About the WWDC and Conventional Wisdom

April 15th, 2015

So the theory goes that Apple wants to hit the pause button on loading up OS X and iOS with new features and technologies. Time to take the Snow Leopard approach and deliver a release that is designed to clean up the lingering bugs and improve performance.

In theory, this sounds just fine, although no such thing has ever actually been confirmed. It’s just a rumor. But it is true that both OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 were troubled releases, with far more problems than you had a right to expect. Here we are, months after both were launched, and there are still maintenance updates with lots of bug fixes. It’s not even certain that all the serious problems have been dealt with if you take the online chatter seriously. Indeed, there are published reports that iOS 8.3 is having trouble with some Bluetooth GPS receivers, Not good.

Now I wouldn’t presume to guess why it took Apple so long to address these problems; it may be part and parcel of the increasing complicity of these operating systems. Perhaps, as some skeptics suggest, Apple took on too much in upgrading these operating systems. They could have spread out the features, so some would be introduced in later releases. Some of that was done already with HealthKit and Apple Pay. Perhaps the marketing people mandated specific release dates, which can cause problems if the Q&A process isn’t as thorough as it should be.

Even the OS X Public Beta program, in which some one million Mac users have been getting ongoing seeds, doesn’t seem to have made Yosemite any more reliable. You would think, with so many Mac users giving feedback — and I have no idea what percentage of testers actually reported bugs — the number of existing problems would have been reduced. I wonder mostly about the Wi-Fi connection glitches with OS X Yosemite, some of which weren’t fixed until the 10.10.3 release. Or maybe things may have been worse without all the extra beta testing.

On Tuesday Apple announced “the epicenter of change,” WWDC 2015, which will be held in San Francisco from June 8-12. So what do we know about all the promised workshops and hands-on labs as to what Apple plans to deliver?

Well, there’s that statement from Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, who said, in a press release, “We’ve got incredible new technologies for iOS and OS X to share with developers at WWDC and around the world, and can’t wait to see the next generation of apps they create.”

So there you go. How does one equate “incredible new technologies” with a fixer-upper release? Instead, it appears Apple is going full bore to make huge changes in the operating systems. iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 may be as feature-packed as their predecessors.

Is that good news or does it raise the specter of yet another set of flawed releases with loads of new problems to perplex Apple customers?

I suppose it’s possible those new technologies will shore up the stability of the two OS, and thus make for more reliable releases. That would be a good thing, and I hope the matter will be addressed during the keynote. It has to be of extreme importance, and Apple hasn’t been shy about admitting flaws. Consider the mea culpa that Tim Cook issued when the Apple version of Maps for iOS came out with loads of problems.

Remember that I have no idea whatever as to what Apple is going to reveal during the WWDC. I expect there will be some unofficial leaks along the way in the next few weeks, so there will be a sense of some of what’s to come. It may be that Schiller’s statement may reflect only part of the situation, that there will be extensive bug fixes as well.

Regardless, I think Apple has a lot of work on its hands to clean up the operating systems. I’m just as concerned about the early reviews of the Apple Watch and Watch OS. There were reports of slow performance, particularly with third party apps. I do realize that the reviewers were handed product more than three weeks ahead of the actual release, and that over-the-air updates may address at least some of the lingering performance issues. But it’s not as if Apple has been completely forthcoming on that score.

Reports of software glitches certainly aren’t unusual. But, with the launch of the Apple Watch, the company is under the microscope more than ever, so it is understandable every problem may be exaggerated beyond its importance. There are also serious issues with Android and Microsoft, but Apple is being held to a higher standard, and they are expected to produce.

So whether iOS 9 and OS 10.11, or whatever name it’s given, offer amazing new features and a shoring up of the underlying structure, I hope that the issue of stability will at least be mentioned, even if it’s in an offhand way.

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