Pragmatic High Ground

This piece by Marco Arment Apple has lost the functional high ground has become a bit of a flashpoint for frustration and dissatisfaction with Apple software. Worse than that it gained traction beyond the relatively small circle Marco was writing for and became a totem for arguments from far beyond.

I’d love to say that we planned this. We could have. We didn’t. On the most recent episode of Debug, episode 60, we welcome back Don Melton and Nitin Ganatra. Don was formerly Director of Internet Technologies at Apple and Nitin was formally Director of iOS Apps. So, you know, they seemed like the kind of people who might have experience and some insight on this kind of thing.

The show runs about three hours and it’s a bit unstructured. As with the best episodes of Debug the microphone is the fly on the wall and a bunch of friends just tell stories, laugh, and enjoy the company.

If you’d like to know how the sausage is made, how people who have been in positions to make these quality control calls think, and get a sense of the camaraderie tune your compu-radios to Debug 60.

It may not change your mind about what troubles Apple now. It may not change your mind about the frequency of releases or how much they try to achieve. It is, however, as straight from the horse’s mouth as you’re going to get.

On a sad note Episode 60 of Debug is dedicated to the memory of Jordan Breeding. Good guy. I didn’t know him well but he always struck me as someone I’d like to get to know better. I lost out on that and too many others did too. Those who knew him universally loved him. It’s one of those situations where you can’t write something accurate that still sounds sincere. The kid had spunk. Ian, good job.

Don and Nitin cover a lot of ground about how the sausage factory works. And, make no mistake, software is the sausages of thought. It’s a fun chat and we have a lot of laughs.

Penned. Again.

Here’s what I wrote about the iPad supporting a stylus back on September 6th, 2011.

If You See a Stylus, They Blew It. is a common refrain at Daring Fireball. And it’s true that Jobs did say exactly that, but that’s not important right now. I’ll go out on limb and bet that an iOS device will support some sort of stylus input within three to five years.

Ribbing John aside I stand by what I said back then. I think these devices will eventually support a more refined interaction via an optional stylus.

I’m eager to see what actually gets released.

“We Don’t Need”

Marco Arment writes:

We don’t need major OS releases every year. We don’t need each OS release to have a huge list of new features. We need our computers, phones, and tablets to work well first so we can enjoy new features released at a healthy, gradual, sustainable pace.

You won’t have missed this piece. It’s been linked to widely. Rightfully so. It captures the zeitgeist of a lot of iOS and even Mac developers.

What I’d like to call out is this particular paragraph I’ve quoted. We don’t. We don’t. We need.

Marco may be passed off as a developer here and dismissed as expressing developer thoughts. The truth is, at least the truth I’ve known from supporting and dealing with people who aren’t technical who use these devices every single day — “we don’t” isn’t about developers.

Sure, it’s a pain in the ass for us at times. But “we don’t” is starting to echo through the people for whom iOS devices were a revelation. These devices made people believe in the magic of technology again. Now? I hear a lot about planned obsolescence and buggy software.

“No! I know these people and I swear that’s not at all their intent!”

That really only goes so far.

The worst thing is that it’s seldom anything big, onerous or serious. It’s just weird little things that don’t work that add up to create the impression that “computers” are incomprehensible.

Nobody ever gave up their evenings and weekends to achieve that outcome.

Marco is right but perhaps his framing is too narrow. This simply isn’t an issue that developers grouse about and move on from. This is something that, at least in my experience, has been affecting customers who have otherwise loved their Apple devices.

The problem seems to be quite simple: they’re doing too much, with unrealistic deadlines.

I agree. Gruber and I talked about this on The Talk Show in early October. I stick by what we said on that episode.

I also really hope that priorities can be examined and release dates changed in order to support the best possible software releases rather than the most systemic.