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Beyond Safari, so many Apple apps are either average or horrible. Reminders is still quirky after almost 5 years. It’s just a list manager, but they can’t even get that right. iTunes is just awful. Apple Music was so bad, I switched to Spotify and then Google Play Music. Both are vastly superior, as it seems that Apple Music was created by summer interns. Maps? News? It’s hard to think of any Apple-developed app that’s decent. GarageBand is pretty good. Their professional apps, such as Logic and Final Cut Pro are excellent.
When it comes to the free apps they include with macOS and iOS, Apple just delivers poor quality. It’s quite a dichotomy — the worst apps running on the best hardware. Fortunately, you don’t have to use them. Use Chrome instead of Safari. Apple’s claim that Safari saves battery life is laughable. Safari cost them millions of dollars in MacBook Pro sales. Will Cupertino wake up to the reality that their apps are atrocious?!? There seems to be too much cheerleading and group-think going on at Apple and not enough internal reflection and criticism.
Something is wrong with Apple’s engineering process. It doesn’t work for apps. Complex engineering processes work well for large projects, such as devices and operating systems. They completely stifle app development. I can only imagine, fixing a bug in an app takes several meetings and a lot of documentation. Having worked in the industry for some time, I am well aware that certain engineering processes can be stifling. It’s partially for a good reason. It prevents over-caffeinated product managers from constantly changing the requirements. They’re forced to think about requirements and work them out before even a single line of code is written. If they need to change something mid-project, they have to write it up, submit it and it has to be approved by upper management.
Restricting change usually results in better software quality, unless it applies to fixing defects. Believe it or not, there are managers who refuse to let developers fix critical bugs. This happened to me, and that manager went on to work at Apple for a year. This seems to demonstrate that Apple may have problems attracting top software talent. I mean, they hired one of the worst managers I have ever had the displeasure of working with, and he held a top position. They do get the very best hardware and industrial design talent, but top software people go to startups. They want equity, and Apple can only offer overpriced stock options.
Another problem is that these engineering processes don’t work well in a crisis. They also don’t work well when it comes to fixing bugs. Couple that with a highly differentiated division of labor. Software engineers all have their expertise. Some work on the front-end, some on the back-end and others work on all points in between.
I don’t work at Apple, so I can only draw these conclusions based on what I have seen in my own experience. I am also well aware that Apple is a very large corporation, and they tend to have very complicated engineering processes and lots of specialized developers. (continue…)