Apple Computers. The renegades, the designers, the pirates, the company that “Thinks Different“, fighting big blue and bringing research projects to market. Fighting a world of desktop computer monopolies, leading the smart phone market and defining the tablet. And now struggling to differentiate themselves from all the other mass market software providers – really?
In my series on returning to Linux and the Enlightenment desktop I have mentioned a decreasing satisfaction with Apple Mac OSX but as Apple tries to discover who it is without Steve Jobs it’s got even bigger problems.
I didn’t want to jump on the “how will they cope without Steve Jobs” bandwagon – that seemed like propaganda designed to affect share prices, but something’s not the same. It’s been over two years since Steve passed away and the company is starting to show real signs of problems. Such a delay could be expected as he started many projects before he left the company that have only recently come to market. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that – quality started dropping before he left.
We live in a world where people expect software to have problems, to be difficult to understand and to require constant updating. Apple believed in better – systems that just work, a focus on usability and encouraged thorough testing. This was a significant portion of what drove adoption – people were so happy with Apple products that they bought more, they told their friends and they pushed to use their own devices for work as well as play. Sadly the quality is no longer as pervasive. OS updates badly break well running systems, firmware changes can disrupt hardware features, updated system applications can simply not work and hardware failure rates are increasing.
How can this be? Apple is a company with a clear vision and the reputation and infrastructure to deliver. Very little reliance is placed on third parties and the software remains tightly coupled to the hardware it runs on. Vision, it seems, is not enough. Jobs was a visionary, and one that has changed the modern world, but he was also driven and demanded that people delivered what he envisaged. The hard work he expected of people and the perfection he required in everything that Apple released is now legend, but in more ways than one. We should learn from this and make software better. Uncompromising in quality and user experience but without driving people so hard that it’s no longer what they want to do.