On Apple's Lack of Enthusiasm

I have been a diehard Apple product fan for years now.   Especially since my first MacBook in 2006, and my first iPhone in 2008.    As a creative professional they have provided me with equipment that has been invaluable to the work I produce.   Before my Macs, I was building PCs by hand.  This had me worrying about component compatibility, driver installations, and Windows XP's vulnerability to Malware and Spyware.   I spent less time working, and more time diagnosing problems.

That stopped with my first Macbook.   Based on specs alone, it seemed underpowered.  Little did I know that it would end up being faster in almost every measurable task than my higher spec PC.  Not to mention the fact that OS X (after getting out of the Windows way of thinking) was way more elegant, straightforward, easy to use, and powerful than Windows XP ever was.

Problem solved!  My work was getting done faster than ever before!   And thus began my love affair with Apple.  Every Apple keynote was an event for me.  Almost like another Christmas morning.   What would Santa Steve pull out of his manila envelope today?   Is there one more thing?   Let's play keynote bingo!   A series of 27" iMacs, a bunch of iPhones, and a couple of Macbook Airs later,  my love for Apple seemed as strong as ever.
Until one day, it wasn't anymore.

The signs were there earlier if I had wanted to look for them, but I think the point at which I started to realize things were going wrong was the Apple Watch keynote.   For the first time in recent memory,  Apple released a flagship product that I didn't lust after.   I didn't have that urge to keep hitting refresh on the Apple store so that I could order one.   And strangely neither did anyone else in my local Apple fan community.  The design of the Apple Watch simply wasn't mind-blowing, and the software seemed messy and disorganized.   It almost seemed like a beta quality product.   Something to be given to employees to test in the field.

Not to mention the totally un-Apple like $20,000 solid gold version.   Industry pundits speculated that there must be a way to have them serviced to upgrade them in the future.  Surely Apple wouldn't sell someone a $20,000 watch that would need to be replaced every couple of years!  But no,  it ended up just being a $20,000 obsolete watch that will be kept alive on software updates for a few years to come, but it's not exactly something you would pass down to your child.   

After that it seemed like one thing after another was going wrong for Apple.   Projects and features stalled or broke altogether.   Software started to feel buggier,  and hardware releases slowed to an absolute crawl.     Just for brevity's sake (on this already hugely long article) here's an abbreviated list of some stuff Apple has annoyed me with recently:

  • The Mac Pro - Redesigned with much fanfare about how they love pros.  Then left alone for over 1,000 days without an update, still on sale at FULL PRICE
  • The Mac Mini - Almost 800 days without an update, still on sale at FULL PRICE
  • The iMac - Almost 100 days passed its average update time
  • STILL HAVING non-retina Macs in the lineup (looking at you Macbook Air)
  • STILL HAVING Macs with a spinning disc hard drive in the lineup
  • Cheapening the Mac laptop chargers by removing the flip out arms and charging indicator light.
  • Not making the USB end of the iPhone 7 charger USB-C.   Thus making it impossible for Macbook and Macbook Pro users to connect their iPhones to their laptops without an adapter dongle.
  • Nickel and Diming on more expensive new Macbooks and Macbook Pros by not including the three prong extension cable in the box.  (even worse is that it still comes in the box if you buy a cheaper Macbook Air today)
  • OS X Software reliability  ( The DiscoveryD fiasco, Airdrop, handoff, and AirPlay stability issues )
  • ICloud Desktop and Document Folder Syncing in Sierra is creepy, 
  • iCloud Drive is still a piss poor, slow, and unstable imitation of Dropbox
  • iCloud Service reliability ( contact sync errors, Lost and Repeated Calendar Entry Errors, iMessage lost and delayed message errors, Pages Numbers and Keynote document sync corruption errors. )
  • iOS Software reliability ( Airdrop, handoff, and AirPlay stability issues )
  • Pitiful 5gb free tier of iCloud storage makes backing up not automatic for many, and reduces the safety of novice users' precious data.
  • Still shipping machines with laughably corruptible HFS+ file system
  • iTunes coexisting with Apple Music  (this is one band-aid they should have just ripped off.  The interactions between these two services is a disaster.)
  • AppleTV Single Sign on.   Just starting to come out now, and with little to no support from any major cable providers.
  • Instability of AppleTV and it's apps.   This is the junkiest, buggiest thing Apple has ever released.  I have to restart it almost daily.
  • AppleTV's ridiculously thin, symmetrical remote that is designed solely for form over function.  Try and grab it off the couch in the dark.  You have a 50/50 shot of picking it up upside down and swiping on the bottom glass instead of the touchpad.
  • The Mac App Store ( almost abandoned and useless at this point )
  • The iOS App Store ( full of scams, ripoffs, and terrible apps despite the approval process )
  • Siri is still slow and terrible on EVERY Apple platform (and has fallen way behind competitors considering they pioneered the category)

And to think these are just the things that came to mind off the top of my head.   I'm sure if I sat around for a little while this list would be considerably longer.

The issue, is that it feels like Apple has stalled.   Fallen into a rut.   Lost its enthusiasm.

They are currently by far and away the most valuable tech company in the world.   They have more cash on hand than the entire value of most other companies.   They have an IMMENSE level of resources.  So, why does it seem that things coming out of Apple today are more half baked and buggy than they used to be?  Why can't they put out cloud services that feel as stable and useful as those by their competitors?   Why are they leaving entire product lines to languish for YEARS on end?    Why are they ignoring the needs of the developers and creative professionals that made the Mac the platform that it is, and evangelized its use for so many years?   

Despite having BILLIONS of cash on hand, Apple today is acting like a company that is paring down its operations to stave off bankruptcy.   They are discontinuing entire product lines, leaving things to languish, and many software projects feel understaffed or unstaffed altogether.  

Not only that, but their R&D budget, in the past few years has been much much higher than it has ever been in the recent past.  For all of the development money they are spending, why does it feel that customers are getting less and less in value from Apple?   Hopefully all that R&D money didn't go to engineering a special ceramic to produce the new Edition Apple Watches or towards engineering new kinds of paper and ink to sate Jony Ive's desire to have a coffee table book of his products.

I've been rough on Apple here.  And I want to say outright that I'm still a huge fan of Apple and what they do.   The iPhone 7 is a masterpiece of engineering,  and a representation of everything good that Apple has been able to do lately.   The camera is absolutely incredible, and It's a10 fusion system on a chip is nearly a desktop quality processor in a smartphone.  Heck the iPhone 7 gets a better geekbench score than my current 2012 Macbook Air!  

I just wish they would start to pay more attention to everything else they do.   They have the resources to make sure every project is funded with talented people.   The company doesn't have to still feel like it's running out of an office building with a skeleton crew trying to get everything done.    

There is no reason why after making a big keynote debut of the cylinder Mac Pro, and talking about how much they love their pro users, they should leave the product un-updated and totally dormant for more than 3 years.   Go to the Apple website.   That horribly outdated, 3 year old computer is still on sale today for its full ORIGINAL price.   No word from them either way if the product is cancelled, and they are just trying to slowly sell off the remaining units,  if they just forgot about it,  or if they are working on something even better than the cylinder Mac Pro.

It's inconsistencies like that which make me fear for my preferred platform for getting work done.   I don't want to have a huge investment into Mac hardware and software if I can't be sure that this platform is still going to be here or be viable in a few years.   Please Apple,  don't make me go back to Windows.   I REALLY don't want to.