start Siri died. I'll pin this one on Cook. Jobs had his flops, but he usually turned off the marketing until the bodies were buried or the problems were fixed.

The bigger quality problem though - that one came from Jobs. Some of it had to be the talent distraction of iOS development, but Lion is full of bad choices. Whoever decided to change how files were saved instead of focusing on quality and reliability should find another job.

Then there's the MobileMe to iCloud migration. Was there really no way to incrementally fix and extend MobileMe?

It is true that the endless malware race forces developers into disruptive and often imperfectly tested software updates. Microsoft faces this problem too however, and I think they're doing better with it. Apple chose to inflict much of the combinatorial complexity of interactions between iOS and OS X devices, synchronization across disparate data models -- not to mention the crazed, DRM-driven metastatic Apple ID Hell family/payer/owner identity and authentication problem. Apple chose to focus on marketing rather than customer value when they created their Aperture/iPhoto mess - and Apple continues to market Aperture as a smooth upgrade for iPhoto despite that mess. Rather like Siri, come to think of it.

Apple's quality problems are far from under control, and I don't think Cooks's executive compensation plans are helping.

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