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Things Have Changed for Apple — Possibly!

The illusion was conveyed last year that Apple was in deep trouble. Quality control, particularly for software, was supposedly down in the dumps, new products were just minor revisions of old products, and wasn’t Samsung taking over the tech industry? I wouldn’t presume to suggest that some of the skepticism was manufactured by people with agendas, such as dampening stock price momentum. But sometimes you have to wonder about the motivations of certain people, especially when they lie through their teeth.

Even when Apple was clearly doing well, every little dip in the stock price, even if it was all part of a stock market trend, was regarded as a sign by some that something was seriously wrong. It didn’t matter that other well-respected companies also suffered from wild swings in stock prices without the claims that they were in danger of folding, losing their mojo, whatever.

Consider the emotional complaints about iOS 8.0.1, or the fact that the first maintenance update for OS X Yosemite failed to fix all the reported Wi-Fi connection problems. Clearly Apple’s quality control has declined, and how dare they release updates that make things worse, or fail to fix the problems they are supposed to fix?

It doesn’t help that the media can always find quotables from an Apple commentator or an Apple developer complaining about this, that, or another. What about inconsistent App Store review policies, for example? Well, in that case, they’ve always been inconsistent. Even though strict guidelines have been posted, there are enough gray areas to require human intervention on a case-by-case basis. Very likely the review staff is overwhelmed with submissions for new or updated apps, and one individual or group may interpret things differently from others. Just put two different lawyers in the same room, with the same law, and the interpretation of that law may vary considerably.

So while I would agree it would be nice for Apple to clarify some of the fine details about what apps and app features are acceptable or unacceptable, and maybe avoid some of the worst policy reversals, don’t expect to see things change drastically. It’s always been this way, though it seems as if there are fewer complaints now than there used to be. What I wonder is why you don’t hear similar complaints about app review policies at Google Play and Microsoft. Well maybe because they are more inclined to accept submissions without as much critical review?

Just asking!

When it comes to the quality of Apple’s software updates, it’s fair to say that there have always been lapses of one sort or another. I remember a Tiger update that bricked external FireWire hard drives. At least an iPhone that lost its cellular and Touch ID capabilities after installing iOS 8.0.1 could be restored with no loss other than the 30 minutes it took to set things right. The real fix came the next day.

But when those external drives were bricked, you had no choice but to reformat. If you didn’t have a backup of your data, too bad. Meantime, what about the 10 worst Microsoft updates for 2014 (I wonder how many faulty patches missed the cut), which included a few that caused endless reboot loops and other startup problems. But I suppose that’s par for the course for Microsoft, so the media didn’t pay much attention.

But one thing is clear, and that is that Apple is getting far more favorable press these days than before. There are still huge pockets of house critics, people who will never admit that Apple does anything good, people who can’t resist the digs about the alleged Apple Tax and that Apple is trying to do too many things at once. In other words, the usual offenders.

Remember that Apple actually offers fewer product lines and individual models than most other tech companies with similar gear.

Despite the flavor of the coverage, here’s still an intense desire to play the “bigger they are, harder they fall” game, where those on the top are treated more critically than others. We also have the eternal myth of declining iOS market share, being supplanted by the Android juggernaut. But the latest figures show that iOS is gaining market share, and most of those gains appear to be at the expense of Apple.

Once a media darling, Samsung continues to report eroding sales and profits from its mobile division (which also includes PCs). Apple is killing them at the high end, and they are being hit left and right by low-end mobile handset makers. Samsung’s biggest sales gains these days are in components, including display and memory. Don’t forget that Apple continues to buy billions of dollars of parts from Samsung despite the ongoing legal skirmishes over smartphones and patents. So maybe Samsung’s gains are partly due to Apple?

Now it’s fair to say that there are uncertainties this year. There will be the expected Mac, iPhone and iPad updates. But the Apple Watch remains the great unknown. Some suggest that only a small number of people are going to spend upwards of $349 for a watch, forgetting they made similar claims about a certain $399 digital music player known as the iPod in 2001. And look what happened!

When it comes to Apple, those who assume failure are usually wrong.