By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes of ZDNet
This is the phrase that Steve Jobs trotted out year after year to describe products or services that he was unveiling. The phrase expressed what Apple was all about — selling technology that solved problems with a minimum of fuss and effort on the part of the owner.
Well, Steve is now long gone, and so it the ethos of “it just works.”
2017 was a petty bad year for Apple software quality. Just over the past few weeks we seen both macOS and iOS hit by several high profile bugs. And what’s worse is that the fixes that Apple pushed out — in a rushed manner — themselves caused problems.
• A serious — and very stupid — root bug was uncovered in macOS
• The patch that Apple pushed out for the root bug broke file sharing for some
• Updating macOS to 10.13.1 after installing the root patch rolled back the root bug patch
• iOS 11 was hit by a date bug that caused devices to crash when an app generated a notification, forcing Apple to prematurely release iOS 11.2
• iOS 11.2 contained a HomeKit bug that broke remote access for shared users
And this is just a selection of the bugs that users have had to contend with over the past few weeks. And it’s not just been limited to the past few weeks. I’ve written at length about how it feels like the quality of software coming out of Apple has deteriorated significantly in recent years.
Now don’t get me wrong, bugs happen. There’s no such thing as perfect code, and sometimes high-profile security vulnerabilities can result in patches being pushed out that are not as well tested as they could be.
I also recognize that Apple has changed almost beyond recognition since Steve was on stage at keynotes telling us how stuff “just works.” Apple’s products are far more complex, the company is selling stuff at a rate that it could have once only dreamt doing, and the security landscape is totally different, and vulnerabilities now put hundreds of millions of users at risk.
But on the other hand, Apple isn’t some budget hardware maker pushing stuff out on a shoestring and scrabbling for a razor-thin profit margin. Apple’s gross profit margin is in the region of 38 percent, a figure that other manufacturers can only dream of.
And Apple is rolling in cash.
All this makes missteps such as the ones that users have had to endure feel like Apple has taken its eye off the ball, and that it’s perhaps putting increased effort into developing and selling new products at the expense of keeping users happy.
Apple owes a lot of its current success to its dedicated fanbase, the people who would respond to Windows or Android issues with “you should buy Apple, because that stuff just works.” Shattering that illusion for those people won’t be good in the long term, which is why I think Apple needs to take a long, hard look at itself in the run up to 2018 and work out what’s been going wrong and come up with ways to prevent problems from happening in the future.
Do you think Apple has dropped the ball when it comes to the finer details of their software? Sound off in the comments below!