Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Sign of Decline at Apple

Comments on: This Apple Store Sign Seems to be a Sign of Apple’s Broader Troubles

I agree that sign is more important than many people might think. For a company like Apple that spends likely hundreds of millions of dollars a year on design and conveying a message through that design (in Apple stores, with products, with presentations, with ads...) it is not acceptable. They have held themselves to high standards. When that starts to slip if they are not proactive it slips quickly.

For a normal business they would be at the mercy of the management company to fix the door and the manager of the store would pass the buck to them. I can say if I were the manager of that store for Apple, if it wasn't fixed immediately I would have it fixed myself (and then bill the management company). If it couldn't be fixed immediately I would have a decent sign put there and it would make sure it got fixed very quickly. That isn't the same action I would take if it were some small shop I was responsible for where I knew we could only afford a cheap place and things like broken doors take a while to be fixed. For an Apple store that is unacceptable.

My main complaint with Apple is the poor software quality over the last 5 to 10 years. Software quality started to slip and kept slipping and no-one at Apple that had the authority dealt with the decline. The Apple Maps fiasco was a symptom of this long term failure by Apple. Tim Cook responded to that symptom but I don't see Apple giving software quality nearly the attention it deserves. My MacBook Pro has had numerous software issues for years. I have looked at other hardware and it is very difficult to find hardware of the quality of Mac laptops. My next computer would likely be an Ubuntu laptop if I can find good enough hardware. Another option is installing Ubuntu on the MacBook and just using that most of the time (there are some reasons Mac software can be useful so having it as a fallback is a benefit). But it is sad that Apple has let software quality slide for so long.

Related: Practicing Mistake-Promoting Instead of Mistake-Proofing at Apple - Aligning Marketing Vision and Management - Human Proof Design - Vision can be a Powerful Driver but Most Often It is Just a Few Pretty Words

1 comment:

John Hunter said...

Adding a comment I made on Google+ in response to a comment there:

You are correct "poor software quality at Apple" is vague. In the link I link to several specific examples (and those links have links to more examples). I gave up on Microsoft well over a decade ago - and thankfully have avoided dealing with their disaster of software since - though I did suffer with Skype after they bought it, before I gave it up).

As an example of the extremely poor software quality Apple has continued for years is iTunes which is extremely poorly constructed as they jammed on bits of code to ride on the iTunes backbone (similar to the Johnny Cash song, "One Piece At A Time").

Limping along with a poorly coded piece of software grafted onto a creaky foundation for a year because taking the time to create a well crafted solution for an emerging need may make sense. Continually adding to that abomination for a years to an organization that used to pride itself on well crafted software is a shame.

Apple still does many things well related to software. They are huge and have many great people working for them that create great solutions. But overall they have wasted their legacy for software quality in the last 10 years. The focus on the iOS platform is fine. iOS has issues but is much less prone to basic failures than their MacOS work. Partially this is also due to iOS weaknesses often being due to a rapidly evolving space so weakness are more acceptable than the extremely lame weaknesses still present in some MacOS stuff that was embarrassing 10 years or 5 years ago and still hasn't been fixed.

It isn't that Apple has fallen all the way to these ridicules huge organizations that spend tens of millions of dollars on software applications that never are even put into production. Apple is one of the best organizations are creating software. But what Apple has done is slip from an organization focused on delighting customers with a never ending obsession with creating great software to one that is very good at creating adequate software that is less badly created than most other large organizations.

On the hardware and engineering front Apple is much closer to the obsession with creating great and innovative solutions that are clearly much better than any other competitor. And those competitors are creating pretty amazing improvements year after year.

And on the managing a business front (creating a profitable business system) they are in a class with very few others (Google...). Apple is doing much more right than they are doing wrong. But software quality has been poorly managed for 10 years. Slipping for 2 or 3 years would be understandable. But this long term failure is extremely disappointing.

I am sure most people don't notice the difference between great software and ok software. But those that notice have a vision of the strength or weakness of the position. When the underlying quality is great and you slip up a bit it is almost unnoticeable to nearly everyone. When the quality is as Apple's is now it is much closer to them slipping up and many people suffering. I do not believe Apple is at the point where we are all suffering greatly ever day (like it used to be with Windows). I do believe today people don't have the great tools they should in Mac and that the weaknesses are causing them much more frustration than it should (though nothing like the disaster Windows was when I used it - hopefully Windows isn't that horrible either, I would hope Microsoft has improved over the years).