Apple in 2012: Its Own Worst Enemy

| Hidden Dimensions

Apple is large and still growing. By itself, despite the DNA of Apple’s culture and the legacy of Steve Jobs, that’s going to create problems. In fact, it already has. Apple’s heritage of simplicity has run headlong into Apple’s complex, interactive services, and customers are getting restless.

Wealth and power create problems for companies. It always has, and it always will. Apple’s success was the byproduct of the brilliance of Steve Jobs, and while CEO Tim Cook has professed allegiance to the spirit of the cofounder, he will still have to deal with the absolutes of Apple’s size and influence as a company as he moves into his first full year of control.

Apple is Trying to do Too Much

ConfusedOne of the emerging feelings about Apple these days is that the company is doing a lot, perhaps too much, rolling out a lot of services and technologies, placing a significant burden on its developers, and in the process, creating a debt load for customers. I described the debt load effect in the December 2nd Particle Debris. Briefly, customers who engage too enthusiastically in Apple products and services are finding themselves in time debt with maintenance. And to make matters worse, Apple’s tradition and philosophy of keeping things very simple is running headlong into the complexities of their ambitious offerings and the synergies amongst all their devices.

I was chatting with Ted Landau about this, and he put it succinctly. “There was a time when we could understand the basic operation of our OS and Apple apps without the manual, but if we wanted to understand the nuances, we’d need better documentation. That’s changing.” In other words, something like the Missing Manual series edited by David Pogue would fill in all the details for the curious or the evolving expert, but it wasn’t essential. Now, on the eve of 2012, more and more customers complain that they’re hard pressed to understand how to get the job done efficiently and correctly. There’s no official written guidance, just tech snippets.  Instead, they Google, piecemeal, for how-to articles. To paraphrase David Pogue, the manual that should have been in the box now needs to be in the box, if you know what I mean.

Outward Signs of Growth

Apple prides itself on thinking like a small company. Steve Jobs, it has been said, tried to maintain a start up atmosphere. To that end, resources have been artificially constrained. Also, the Apple executive team is small. Vice presidential power is concentrated at the top so that renegade VPs don’t undermine the company as they have at Microsoft. And yet, Apple’s size dictates complexities that need to be dealt with. One of those is taking responsibility for the whole product.

In older times, Apple’s products were largely self-documenting.Today, the Lion migration and MobileMe to iCloud migration are not. Therefore, an outward sign of taking responsibility for complex services is for Apple to describe, in detail, how the product should work. In general, if there’s a disconnect between the published documentation and the service, the software must be rewritten, not the manual. So far, Apple has had the luxury of ignoring this formal task.

I’m not suggesting something like Microsoft Press, but I am saying that when it comes to ambitious projects and services, Apple needs to publish its own beginner and advanced documentation as a coherent reference. It should be in multiple digital formats, free and readable on a Mac or iPad. The continuing conceit that Apple services are so simple that only knowledge base articles — that clear up nuances — are sufficient will create problems for Apple going forward.

Less is More

For a very large and growing company, it’s hard to do less. Simple products embedded in a growing ecosystem, and their interactions, become complex. Worse, Apple as an influential company feels that it has the vision and power to make things better. As a result, the act of forcing progress changes the approachability and metaphor of the products. That creates difficulty of use whether Apple likes it or admits it. I’m not suggesting a halt to technical advances; I’m suggesting patience and finesse.

One example of that is Apple’s move to Versions and Autosave. Only a company of Apple’s size, dare I say hubris, would take on a project like that. The feeling, or perhaps conceit, is that, over time people will adapt. New customers will never know the old way and thank Apple for its revolution. But it really isn’t much different than the issue with Microsoft and the new ribbons in Office. I worry that the general customer resentment about radical change is perceived as a defect in the customer that must be corrected. Or ignored for the sake of worthy goals.

This is creating a sense of resentment in the user community that Apple cannot ignore in the age of blogs and Twitter. For example, one of our TMO staff members described his wife’s frustration with Versions under Pages in Lion. Save As… is gone and there is no explicit guidance. Lion, out of the blue, changed. Her reaction was “This is not Apple-like.” That is, intuitive operation had vanished. Our staff member continued with his missive: “To her, Macs have always empowered her by allowing stuff to just work in a natural way. This time they had taken power away and made her feel dumb.”

The Dangers of Big

That’s not the only danger that lurks for Apple. Huge companies are paranoid that their growth will come to an end — that their best days are behind them. Smaller companies have a more circumspect view of business. They know that they could go under. Or they know that they have healthy competition that must be respected. Consensus with the community is reqired. Outrageous growth is a pipe dream; it usually requires, in lieu of sheer brilliance, the competition to fail miserably.

Huge companies, on the other hand, don’t worry so much about going out of business as they do about failing to grow. But it’s a mathematical fact that as companies get bigger, a sustained large rate of growth becomes more difficult. Ever more draconian measures are required to sustain it.

A large company will more willingly take on any new project if it thinks that it might add to growth and steal market share from the less worthy competition. Past success invite new adventures. In fact, an insidious chip on the shoulder seeps in: other competitors who are successful are seen as wrongly stealing money that rightly belongs to the large company, if only the larger company could do things a little better. That leads to overconfidence in new ventures. This branching out dilutes focus and places ever more agenda on the core OS and services. For example, look what a behemoth iTunes has become as it’s been asked to bear the burden of ever more functions, services and externally imposed limitations.

The Rebel Base

Eventually, these problems bubble to the surface of the customer consciousness. They begin to perceive themselves as ingrates for objecting to having their lives changed. They blame themselves for being stupid because their e-mail doesn’t get delivered or their sync didn’t work. Or the Time Machine backup failed. Or their document couldn’t be renamed and saved naturally. What used to be a simple, pleasant walled garden risks becoming a prison of complexity, confusion and time wasting maintenance duties. When a customer can no longer work as desired because of Apple agenda, resentment surfaces.

Customers will then find themselves selectively ignoring new services being offered because their ability to cope is too highly taxed. The more Apple tries to grow by engaging in new services, the more customers will back off in order to keep the sum total of complexity on an even keel. Additional Apple initiatives might start to fail.

Aircraft Carrier

Changing Course

Apple is like a 95,000 ton nuclear aircraft carrier. It wants to keep going in the same direction, and it takes a long time to alter course.

Right now, Apple is possessed by the simplicity of its past. That momentum, without introspection, creates the trap that no real effort is required to document new, more ambitious services and their many new interactions and permutations. Technical columnists are placed in the role of proxies, explaining to the customer, with apologies, how this vast array of new products and services works. Apple’s frog is boiled: it slowly loses control of its intimate connection to the customer — especially when it goes into withdrawal from snafus.

Rather than fundamentally cope with customer ennui, projects that never should be approved might get the green light in the hopes that they will fuel growth and cut those nasty competitors off at the pass. In what could be an ironic twist, Murphy’s laws kick in, and customers resist these initiatives. The very thing that Apple wants to avoid is instantiated — a limit to growth. Reconciling Apple’s ambitions with the need to communicate better about its products and services, manage complexity and deal with ever mounting customer workloads is now the challenge for Apple’s CEO and executive team.

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31 Comments Leave Your Own

Mike Weasner

Totally agree.  And this helps explain why the Apple feedback web pages are a mess.  What mess, you ask?

I have used the Feedback pages (http://www.apple.com/feedback) many times over the past several years. However, it is not obvious that the report submitted is seen by anyone at Apple. In fact, it is not obvious that these feedback pages are even well maintained. After reporting out-of-date feedback forms to Apple (via application bug reports using their forms), I finally had to send an email to Steve Jobs complaining that the iTunes feedback page didn’t have the iPhone 4 nor iPad listed months after they were released. I explained that Apple should be embarrassed by the state of their feedback pages. The page was eventually updated to show those products.

But the problem continues. Look at the iCal feedback page (http://www.apple.com/feedback/ical.html); the latest version in the menu is 4.0.4. But the current version is 5.0.1. I have reported this several times but the error is still there. Either these feedback pages are not supported or the webmaster does not use Apple products, and so is not even aware when Apple updates its software. Either way, it is unacceptable. Apple should keep these feedback pages updated if they want users to use them, or they should remove them.  Perhaps this is an example of where Apple’s size is hurting it.  The little things get lost in the desire for product excellence.

As our systems get more complex, it gets more and more difficult for users to determine what is causing the problems they are having.  Is it a bug in the OS (as is the too-frequent case with Lion), a temporary service glitch in iCloud, or something the user is doing wrong?  Users have no way is really knowing.  Yes, Apple has a (broken) user feedback system.  They also have an iCloud system status page.  But they need a “known bugs” web site, where users can check for existing bugs and report new ones. Many times, especially since the release of Lion, I have wasted considerable time trying to “fix” problems, thinking it was something I needed to do, when in fact, it is a bug in the OS that is causing the problem. Apple would do its customers a tremendous favor by letting us know about existing bugs in their software. Of course, this will never happen.

While Apple doesn’t seem to believe it, communication with customers is becoming critical.  Whether it is better user-level documentation, more openness on existing problems, or better ways for users to communicate back to Apple.  Calling into AppleCare is not always the best mechanism for users.  The existing Knowledge Base articles for users is not sufficient nor is the search adequate for the user to easily find what they need.

As John says, Apple has a challenge ahead in how it communicates with its ever growing user base.  Will Apple just put its head in the sand and ignore the problem?  History says it will.

Lee Dronick

Apple is like a 95,000 ton nuclear aircraft carrier. It wants to keep going in the same direction, and it takes a long time to alter course.

You can change course fairly rapidly, but there may be consequences. She will heel over to a steep angle and you could roll aircraft off of the deck or into each other. Same thing with a business, you could roll customers off of your deck.

I am learning to appreciate Lion, but I would have liked a better “read me” about the new features.

Gerry Senker

Richard Branson, criticizes and admires Steve Jobs. Says ?We are completely different.?
http://www.billionairechronicles.net/billionaire-news/branson-on-steve-jobs-?he-was-completely-different-from-me-?

brett_x

Since you seem to have the ability to read some details of what goes on inside my head (and convey them eloquently in digital format), Mr Martellaro, I hope you keep the really strange stuff off the record.

That said, nice article. I have the same concerns. For a while, I was feeling like I was just “not getting it anymore”. But as I struggle with the CMD+Shift+S on a regular basis, it’s nice to hear that I’m not alone. I’ve given it a chance, but I just think it’s a bad idea.

The other thing that befuddles me is the “All My Files” default view for the Finder. Clearly Apple is making moves towards a Finderless OS, but I would like Apple to explain just one good reason you would EVER want to see your files in such a way. Completely. Useless. (Yes, I’ve changed the default.)

skipaq

I find myself having to think twice nearly every time I open a document. Do I start typing or do I “Duplicate” close the original and then start typing. The trusty old “Save As” is missed. Whoever made this decision needs to be taken out to the woodshed.

It seems everything is being iOSified. Is this necessary? I use Lion exactly the way I used Snow Leopard except for when it forces things. Don’t use Lauchpad, Mission Control nor full screen mode much if at all.

Perhaps the gurus at Apple know that this merging will lead to some OS utopia that is beyond my vision. At times it feels like I am wandering in the wilderness at the borders of Mac OS and iOS. Speaking of people an old proverb says: “Two are better than one.” Perhaps that is true of OSes as well.

littlebiggygirl

While generally receiving high marks for his first one hundred days at the helm of Apple, Tim Cook needs some help.  He is in desperate need of a fashion make over, or at the very least finding a “look” to call his own. What do you think Cook should wear?
(please don’t suggest a black turtleneck)
http://littlebiggy.org/4648387

Lee Dronick

While generally receiving high marks for his first one hundred days at the helm of Apple, Tim Cook needs some help.? He is in desperate need of a fashion make over, or at the very least finding a ?look? to call his own. What do you think Cook should wear?

Chinos and a dark red silk dress shirt.

doug

Very good article.  It really crystallizes what i have been feeling in the last two years.  Not only I haven’t moved any of my 9 Macs over to Lion, I actually don’t even read the articles on TMO, or elsewhere, about Lion, so I honestly wonder if Snow Leopard will be the last OS for me. And for me, a Mac person since OS 7, that is a new feeling.  Same goes for iCloud. I don’t see the value of doing either one considering what a learning curve it will be for my staff and myself and how little it would add to productivity.  Just don’t see them in my plans.  Too complicated.  Or maybe I am just losing interest. 

I do love my iPhone though.  Not complicated at all.  Works great.

geoduck

Customers will then find themselves selectively ignoring new services being offered because their ability to cope is too highly taxed.

Exactly why I’m not on Lion or have any plans to go to iCloud. Let me put this in perspective. I’m an IT manager. My business is to evaluate new technologies, make them useful, and fit them into the current paradigm. The trouble is that I just don’t see either of these as improvements to what went before, and so all I can focus on are the problems. There’s no benefit to changing. I’ve called Lion “Apple’s Vista” and I stand by it. Eventually they will sort out the issues and it will work well. Until then I’ll stick with SnowLeopard, just as my Virtual Machine is still running XP, because it just works.

aardman

Apple is in the midst of a transition.  Their devices are about to plateau.  Not because technology has stagnated but because the products are fast approaching the limits that human physiology and intellect impose on them.  You can’t make them any smaller, or bigger, then they already are.  The screen resolution is approaching the point beyond which improvements won’t matter to the user.  From some point on, they’ll just keep sticking more powerful, more efficient chips and longer running batteries in the devices, but the basic configuration will not change much.

So what’s the new direction for Apple?  Siri, iCloud, and basically turning your device into HAL or Starship Enterprise’s onboard computer.  And there’s no non-messy way to do this because Apple has to learn pretty much everything as they go along.  So even as they’re building the software infrastructure to deliver starship computing, they also have to pivot their devices towards this new, dare I say it?  Paradigm. That means a new interaction model and thus rewriting the user interface.  And as much as we complain that Apple is suffering from creeping complexity, imagine if Google or Microsoft is the one undertaking this transition.

The thing is, the increased complexity that we are seeing in Apple’s products is an artifact of the (imperfect) transition process.  If Apple is successful, the end result will be products that are more capable and yet much simpler than anything we’ve seen before.  At least from the users’ point of view.

Jamie

Count me in as well. This is the first time in seventeen years I’m contemplating skipping Apple when I upgrade my studio equipment.

Previously, though their cavalier attitude toward shifting paradigms still smacked of hubris now and again, it was tolerable because the changes they introduced genuinely were better alternatives (USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, et. al.), generally speaking, but Lion is a mess. I’m running Snow Leopard with no plans to upgrade, and for the first time the walled-garden ecosystem is proving to be problematic - everything is so interconnected that now things no longer ‘just work’ (the irony of fragmentation is not lost on me wink). App sandboxing on the Mac is going to be a pain in the arse, and removing our ability to manage our systems and files the way we choose to is Google-sized in its arrogance and disregard for Apple customers (squash the human element like the bug that it is! SQUASH IT! Sort of the antithesis of the Jobs philosophy, isn’t it?). Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I think Apple’s glory days are already behind them in many ways.

I have watched in awe as Apple have come back from the dead, but I really just need to be able to get my work done, and in the past the appeal of Apple tools was that they allowed me to do that in the ways that I chose to do it. I have invested many thousands of dollars in this company, and I can’t help but feel jilted to some degree at this point. I hope someone in those upper echelons is listening to us.

BurmaYank

Thank you, John, and everyone who have written else on this page, for crystallizing this crucial perspective on my growing problems with my Applestuff for me. 

This is exactly what I was about to say, before I noticed it had already been said for me:

“Customers will then find themselves selectively ignoring new services being offered because their ability to cope is too highly taxed.”

“Exactly why I?m not on Lion or have any plans to go to iCloud… There?s no benefit to changing. I?ve called Lion ?Apple?s Vista? and I stand by it (!!!). Eventually they will sort out the issues and it will work well. Until then I?ll stick with SnowLeopard, just as my Virtual Machine is still running XP, because it just works”.

And:

“Very good article.? It really crystallizes what i have been feeling in the last two years.? Not only I haven?t moved any of my 9 Macs over to Lion, I actually don?t even read the articles on TMO, or elsewhere, about Lion, so I honestly wonder if Snow Leopard will be the last OS for me. And for me, a Mac person since OS 7 (*), that is a new feeling.? Same goes for iCloud. I don?t see the value of doing either one considering what a learning curve it will be for my… (dependants) ...and myself and how little it would add to productivity.? Just don?t see them in my plans.? Too complicated.? Or maybe I am just losing interest.”?


Wow. Just, WOW!

———————————-
(* “And for me, a Mac person since OS 1.1g…”)

BMWTwisty

“There was a time when we could understand the basic operation of our OS and Apple apps without the manual”

Y’know, I have a 1976 BMW R90/6 motorcycle that I’ve owned since 1982 and ride every day.  It’s really uncomplicated - like OS9.  I have a 2004 BMW K1200LT.  It’s fast, sleet, heavier, and pretty complicated - like Snow Leopard.  When I want to burn through five or six hundred miles I’ll pick the LT. 

The new 2012 BMW K1200-GTL is a computer on two wheels that will do a hundred thirty in 5th gear (DAMHIK) - you don’t really need sixth unless you’re cruising all day.  It’s like Lion.

If you want your technology to stand still, then go work with your favorite flavor of Windoze.

I used to have a 1977 Jeep Wrangler FWD, too.  I could sit in the engine compartment to work on the engine.  Have you looked inside the engine compartment of a 3-Series Bimmer lately?

I think you’re pissing in the wind with your complaints.  I’ve been running Lion on my plain ol’ white MacBook and it’s performed flawlessly.  My iPad just works.  My iPhone 4S is pure joy to use.  I’m a happy customer and will most likely buy the next iPad next year.  And I still use a G4 Sawtoogh AGP and Quicksilver machine too!

Apple managed to come out with the Air, iPad and 4S without realy needing your input.  Reading this blog is like reading the pap the “analysts” spew every quarter with their financial expectations.  We know how that goes.

I think Apple is doing just fine and I’m looking forward to new and interesting products that put the competitors even farther behind the technological curve.

mhikl

Dang, all these points are so clearly correct, though I do not see how BMWTwisty can say Lion is running flawlessly, which I would define as intuitively and true to function.

Apple now lets slip the many things that are just not finished. Lion, for one, is one unfinished behemoth.

Leopard, when first unveiled wasn?t exactly perfect either, but we knew with each update, by the laws of Apple iteration, it would improve. MicroSoft does much the same with its new OS but at least Apple seemed to put out what worked splendidly and then added sparkle that made its diamond even finer. I always felt Snow Leopard was a strange OS. All it seemed to be was a clean up of Leopard?s final perfection. Is that what we are expected to wait for with Lion?

But Lion is big and fat and perfection in any part is becoming hard to imagine.

On the positive, I actually liked the possibilities of Mission Control. I finally sat down to understand it. I chose a different DT Picture for each Desktop that matched the job to be done: Safari, Quicktime, iTunes, VoodooPad, Dictionary and other. In other, I might be working with Pages or Numbers, whatever. I liked the fact that I could go to my Dictionary Desktop which has a number of definition pages open, select Mission Control, and drag one of my dictionary pages over to VoodooPad and another to any other Desktop that might need spelling checked. I could easily check my spelling without Desktop switching and I could keep clean, functional desktops in neat order. I could do the same with Stickies should I want to tweak off the main apps page. The clean DT was a big one for me. It helps keep order.

This scenario is fabulous except for one snag. When I Log Out or Restart or Shutdown, even though Reload windows when logging back in is selected, things are not presented as they were at shut down. Quicktime will stay in Desktop 2 but everything else is crammed into Desktop 1. Now that is not how intuitively I would expect Reload windows when logging back in to represent my desktops.

Too much, too fast, too little perfect is not the Apple company I have grown to expect. It is still better than the competition but the competition seems to be getting better at emulating Apple?s old standards and I fear a meeting in some nightmare middle ground of inadequacy. Such could finally make Apple irrelevant, if its pad is ever matched by Android or MicroSoft.

I suspect a lot slipped by Steve over the past number of years due to his illness, but the problems people are mentioning have been in this stew for quite some time. Is it that our expectations have bloated this Apple stomach? How often does Apple have to come up with the big WOW! For every great WOW there are hundreds of little iterations. Iterations should be the standard by which Apple addresses its operations. A WOW, when it comes, should stand proud and simply merge into a perfect environment. That should be the nature of Apple.

aardman

Eventually they will sort out the issues and it will work well. Until then I?ll stick with SnowLeopard, just as my Virtual Machine is still running XP, because it just works.

Just like people waited for Apple to sort out OS-X before they abandoned OS-9.  Or how iPod had to wait for iTunes for Windows and iPod4 before it really took off.  As much as we’d like to believe that Apple get’s things substantially right right off the bat (or within a year at most), that’s really more the exception (iPhone & iPad) then the rule.  [And even with iPhone, you could argue that it really didn’t hit it’s stride until the OS was upgraded to run apps.]

geoduck

The Mac Observer site is one of the places where Windows Fans point to when they want to deride us for slavishly buying into the Apple Reality Distortion field. Yet there is not just an article disparaging Apple’s practices, but also a long thread of comments agreeing and extending the point. We’re supposed to be the ones that excuse Apple’s foibles. We’re the ones that defend Apple when someone tries to argue that Windows is better. We’re the Macheads, the Fanboys, the Mac-evangelists, the ones that revel in being able to think different. Yet we’re the ones that are saying that Apple has lost its way, it’s screwing up, that it’s betraying what Apple used to stand for.

That’s what’s most telling to me.

ctopher

And yet we’ve heard all this before.

I’m in the BMWTwisty camp. Change comes at you fast and sometimes it’s messy. Did you understand “Chooser” when you fist saw it? (Is it for printers or other computers?) What are all those numbers in the TCP control panel? Is OpenDoc ready for my CyberDog? And don’t forget “Publish and Subscribe”

These things were all new and shiny and required a visit to WWDC to understand deeply. Some became second nature and others fell by the wayside. It is ever thus.

The last time Apple explained everything about their products was with the Apple ][.

I agree that Apple is much more mainstream now, and perhaps that’s why it seems to hurt more this time.

But as a technology fan (who’s OS experience goes back to Integer BASIC and CP/M) I love the new stuff being thrown at us! Bring it on!

Lancashire-Witch

It’s not that things are a bit buggy, unfamiliar or unfinished; or that the next version will be better than the current version. It’s always been that way. It’s that I’m now juggling 5 Macs, 2 Apple TVs, 3 iPods, and an IPhone in the household. And they are not all current models or running the latest software. The oldest Mac is a G5.  The iPhone is a 3G.  Getting everything to just work together is a time-consuming and often confusing exercise. My list of “nuances” grows longer. I can spend hours trawling the Apple website looking at other people’s problems that never seem to exactly match mine. I now use TMO and the Mac Geek Gab podcast (Thanks, guys) as prime sources of help. 
While typing this comment I’ve had to stop twice. Once to wait for the spinning ball to disappear and once when the Trackpad lost its connection.  I have less trouble with the old G5 running Leopard.

When the iPad came out I wanted one; I didn’t need one but I wanted one; now I’m not so sure. I beginning to think less Apple might be better.

John Martellaro

ctopher: I must point out that this essay was not a condemnation of Apple’s technical efforts in general. We all love what Apple is doing in their relentless push forward. I can’t imagine life without the MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone.

The issue is more delicate.

Apple is doing a lot, and it continues, for the sake of imaging and marketing, to insist that all is well, perfect, understandable, and simply easy.  But as those who’ve responded above point out, all is not well. MobileMe was a mess and SJ fired the mgr.  iCloud is not much better. I heard Apple tried and failed to buy DropBox, which is a joy to use. Apple isn’t fully containing and describing how things should work and then making them work intuitively.  We spend a lot of time trying to figure out whether it’s our stupidity or Apple’s bugs, and we don’t have the information or tools to know the difference. The mess with Apple IDs, the lack of proper iCloud docs, the Apple TV 4.4.1 upgrade, woes with iTunes Match, Weasner’s discussion about the forums above, the apparent mystifying censoring of MobileMe e-mail last summer, Apple’s failure for years to get a grip on NFS, the poor implementation of Versions in Lion, the draconian and abrupt push into sandboxing and what it’s doing to developers are just a few examples and TMO has documented a lot more.

I’m with you. Bring on the future. I can’t wait. And there will be kinks to work out. But Apple needs to get a grip on its services, the way it develops them and how deeply it communicates the operation so that users can understand how to proceed in a straightforward way. As I said, simple apps in a complex environment create complex interactions. But we can come to grips if Apple doesn’t hide so much.

tampaappleman

One more thing to John Martellaro - this is such a B R I L L I A N T article. I have only one wish for 2012:

Tim Took need to read this article and all the fine reader comments. If Tim listens that will fixup Apple and will bring the company back to where it once had been.

tampaappleman

One more thing to John Martellaro - B R I L L I A N T article. So, for 2012 I have only one wish. I hope Tim Cook reads this fine article and all the brilliant reader’s comments and understands what we are saying. That would bring Apple back where it once used to be.

mhikl

[quote author=“geoduck” date=“1323222711?]. . . there is not just an article disparaging Apple?s practices, but also a long thread of comments agreeing and extending the point.

It is what it is, Geoduck, because of TMO’s editors and their willingness to interpret the stories, rather than just reporting or disparaging them. TMO’s good works are what draw in and then engage the thoughtful. And yes, the thoughtful could just bathe in Apple glory and enjoy a good row with the troll and the odd little rabble-rouser but here at TMO, Apple does not just belong to Apple in the way that Google or MicroSoft are single mercantile entities that sail upon economic winds. Apple was, and at TMO we are reminded, that vocal little hero who is worshiped and supported and who was saved by a small group of determined individuals willing to pay more, suffer indignities, stand against the common, argue with the dumb and ignorant and stand tall to the simple minded administrator with every single act that could be mustered by a willing defiance to keep a struggling company alive.

So, when you know you are right, Honesty and Integrity become your masters as Apple?s trust in Quality over Profit has been its guide. One prays that Apple knows just how important its followers are to its success and that we shall fight on the beaches, in the fields, streets and hills for we shall never surrender and shall not flag or fail to allow its continuance in mounting any new landing grounds; as long as quality and the user experience embellish its heart.

cb50dc

As I began trying to decide which line or two to quote, I began realizing that I’d have to just quote about two-thirds of the entire piece and then say simply, “Yep.”

Otherwise, all the specifics, pro and con, have already been addressed. Excellent article, sir.

iJack

Customers will then find themselves selectively ignoring new services being offered because their ability to cope is too highly taxed.

I hate to say it, but I’m already there.  I think it was Leopard when I started to turn new functions off.  Now in Lion, I need 3rd party software to turn some things off and on.  LionTweaks is an example.

More or newer is not always better for an aging human being.

jason

I agree with many of these points, especially the challenges Apple and any large business faces.

But I think most of the rest is just about fear of change and anecdotal examples justifying that fear. In fact, this story isn’t much different than most of the stories that lament an Apple shift. Some people love it (it’s magical, it’s revolutionary) other people hate it (it’s too much change, Apple’s grown too big), and the rest of us just pick and choose and adopt and learn all at our own rate, believing it has less to do with this giant company’s ability to hone in on exactly MY needs, and more to do with my own ability to trust and adapt. Or we move on, buy something else.

Here’s my anecdotal example: My 66 year old mother has been using iMovie since version 2. She has cursed and complained about every single incarnation. Something always changed, just when she had learned how to use it!

Apple’s been doing this to people for a decade; it’s only now just hit home for most of you. The change has suddenly become too much.

Does being a giant company have it’s challenges and drawbacks? Of course. Is being giant why Apple decided to dump the ages-old method of document saving (which has lost people billions and billions and billions of words and hours of work)? Not a chance. It’s just what Apple does.

Their execution is not flawless, and has never been, yet articles still get written by the multitude that start with the expectation of perfection, and anything less means Apple is failing.

Personally, I think it’s because we’re such a binary country, and almost everyone over 30 is pissed as hell that Apple made a comeback.

I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction when Apple, someday, dumps the last physical keyboard from their product line. I’ll probably be using a typewriter by then and getting my news updates by fax.

mhikl

Spot on Jason. Some pieces are better savoured and left unsullied by inquisition. Yours is one of them.

Can the two caped heroes, Timboy and Superjon save the day, carry the weight and wrestle our aztecs from monstrous grandiosity that lack sense or sensibilities, taste- and gut-wise? Both talked Steve out of some stupid bull-headed determinations. Who?s to whoop their sorry ideas when the time becomes appropriate! As I mentioned earlier, some Apple treads seem rough and not quite ready?be they but casual stones amongst the jewels? Is this what is happening at a wilder Apple ranch now, only on a bigger scale? Balance and rhythm, structure and grace, now difficult made by an age beyond Steve?

But Apple always delights with steps outside the conformities of the day practicing quackery in this field of technical dance. It is a fine line between nut and genius, a thin new universe in which Apple exists and others fail imagination, before it is made fact. Copy has been the only weapon of resort. But with eleven or so dimensions in which to cavort, most being imperceptible, there are plenty of possible playgrounds to venture with imagination.

Maybe complexity is challenging our perceptibility and Brian Green needs a month on PBS to delve into this Apple Universe. I think that thought would strike delight in the heart of Mr Green and find Dvorak magically caught for words for once. There may be good from the rabbit holes Apple wings at our wary new world.

Now that was fun.

Ref Librarian

Maybe this is something that is felt by people who are not the average consumer? I haven’t had many problems with my devices or the new services maybe because I don’t understand them and just expect them to do what I want it to do. In my experience, they have.

On a regular basis, I accidentally discover that Lion or my iPhone can do something I didn’t know about. If I can use it, like the emolis I just was told about, great. If I can’t use it, I don’t use it. I don’t expect to “master” any of the software, I just expect it to fill my needs, which are admittedly small compared to the computing professionals. I also have to explain how to use certain apps and programs to the general public which I’ve not had trouble doing. I don’t get any of them venting to me about how awful their new iPad or iPhone or MacBook is or how they can’t understand it.

I do see the new direction Apple is going. I’ve found myself trying to touch the screen of a MacBook like I would my iPad. I have to remind myself to remember to use Siri but I have no doubt that one of these days, I’ll try to talk to my iMac and be irritated when it doesn’t do what I ask. Lots of changes have taken place, but for the average user, they can move forward at a semi-comfortable pace, in my opinion

mhikl

Lots of changes have taken place, but for the average user, they can move forward at a semi-comfortable pace, in my opinion

Kudos, Ref Librarian for your sound minded understanding and examples. There does seem to be a bit too much protestation and analysing on this subject.

A reality checkup for sure.

geoduck

Apple isn?t fully containing and describing how things should work and then making them work intuitively.

As others have suggested, perhapse the problem lies not in our Macs, Horatio, but in ourselves.

Reading through the thread got me to thinking. The complaint seems to be that many of Apple’s innovations are not “intuative”. Well, what’s intuative? Is it intuative to scroll down on the screen when that moves the page up? What was intuative to click on a menu called “Special” to shut down? Many of my fellow Sysadmins find multiple desktops intuative, I get lost in more than one or two.

Intuative is in the eye of the beholder and perhaps some of us (myself included) are condemning things as not ‘intuative’ and/or ‘flawed’when they really just don’t do what we want. They may do what they were designed for well, but that isn’t what we expected.

For myself, I’m still not going to be using iCloud that much, but I’ll be saying it’s not useful for me rather than it’s flawed. Same with Lion. I’ll get it this spring with my new MacBook. I have a feeling that I won’t be using many of the fetures but I will be very deliberate about asking myself if it’s because there’s a problem with the feature or maybe it’s just not what I want it to do.

Thanks all for the reality check.

CG

As usual you make some great points JM.  I still haven’t moved to Lion or iCloud for the reasons stated.  But I’m usually late to migrate to new OSes anyway.  The leap to Lion seems bigger than usual though and Versions and Autosave should be opt-in or opt-out in preferences.

But the “law of large numbers” stuff is just wrong.  There is no such law.  You can’t compare Apple to Exxon and say “look how Exxon’s growth slowed after it got to be X size.”  It’s an irrelevant comparison. 

And if you suggest that no company can grow larger than an already existing company look up the value for privately help Saudi Aramco: $7 Trillion.  So if you insist there must be a limit, there it is.  Apple can get 14 times bigger before it eclipses Saudi Aramco.

To determine growth potential you need to look at things like market share, potential market, untapped market, competition, new products, new platforms, etc.  If you do that for Apple you see TONS of room for LOTS of growth.  Does it take more to grow Apple now than it did when the iPod launched?  Of course.  Does that mean anything now?  NO.

Simplicity and customer support are critical going forward but no one now comes close to what Apple offers in these two areas.  The satisfaction levels with Apple products are insanely high and way better than any competitor.

And you seem to forget that the vast majority of Apple users now are no longer power users and don’t bump into the complexities you complain about.  Many people never even use a word processor.  So many users just do games, music, video, email, text message, web, and phone.  And for all these Lion and, especially, iOS 5 kick ass and are dead simple and solid.  In fact you don’t even need Lion to do these.

And iOS products make up over 75% of Apple’s sales and of profits.  That’s not a misprint.  Over 75% and growing.  Who’s complaining about autosave or complexity in iOS 5?  No one. 

Yes the iOS products and services have exploded at the expense of the MacOS OS and products (iWork ‘09?  In 2012?!).  I agree that this is unfortunate.  This should be addressed.  But the Mac OS products are still growing share while the PC market shrinks.  Windows 8 might be a wake up call but I doubt it.  The halo effect is real and an expanding force for MacOS products.

Bottom line:  growing pains not obesity.

zewazir

I think the numbers for Apples growth is what many “power users” are concerned about.  With the advent of Lion, it is becoming apparent that Apple is moving more toward an iOS world, and the lack of development in iWork indicates a move away from standard data processing. Apple abandoned its server line,there are rumors it’s abandoning its pro desktop line. What’s next? The uses I put my primary Apple products are not available (yet??) on iOS devices.  Some of the uses I do not anticipate being available in iOS anytime soon. Yet I see iOS becoming the central focus of Apple, seemingly, from my POV, at the expense of the products which have attracted me to Apple since the ][e.

And, mark me as old fashioned, suspicious, conspiracy-theory prone, control freak, and many other descriptions out there in the blog world, but I simply do NOT trust the Cloud for my data storage needs. I vastly prefer my files stored in the computer that I control, with backups that I control, and I choose what information is put out there and under what circumstances.

Yes, it is less convenient to haul around a full size Mac portable with external drive, spare battery, and power adapter than hauling around an iPhone or even iPad. But, to me, that is less inconvenient than suddenly finding myself without my data because any one of a thousand+ potential factors drops me off the net just when I need a particular file or information.

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