What Happened To Apple's Software Quality?

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Apple is a funny beast. We say "beast" because it's hard to deny that this company is ripping through the tech world like no other that we've seen in the last decade. Our television programs are laden with Apple ads poking fun at Windows and seducing you into buying yet another iPod, and every quarterly earnings report is filled with optimism. Even in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Apple was breaking profit records left and right. The company has continued to sell millions of iPhones, millions of iPods and even millions of Macs.

And remember, it wasn't that long ago that the industry at large considered Apple a sitting duck. The outfit's share price was abysmal, the management in disarray and the product line nothing short of woeful. Of course, we all know that Steve Jobs returned to his chair in the CEO corner office in order to turn things around, and things have gradually improved ever since. Few remember that the iPod revolution actually started in 2001 with a bulky, FireWire-bound device that held but 5GB of music at a cost of $100 per gigabyte.


That introduction, however, paved the way for people to begin paying attention not only to Apple's hardware, but to its software too. The company's user interfaces on its iPod lineup were remarkably simple. They could be controlled using a simple click-wheel, they had few graphical enhancements, but one thing was for sure: they "just worked."



Not surprisingly, the whole "it just works" mantra has grown close to Apple as a company, and not just when referring to its iPod family. Apple has been quick to pan Microsoft and Windows specifically for producing systems that were susceptible to viruses and that froze or broke-down often. Macs, on the other hand, were supposed to work beautifully at all times and not have to suffer through those awful spyware removal sessions and Blue Screens of Death. And whether you want to admit it or not, Apple was right. For awhile at least.

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Microsoft and apple are software companies. Yes they both have hardware and on the hardware end of things have products that are exactly the same end to end. However; Apple tends to support a small area of the hardware market whereas M$ tries to make software that works on everything. I see this as apples biggest failure.

They are a Bebe against a Gap. They also always grab pockets of the market and also sooner or later get laid to the side. I don't think any of this has changed it is just a different decade.

So they may be doing great right now. But sooner or later I imagine we'll be in the same place. Steve Jobs is a genius as is Bill Gates but he does not run the company to the greatest extent any more. I wonder when he's going to have to come back to save his Child like Jobs did?

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News:

Short memories apparently, or is it rose tinted glasses looking back at what happened?

 

Having been a tech specializing in Mac OS (since 7.5) for around 15 years, things have remained around the same for reliability since around 10.3.

it is a relatively small sample of just a few hundred users that I do work for, but out of them, there have been far fewer issues going to 10.6, than there were in the early days of 10.5.  By about 10.5.3/10.5.4 most of those issues had been resolved.  (There was a printing compatibility issue when 10.5 came out as well, certain support had been disabled, so printers shared by a 10.3 mac were not seen on 10.5, this was fixable, but was still an issue)

 

It actually seems fairly consistent from reading posts from people with problems over the years, that its the first time they ever ran into problems, and why has apple's QA gone downhill?  (I've been using macs for xxx years and have never had an issue before)

 

As a tech I've actually noticed a decline in software issues I'm having to fix, and with more mac users, I see more hardware issues (although the percentage is generally quite low, with a few exceptions like the MacBook Pro's with 8600M graphics)  But there are many more mac users out there.  

I also frequently get told someone thinks their mac has a virus... this turns out to be a bad hard drive most of the time, although have also had it be bad ram, and bad logicboards (SATA controllers, processors, video chips - causing erratic behaviour)  The 3 times I've run into a trojan, only one of the users mentioned them noticing a slowdown in web page loading (DNS hijack trojan)

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It's only fair to report both sides of the argument (as it were).  I started out  using Apple IIc with Apple branded monitors glowing lime green block letters and numbers.  It was heaven!   I would then travel homeward and jump on my Atari 1200XL (Yes a real home computer not video game console)  with, let me recall...ah yes 2 MB hard drive.  The Atari was an IBM compatible - a PC.  It was heaven!

Through the years, I have watched the Apple computer world nearly die on several occassions while the PC flourished.  People are naturally going to gravitate to what seems most promising by using what has been the most market stable with consistancy.This is akin to the Yugo versus Honda.  Like it or not, it is the PC which has been the most widely compatible in terms of both hardware and software over the years.

Over the last few years, we have had a slew of Apples thrown at us - pun intended - from every direction... from computing, to entertainment as well as communications.  People want to know and have the right to know if these products measure up.  Have their computers been as upgradable as easily and cheaply as PCs have been?  No, the cost and ease of upgrading has not been close.  Have I been able to purchase a (as best a comparison as possible) an Apple computer for the same price as I can build a PC? No, the cost comparison has not been close. 

I do not like Apple's advertising tactics.  They should be an upstanding company and advertise on the strength of their products, not the weakness of another, whether perceived or real. They should not use a high school grade television commercial with a stuffy dishonest suit trying to argue his merits to a guy who reminds of Mike Damone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I learned long ago, a very corny phrase that seems to have held true for a long time: If something seems too good to be true, it most likely is.  Apple presents themselves in this fashion.  The other exception Apple tries to use in justifying itself as superior I find disturbing, is using the fact the larger the number of an item or product on the market used by a greater percentage of the population, will normally produce a higher percentage of issues reported than an item of equal quality but less distribution and usage.  It's the law of averages and statics.

If thing were reversed, it would Apple' OS being attacked by viruses, maleware and spy-adware constantly.  The "bad people" are going to go where the greatest potential for notoriety and/or money can be gained using hacks to steal passwords and identities, etc.  This argument holds to for Linux as well.

It's good the media reports fairly on the quality, good and bad, of Apple products.  Whether it is concerning their software or their hardware.  Since they are a growing market and at least for now, it seems we will be seeing more of them,  the consumer has the right to know the facts. 

Me?  I believe Apple probably makes good products, but I want to know what their quirks, bugs and problems are before I make a decision to buy into them. I want to know the cost of an upgrade path and if it is financially effective over time. I need to know how compatible the Apple is with what I need from it.  So, I will stay with my PC for now.  I will continue to run Windows XP Professional, with no complaints, a bit longer and eventually purchase my license to use Windows 7 while I dual boot with whichever distro of Linux I have currently installed.  Besides, using the argument software issues have declined, yet you are seeing a higher rate of hardware related failures and issues is not much of a convincing factor to switch, convince me Apple is superior to a PC, or use Apples for anything other than baking pies (yeah, yeah horrible pun). 

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Yes I agree whole heatedly... Apple "insults" the same people it's trying to attract. Granted their are those who couldn't care less but for many out there who have had to use PC's their whole life due to business, this seems condescending at best, but more like complete arrogance.

The smugness of Apple and it's fan-boys is one of the worse advertisements they have and these commercials just reinforce this notion. The thing they never tell you is that ALL of Apples products are designed on PC's and UNIX systems. Only this past year was UGS's NX CAD software ported (Apple paid for this) to the Mac!

So for them to play this stupid superiority game is a joke!  Stick out tongue

 

 

 

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I hope we can expect a similar article on Microsoft "innovation", complete with icons of Microsoft's logo in similar states of disrepair. I think it should be a hard-hitting examination of exactly how much was actually changed from Vista to Win7, with comparisons to pre-existing systems like OS X and KDE4.

It could also address the innovative patents they've been filing:  like the one they were recently granted for sudo, an app that's been heavily used in most every Unix-compatible OS for 30+ years.

It's not that I totally disagree with you:  Mac's aren't 100% de-bugged... no platform is.  I just don't know why they deserve this press when their software quality still appears to exceed that found in Microsoft's products by every discernible measure.  Compare the iPod to the Zune leap-year bug problem, for instance.  And, security-wise, the statistics match Apple's advertising.

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I just bought two new all-in-ones.

An HP Touchsmart and an iMac.  Let's just say that I am entertained by the comparisons between the two.

The Mac crashed within a day when my daughter put in a CD to rip to iTunes.

Had to power the unit down to get the disc out - everything was frozen.

The Touchsmart takes a good 2-3 minutes to wake up out of sleep on random days.

Bottom line - both machines are awesome - both machines crash.

 

This is our first Mac and my wife keeps asking - where are all the programs that the artists use?

I thought it was so creative, etc. , etc.  My kids love the camera software, but its really not that unique.

The HP has different, but similar software, so really, what is so special about the Mac.

And the touch screen?  Let's just say the novelty has worn off after just a few days.

 

Apple does not compete in the low end which makes them seem more expensive.

Both machines are what I consider high end and the Apple is actually a better value.

The prices were the same and the hardware of the Mac is bigger/better/faster in every way - screen, processor, HDD, video card.

 

At the end of the day, I want everything to work and computers are not perfect.

Let the battle continue.

 

 

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OSX has always been buggy. After five machines, and 12 dead internal HDDs, I now am certain that OSX eats HDDs. Though speak about it online and apple fanatics try to silence you with some very extreme actions (including real life trouble).

OSX has become the biggest bloatware in current operating systems. The problems with OSX bugs have accelerated in the same period. There is a possibility that Apple is learning what Microsoft learned eight years ago. The more the bloat, the more lines you need to debug, the harder it is to catch every bug.

As far as the article goes, I would have to disagree with the take on the hardware. The IBM CPU range is far more elegant and more powerful than the mess Steve (hissy fit) Jobs dragged Apple and users through with Intel CPUs. Not only did laptop batteries need to be doubled in capacity, but they lasted 50% of the time under the load Intel put on them. Laptops literally became “nut roasters” and people like myself who used laptops on their LAPS had to use them on desktops. Not only that, but for us in the high end graphics world, we had a great 64 bit OS, but were forced to suffer into a 32 bit downgrade in the switch to slower Intel CPUs*. There have been compatibility issues for us who got first generation Intel machines with both the Core Duo CPUs and the motherboard chips. HARDLY the elegant solution Apple users had when IBM supplied the CPUs. Finally for speed, IMB still have CPUs (G7?) that outperform anything that Intel produces, not to mention no chance at all of utilising CELL technology. So we got a speed reduction while Apple had to sacrifice some of their profit margin because IBM sold their CPUs at a much discounted rate. Much more of a discount than Intel would ever offer.

*Intel CPUs were much slower. Apple artificially made Intel CPUs look faster by holding back the latest IBM CPUs for 18 months before the official switch date. IBM CPUs continued to get much faster and added more cores during that time, but Apple fanatics did not have them in Apple hardware to see how fast they could have run.

@joesmith

Unfortunately OSX does not have much in the way of graphics software. Apple hardware did have advantages six years ago over Windows machines. Being able to access 4GB of RAM per program, and being able to add 8GB of RAM total made OSX a great graphics platform. Now though, 64 bit made on OSX is flakey and difficult to use at best. Not to mention that OSX software developers are circle jerk fans. No one wants to program something that is not available on OSX, they all want to create their own version of software that is currently popular on OSX. So you get five to 10 versions of the same sort of software, but nothing at all for other sorts of tools. This is why I finally switched back to XP. XP64 gives the freedom I had on G5 Macs, but it is even better because I have three or four powerful programs available in every tool type I need to work with. In fact Mac artists and film makers I know see what I do on XP64 and are now drooling at the options and tools available to them on Windows. You can create artwork on OSX, but outside the Adobe suite, you only really have Corel Painter and ArtRage that I would heartily recommend. Though all these titles and many more great art tools are available on Windows.

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I can say with certainty that Mac OS X does not "eat HDDs", failure rates are the same, because they are the same hard drives.  They fail in the same way.

They just cut down on size by several GB with snow leopard.

I can't agree with your battery rant.  The Intel CPUs use less power.  The batteries were the same Wattage and same mAh.  For example, the last iBooks used 50 or 62 Watt hour batteries (12" & 14" models), the 13.3" MacBooks used 55 Watt hour batteries.  With very consistant

PowerPC did have a speed advantage in certain tasks, but the intel machines had major improvements in file I/O performance.  Most users noticed even a lowly MacBook felt faster than a PowerMac G5  (even simple stuff like doing an OS upgrade takes twice as long or more on a PowerPC mac, given the same amount of ram)  BioTech (DNA research) and some astronomical programs for the first couple of years  were still faster on G5's, but the Xeons have exceeded them in raw processing now. (the DNA tasks in particular were more luck than raw processing power, one function was done in one step with PowerPC, that took many more instructions with x86)  The G5's were also very high on power usage and heat (Even IBM said while it was possible for them to make a portable version of the G5, it would have taken significant effort & cost to do so)  Cell is great for streaming calculations, but really not great for general CPU power.  It has essentially one general use CPU, then 8 Special Processing Units that are optimized for streaming data - video & audio (including 3D).  "Cell is widely regarded as a challenging environment for software development" - programming to take advantage of the "Velocity Engine" on the G4/G5 was hard enough, the Cell is harder to use efficiently, although the gains can be great... it would have been great for the high-end towers doing video & audio work potentially, but may have taken much longer to get native versions of software going on it.  The heat generated and power used is quite high (take the PS3 as an example, early PS3s used close to 200 watts of power, newer models have gotten that down around the 100 watt range, I don't think you'd see a Mac mini with a Cell in it, especially not using 13-35 watts)

 Intel was turning their heat & power issues around by learning from the Pentium M series, which lead to the CoreDuo & Core2Duo series (which did result in a 32bit "step back" until Intel got the main chipset moved to 64bit as well)  Only the early CoreDuo systems really ran into the memory limits of 2 GB.  Plus the switch to intel lets a Mac user run both Mac OS X, and Windows if they want/need, best of both worlds either through dual-boot, or Virtual Machine.

IBM CPUs were not "held back"  IBM had put more and more pressure on Apple to place very large orders, they were more interested in their designs for servers and their cell & blade designs than in Apple's orders.  (Especially with the low price that had been arranged, not sure how or why IBM ever agreed to those prices)  Intel loves apple, guaranteed orders for their latest processors, they worked with apple to do the transition, many engineer hours to improve performance.  While the raw cost of the processors is more, the total cost was about the same, since Apple got the intel chipsets plus the processors, which also helped reduce development cost on the boards.

I know places switching to Macs to do video editing for the smooth combination of Final Cut Studio plus  Adobe Suite (although 10.6 has resulted in some issues with CS4 until 10.6.2, which do seem to be resolved now)

64bit is better supported than ever, it can be an issue with certain apps due to plugins and add-ons, most users do not see these issues though.  Well except the screen savers... that was the most common "64-bit issue" that my customers ran into.  And if Apple hadn't delivered 10.6 early, it may have been less of an issue, many developers were expecting the end of September for release, not for Apple to ship before september.

Last point about software... the software 6 years ago, and now is about the same, if not some new additions to Mac OS X, that really hasn't changed.  Photoshop Elements has improved drastically, and Pages does the page layout that most people need... who aren't doing it professionally.  Keynote for presentations even had Microsoft having to send out a memo internally to remind their employees that they should use a Microsoft product for presentations.

For windows, there are good tools, and for 3D work great ones that only a fraction exist for Mac OS X.  Maybe Windows 7 will make more of a difference in the OS getting out of the way of the user/artist to let them work, time will tell.

 

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I've seen movies based on less script than in the last two posts.

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Don't forget Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle, From Justin to Kelly, Half Baked, Kazaam, Howard the duck, Freddy Got Fingered and the often forgotten....Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

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