Apple: it just works (eventually)
8th Nov 2013 | 11:42
Is Cupertino's quality control slipping?
Slogans are powerful things, but they can often become sticks to beat their creators with: how many times do you think Google's execs wished they'd never come up with "don't be evil"? Apple's equivalent is probably "it just works", which pretty much everyone on the planet is familiar with.
Other firms' products require endless patches and cause endless irritation, but Apple's stuff just works.
...except when it doesn't.
Maybe this is an unusually bad week, but today alone our front page has two stories of Apple stuff that didn't just work: there's a Mavericks update to make Gmail work properly in Mail, and Apple has also issued a software fix to stop MacBook Pros from freezing.
That's not all. I was one of very many Mavericks upgraders whose initial installation refused to finish, citing terrible hard disk damage, and others seem even unluckier: some Western Digital external drive users have seen their data disappear.
And then there's iWork, the exciting new update that took away stacks of features that power users had come to depend upon. Apple has since published a support document detailing the missing features it's going to put back in. And lots of people are pretty unhappy with iOS 7 too.
Have we gone from "it just works" to "it might work"?
Damaging the brand?
It's tempting to accuse Apple of slipping quality control, but then Apple has dropped the ball before. Remember iOS 6 Maps, or the furore over Final Cut Pro X? And before anyone invokes the increasingly annoying "this would never have happened under Steve Jobs" mantra, we need to throw in the launch of MobileMe, the buttonless iPod Shuffle and the cracking - literally - G4 Cube.
Perhaps the truth is simple: Apple has always messed up, but today it appears to be messing up on a much bigger scale because it's a much bigger company with a much bigger profile, catering for a much wider variety of customers in a much wider variety of configurations and circumstances. It's not any less competent than before. It's just under much more scrutiny.
That may be true, but even if it is it's a worry: Apple's entire brand is based on being better, on delivering a premium experience and charging accordingly, and if it breaks that promise the brand image suffers as a result. You buy Apple stuff because it doesn't throw a strop halfway through an OS installation, wipe your external drive and refuse to play nice with your documents. You buy it because it doesn't produce mysterious errors or shut down or freeze for no good reason.
You buy Apple stuff on a promise, and that promise is "it just works".
If it doesn't, what exactly are you paying a premium for?