Stephen Hackett, of 512 Pixels fame, wrote up some of Apple’s infamous hardware lemons the other day. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘lemon’ it is a defective, or unsatisfactory product or person; most typically ascribed to cars. It’s mostly funny because it’s a fruit, and apples are fruit.
Today, Apple (company, not fruit) released a very important software update for OS X 10.9.2 Mavericks. This was a big deal because Mavericks had a number of shortcomings in it since its release last summer. Most notably, a recently-discovered SSL bug that was sort of dire. The iOS update came days in advance of this. They didn’t mix it in with other updates, it was a critical security flaw. The OS X update, meanwhile, was held up for days and it was released with a slew of changes that seem to be causing stability problems for people. Irony.
I suggested to Stephen that he do a followup story on 512 Pixels about Apple’s OS software. LOL, critical failures.
The yearly release cycle for OS X was an exciting change when it was announced. I am less excited about this now. The perceived quality of the software seems to have fallen off a cliff since this announcement. Mac OS X Snow Leopard has long been lauded as one of Apple’s most stable releases. Lion, was a buggy, inconsistent mess in comparison. Mountain Lion was supposed to be the “Snow Leopard” to Lion’s “Leopard”, but that didn’t quite pan out. Then Mavericks was supposed to be the new wave in incremental updates to the platform. Unfortunately, it didn’t fix a number of misbehaving components (Messages! You P.O.S.! I hate your guts!).
I would argue that instead of incremental refinement, we are still seeing larger-scale adjustments. They’ve been toned down, sure; Apple’s not shuffling the Finder to brushed metal and back again or anything, but they are fiddling with all the bundled apps of the OS. Sure, they focus on the power-user features that people complain about every now and then, like Multi-Monitor support getting slightly saner from where it has been, but that was over the course of several OS releases, not one.
Mail is terrible, but at least I can add tags to things in the Finder. Huzzah? I can access my Safari tabs on all of my devices, but I still get weird Safari rendering bugs (and until yesterday morning, that cute SSL bug was still on one device).
I would advocate they move off of this yearly release cycle, for no other reason than we’re almost to this summer, and I am absolutely terrified they’re going to announce OS X Bakersfield while Mavericks is still all wet.
Of course, people could argue, what’s in a name? They could take whatever the improved version of Mavericks is and name it Bakersfield and it would be just as stable as what I had proposed, but Apple wouldn’t do that. They save these flashy PR changes for things that have a feature set difference they can tout.
Part of the reason for the change to a yearly cycle was to sync up progress between iOS and OS X. It isn’t really in sync though. AirDrop doesn’t work between OS X and iOS, but who cares about that? It’s there! Corporate synergy! Branding!
They’ve also tried to align their other software platforms across OS X and iOS, but they weren’t fully-cooked when they shipped. Again, what’s the point? Sure, nothing is ever going to be done, but it should be stable and it shouldn’t have giant bugs in key features. No one expects things to be worse. When they get worse, it really leaves a sour taste.
Maybe if everything they were shipping as working was working, I wouldn’t be so apprehensive about the next lemon.