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Chuq Von Rospach’s Review of Apple in 2016

Apple veteran Chuq Von Rospach has reviewed Apple’s performance in 2016, and he has some tough words for the company, saying that it “simply isn’t firing on all cylinders” and is “out of sync with itself.” He points out how Apple has missed its ship dates and left products to languish. More specifically, Von Rospach accuses Apple of being out of touch with its customers, relying too heavily on data, and getting sloppy in its execution, with numerous bugs and quirks in its offerings. However, he takes pains to note that his criticisms are not revealing fundamental problems; Apple just needs to recalibrate a few things to get back on track.Generic Globefollow link


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Eric Ladner  2017-01-11 15:41
I'm purely on the consumer side these days, and was never more than a business/prosumer user, so I can't really judge the technical requirements of developers and video editors, but this article seems to me an outstanding example of positive, helpful criticism and advice, as opposed to whining and complaining. If developers say current Macs don't meet their needs, then we're all in trouble.

The suggestion of a desktop line using the same base design for consumer and pro models seems to make sense, economically for Apple, and in flexibility for customers. As a consumer-tinkerer, I would love to have a consumer priced Mac with just a few user-installable customization/upgrade options.

Apple may not accept or act on all the arguments in this article, but they really should read and consider it carefully.
Derek Roff  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-01-11 18:16
A great article. Thanks for linking to it, since I probably wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. I’m largely in agreement with Chuq, that Apple is missing or ignoring the needs of many of its users. Where I think he is wrong is in calling these oversights a “niche of a niche”. Some of the things Apple is missing apply to as many as 100% of its users. Here are a couple of examples: How many users loved the Magsafe connector? Every one that I have ever met (with quibbles about cords fatiguing). Now, this great feature is not available on any Apple model. How many users said to themselves, “Gee, I wish I had to carry a dongle to do my basic tasks”? My guess is, 0%. But almost all of us need to carry one or two or three dongles, at a cost of > 10% of the computer price, to do the things that were built into all the MacBook Pros, and most of the MacBook Airs, just a couple of months ago.

This isn’t exclusively a new problem. Steve Jobs made this mistake more than once. He removed the ExpressCard slot, saying that only about a quarter of Apple customers used it, so it didn’t make sense to continue it. Since this was more than double Apple’s market share at the time, by his logic, every user should have quit using Apple altogether. But the SD card is not a niche product, nor is the ubiquitous USB thumb drive, or the need to connect to an external monitor or projector. Surely one or more of these devices is used by nearly 100% of Mac users. Yet the current Mac portable line can’t do any of these things, out of the box.

For a couple of generations, Apple has told us to “Think Different”. However, Mac hardware is now telling us that there is only one way to be, and that is to not do much at all with our Macs.
Simon  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-01-14 02:34
Thanks for drawing my attention to this excellent article.

Chuq offers some very good analysis into what's wrong with the new Apple. I was pleased to see my two main issues with Apple these days were also detailed by Chuq.

1.) Apple is out of touch with its user base, especially on the Mac and pro sides.

2.) Apple has become sloppy (they used to be the masters of attention to detail).

He closes with what might be the real threat to Apple's long-term future, "My worry is that Apple isn’t seeing this, because it’s looking at the sales numbers and they look fine, with many products under backlog and strong demand (including the new MacBook Pros). If you just look at the numbers, things are okay."
Scott M.  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2017-02-21 09:48
I thought it was a very good article that hit a lot points of concern correctly.

I did think it did not quite emphasize enough one of biggest areas of concern. He did touch on it some in the "Getting Sloppy" section. But, to me, this is likely one of my biggest concerns, if not my biggest. To me, Apple is missing on the small stuff much more than what they used to do. I used to be able to use Apple products without a ton of little things getting in the way.

Here are some examples of things that I have encountered:

1) AirPlay streaming from an iOS device to a 4th generation AppleTV fails way too often. I have had times where I am AirPlay streaming some photo to the AppleTV and the connection fails all of a sudden. And it happens again and again in the same session. Sometimes rebooting the iPhone will fix it. Sometimes rebooting the AppleTV will fix it. Sometime rebooting both will fix it. Other times I have to reboot several times before the connection will stay reliable. It does seem to be better with the latest versions of iOS (and potentially tvOS).

2) Automatic updates (both OS and app) that fail on the 4th generation AppleTV. This seems to be a very regular occurrence. I cannot count the number of times I have woken up the AppleTV to see an error message about an update that failed.

3) Syncing my iOS devices (in particular my iPhone 6S) fails with a message saying the device is "not found". This also happens quite frequently. I will attach the device with the sync cable (I don't want to use iCloud for backups, but rather still use iTunes) and start the sync process. It will start syncing and seem to be working fine, until some period of time later (typically 5 to 10 minutes) it will fail with that message. I have found that rebooting (i.e. power down and then power up) the iOS device will fix this.

4) The incessant asking for passwords. It seems now both my iPhone and at times my Macs will constantly ask for "verification" of my iCloud or iTunes/App Store (I use separate accounts) password. There was a stretch before I upgraded to iOS 10 (was worried about battery issues until I could get my 6S battery replaced) where I would have to enter in passwords it seemed almost daily and many time repeatedly in a row after entering it correctly. It has gotten better with iOS 10, but I still seem to get a request to verify my App Store password once or so a week when I go to update apps. It did not used to be this bad. Add in Apple's insistence on more and more complex passwords (which in general I agree is a good thing) in combination with a microscopic keyboard of an iOS device that forces you to "switch" keyboard screens for numbers and symbols...and this is a real pain in the rear.

Add in some of the "small" missteps of new features (such as the various parts of Optimized Storage in Sierra...I still have not updated to Sierra because I am too worried Apple might turn that on when I don't want it on during some update as has been reported) and I am really concerned about the missing of the small things.

This is not to say that other things concern me.

Jony Ive's obsession with thin devices at all costs, even at the expense of function, really bothers me as well. Apple has gone way overboard on the whole "form over function" path in my opinion. Not all of their devices need to be so thin that they then become under powered and/or lacking in battery capacity. Because of this, Apple is actually creating more problems for itself some times.

And I am concerned about the potential that Apple might kill the WiFi routers. I disagree with the author that Apple would be fine killing them. I like them because they have features that other routers don't have such as the ability of AirPlay on the Airport Express. I also like the easy at which you can expand your wireless network wirelessly (or wired) with easy just by adding additional Airport routers. Granted, this second item is kind of being replaced/"upgraded" with the newer "mesh" router systems.

I also did not like the "dumbing down" of some of Apple's apps. For example, I liked Aperture on the Mac, but hate Photos. It has gotten a little better as Apple added back in some Aperture like features, but I still liked Aperture better.

And I don't like some their choices with the Mac line up. The article hit on some. Apple has been colossally stupid with the Mac Pro, but admittedly that does not really affect me as I don't use a Mac Pro. The new MacBook Pro, while a good machine, had some missteps. While I can live with dongles, I would argue that Apple could have easily left one traditional USB-A port on the machine and the SD card slot by leaving the MBP a little larger and still been fine (my 2014 rMBP is skinny and light enough) and stopped a lot of the complaining before it happened. Heck, even if they stuck with all USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, just tossing in one USB-A dongle would have gone a long way.
Scott M.  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2017-02-21 10:01
I also don't like that they dropped the 11" MBA. Frankly, in my mind, it would have made more sense to keep the 11" MBA and drop the 13" MBA. After all, if you want slightly bigger screen, then there is the MB or the 13" MBP. I really like the form factor of my 11" MBA. When it comes time to replace it in the future, I am not sure what I will do.

And I really dislike Apple's push to make all their Mac models essentially non-user upgradable. This is linked to their obsession with making them thinner and sexier. I did not object that much to "lugging" around my 17" MBP (until it died) even with it being bigger and heavier than my much newer 15" rMBP because I was able to upgrade the RAM and storage myself (and I even removed the optical drive to install a second hard drive/SSD). I certainly understand, however, the desire to make the MBP thinner and lighter compared to those "unibody" MBPs, but I would argue that you could have still made the MBP thinner and lighter, but keep the RAM user upgradeable and the SSD upgradeable (for some rMBP the SSD is upgradable thanks to OWC). This issue is even more true, however, on the desktop side of things. As the article kind of points out, there is absolutely no excuse for the Mac Pro to not be much more user upgradable other than Apple to provide itself with another way to pad their bottom line (i.e. kind of force you to buy a new one rather than upgrade the old one...assuming that Apple actually made new versions, which they have not).

I do agree with the overall assessment that Apple is not in say "dumpster fire" mode. These are currently more along the lines of correctible concerns/missteps. If Apple does not make some course corrections in the relative near future, it might, however, move more in the direction of "dumpster fire" mode even if it does take quite a while to get there.