Apple and Version 1.0 Products

April 17th, 2015

The desperation of the Apple haters and/or critics knows no bounds. Taking advantage of the fact that putting Apple in the title is apt to get more hits, you inevitably come across some pretty, well, dumb stuff. And not all of it emerges from some lone virtually unknown blogger somewhere. Instead, it may originate with a major metropolitan or even national newspaper, which makes the piece doubly troubling.

So there’s now a story entitled, “Is Apple now a Gen 2 product company?” that implies that Apple used to get it right the first time. But recent products have not reached maturity until at least the second version. What this means is that version one may be seriously flawed with missing features, and perhaps reliability and performance issues.

Before I continue, please research the introductory version of any significant Apple product in the past 31 years, and tell me when this situation was ever any different. Was it the very first iPad? What about the Apple Watch or even Apple Pay? Consider all those operating system releases that required several maintenance updates to get rid of the original buckets of bugs. Can it be that Apple is releasing too many things too quickly, and thus getting the basics wrong? Shouldn’t they just hold back a little, give it an extra dose or two of Q&A before ramping up production?

There’s a problem with this theory, and that it’s nothing new for Apple and certainly not new for other tech companies. Indeed, the very premise of the article, meant to attack the company’s quality control or product release schedule, is totally wrong! Not partly wrong, but totally wrong!

So I said let’s go back 31 years, to the very first Apple Macintosh personal computer. If you believe that article, this should have been a perfect computing appliance right out of the starting gate. Perfect. It was also revolutionary, being one of the earliest computers to sport a graphical user interface. No need to deal with MS-DOS and such.

But it was real early in the game for Macs. That original 128K Macintosh was a closed box, without the ability to upgrade RAM or add an external hard drive. The early versions of Mac OS were certainly feature limited, and you didn’t have the ability to run more than a single app at a time. There was no MultiFinder yet.

So it took a few product revisions before content creators began to embrace the Mac. Some suggest the Mac first came into its own with the Mac Plus, released in 1986, or even the Macintosh II, a high-performance workstation with extensive upgrade possibilities.

That’s the end of the argument, but I’ll continue for the sake of historical perspective.

So do you really think the first Newton MessagePad had superior handwriting recognition? I remember playing with one at a Macworld Expo, and I can assure you it was unable to recognize my chicken scratches. Later editions were somewhat better, but it’s academic. Steve Jobs killed the Newton not long after taking over as “interim” CEO of the company.

In August of 1998, the very first iMac was released, the famous Bondi Blue version. It was OK from the standpoint of being a low-powered consumer Mac based on PowerBook internals. It certainly put Apple back on track, but it was hardly the perfect product.

Ditto for the iPod in 2001. With “only” 1,000 songs in your pocket, at $399 it was considered too expensive. Advances in the development of tiny hard drives ultimately increased storage space to accommodate all but the largest music libraries. The original iPod also arrived before there was an iTunes Store from which to download legal music, but that’s a separate issue.

The article correctly mentions the first iPhone, in 2007, as flawed in many ways, and I have to agree. It was restricted to just one cellular carrier, AT&T, formerly known as Cingular, which had known network flaws. Indeed all that new iPhone traffic clogged networks. The first iPhone was sold retail, no carrier subsidies, so it was expensive and there wasn’t even an App Store, nor support for 3G networks. It’s fair to say the iPhone didn’t come into its own until the second version arrived in mid-2008, the iPhone 3G, which supported 3G networks, was available at a subsidized price from AT&T, and did I mention the Apple Store?

I think the first iPad, in 2010, was a fairly complete product, though it lacked a camera. It also took a while for iOS apps to be modified for the larger screen. But in keeping with the second time’s a charm concept, it’s true that the second or iPad 2, released in 2011, which came with a faster processor and front and rear cameras, was a far more compelling product. But the third generation, in 2012, added a Retina display and was known strictly as iPad or the “New iPad.”

The argument continues with the Apple Watch. Some reviews mentioned a few flaws, such as waking the unit when bringing it to your eyes, which might require a more aggressive movement of your wrist, and apps that launch and perform slowly, as evidence it’s a version 1.0 product that won’t hit its stride until the next version, or the one after that. But software updates may be enough to fix some of the basic glitches.

In short, the claim that Apple has, in recent years, suddenly become a “Gen 2 product company” is not only outrageous. It’s just not true. That’s the way Apple has always operated, for better or worse. Products of all sorts often require several generations to come into their own. Even motor vehicles frequently suffer from version 1.0 limitations or glitches. If you want product perfection, find another planet. It doesn’t happen on this one.

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2 Responses to “Apple and Version 1.0 Products”

  1. DaveD says:

    Thanks for a nice memory refresh from your presentation of Apple’s version 1.0 products. Yep, that was then and hasn’t been a new revelation today except in the mind of those with an agenda.

    Avoiding sites that have writers with opinions that are not based on reality is why I am thankful to Macworld’s Macalope. I’m always thankful for this site.

  2. winc06 says:

    Gen 2 product is really a Catch 22. Apple improves everything they make every generation. You might as well say Apple only makes Gen 6 products since the iPhone 6 is out there. Nothing was any good before Gen 6. Do these dishonest little critics really believe that Apple should be condemned because they made improvements to the Gen 1? How stupid do they think we are?

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