Starting with Business Insider and progressed to the Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and even a televised CNBC discussion.
Of course the outlet outside our community twisted Marco’s words and message to prop up their continued "Apple is doomed" dialog.
But here’s the thing. Marco’s post, titled "Apple has lost the functional high ground" expressed a frustration and concern that many of us in the Apple community have expressed.
The concern being that Apple’s growth and success could be getting to a point where it’s hard for them to manage and maintain their core values.
The value of putting the customer experience first. The value of "it just works", which Marco rightly points out has never been an "absolute".
It’s not a criticism or a prediction of Apple’s future death.
I’ll say Marco should not regret his post, though I understand the reasons why he does. He should celebrate it.
He says what many of us have been thinking and saying and furthers our community discourse.
It also makes sure that we continue to keep check on the company and products we love.
The Balance of Quality
Specifically Marco’s piece was asking the question, "Is Apple’s quality slipping?"
He was addressing software, but I think hardware has had issues too.
He says (and this is the kind of wording he mentions regretting), "I’m deeply concerned for its future".
Still the concern is valid. Apple’s past few OS releases, both on iOS and OS X have felt like they are buggier than those in recent memory.
At the same time we’ve had regression of many features that many of use view as critical.
Looking from the outside it can seem like external pressures from media and marketing are having more influence and Apple might be losing the balance of great engineering and customer experience to appeasing investors, Wallstreet, and the media.
I’ve said this myself on a few occasions. It can sometimes feel like Tim Cook and the executive team are making reactionary decisions to public criticisms
For me the distillation of the argument comes down to Marco’s comment, "they’re doing too much, with unrealistic deadlines."
The drive to push out products and drive innovation at an unrealistic pace seems to be having a perceivable negative impact on the products and services the company ships.
The debate in more rational and reasonable circles of our community that Marco’s piece triggered though are valuable.
He let’s us question if what we think we are perceiving is real. Is there cause to be concerned? Do we need to react? If there is a problem is Apple aware? Do we need an intervention?
I say this last item only half jokingly.
This is what we’d do if we saw a member of our family making choice that were leading them down a bad path.
This is our community and Apple is a member of our family so I think we’re right to think this way.
Reacting to reactions
So is there an issue? Have things changed?
For sure Apple has had huge growth and change over the past 20 years.
The biggest thing being that they are no longer the underdog. They aren’t the scrappy rebel who makes computers for a small group of artists and creative thinkers.
Apple is a main stream consumer electronics leader. Being a leader also means that our competitors and detractors are always finding ways to tear you down. Naturally you become defensive it HAS to change you.
He used an iPad has his main "computer" and so uses iOS extensively.
iOS 7 was full of instability issues and graphical glitches. iOS 8 brought it’s own issues with random reboots, iDrive issues, etc.
Questions perception and I agree
Do we really have buggier software due to tight deadlines and release schedules?
Could there be more bugs because of other factors. iOS 7 was really like new iOS version 1. A lot of things were re-done so are we just going through the growing pains again. Remember OS X 10.0 or 10.1?
Are we simply aware of more bugs because there are more techno geeks paying attention and more media outlets (blogs, twitter, Facebook, youtube) for us to become aware of the bugs?
There’s also a lot more in the air for Apple to juggle.
I see this like my own life. As you get older and more mature there are more things to watch over and worry about.
You don’t become a less responsible person, but you might not be on as on top of all the small details as you once were.
In Apple’s case it’s easy to say, "simplify". I know I’ve said I’ve always worried about the "Sony" effect.
Like it or not consumers are not Apple’s only priority. Shareholders want growth and growth brings complexity.
What would happen at WWDC in 2015 if Apple announced iOS 9 with "No new features", like they did for Snow Leopard in 2009?
The stock would tank and the media would repeat their 2014 mantra that Apple can’t innovate anymore.
Yes the community would probably rejoice, but Apple has to have a balance.
Death by a thousand cuts
Craig Hockenberry also weigh in on Marco’s piece with a letter to Tim
In the letter he says, "The good news is that none of the problems us geeks are seeing are show stoppers."
We talked about this on the last Maccast. Most of the "bugs" are annoyances, but the core of both OS X and iOS are solid and Apple’s products are still better than the alternatives (in my opinion by large margins).
The trouble is while each issue by itself is not an issue, in aggregate they start to sting a lot more.
Craig re-iterates that bugs are not new to software, we all "get" that.
The trouble is, real or not, recent perception is there are more of these little bugs slipping into the OS release than ever before. That’s a problem for Apple.
We could continue to debate the reason why and whether we are right to complain, but the net result is Apple’s reputation is being questioned and by influencers and that has real impacts too.
So while Apple needs to continue to push new products and innovate to appease investors and wall street they can ignore their customers, developers, or fans either
I get asked by you weekly, is it OK to upgrade to iOS 8 or OS X Yosemite. Should I buy that new Apple product or wait?
I hear things like, "I’m thinking about switching to an iPhone from Android, but I’ve heard iOS 8 is buggy". That’s a REAL problem.
Again this is about balance.
The Functional High Ground
Daniel Jalkut, once an Apple employee, also responded on his blog to Marco’s piece
He mentions a skill that came from his years at Apple was not just "how" to make quality software, but learning "why", " to not only serve customers, but to delight and surprise them".
In my mind even with Apple’s latest releases they are for still surprising and delighting us
Continuity is an awesome thing
Extensions have made using iOS even better in significant ways
But missing the details and having release with too many annoying "bugs" to me does diminish, or at least detract, from the delight. And when the bugs linger they eventually can overshadow that delight.
Daniel concludes with "(Apple) has consistently produced nothing short of the best hardware and software in the world, consistently marred by nothing short of the most infuriating, most embarrassing, most “worrisome for the company’s future” defects."
Again a balance, a kind of yin and yang.
Compromises Have Consequences
Finally Joe Cieplinski wrote a blog post when he put forth the idea that "mass market success and decline in build quality pretty much go hand in hand"
The thing is, as he points out, that it’s not a direct relationship.
As we said at the top, Apple is much larger and successful than they have ever been. They have a much more diversified product line and are shipping more products and delivering more services than ever.
Yet the decline in quality is not proportional, far from it.
I don’t have the numbers to back it up, but I’d guess the percentage of issues is proportionally not really changed.
There are just more products and features to find bugs in. Perception?
Joe also goes on to talk about a number of the things we’ve already discussed
More is expected from Apple than ever before
Expectations have consequences
There is not an easy fix. You have to balance innovation with maintaining quality and as you grow that’s increasingly harder to do.
So why a whole show on this?
Because we care, which is exactly why Apple is NOT doomed and will weather this latest round of debate and media fodder like they always have
Things have changed at Apple, but nothing has changed.
They continue to make the best, most innovative, and most magical hardware and software on the planet
We continue to be delighted, amazed, confused, and frustrated by what they do and we love it.