Be Careful What You Wish For

This week, Marco Arment kicked off some fascinating dialog about Apple’s software development. Put simply, a lot of people are concerned Apple is running too fast with yearly release cycles and appears to be stumbling as a result. I think there is a lot of merit to these arguments. I’ve experienced some of these stumbles myself as of late.

There is one point, however, I’ve not seen stated about these challenges that I think is worth mention. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of home screen posts and one of the standard questions I ask is what my contributor would do different if they were running Apple. I don’t have exact numbers but can attest that by far, before iOS 8 the biggest request was better app sharing and communication between devices. Indeed, some people were arguing Apple was doomed because they weren’t moving forward on these issues.

With iOS 8 and Yosemite, Apple delivered on these requests in a big way. We got extensions, keyboards, handoff, and a host of other new features. I love (and use) these features daily. Because a lot of these features involve communications between my Mac and iOS devices, these features require updates to both the Mac and iOS operating systems. Put simply, the only way this could all work is if Apple stuck its neck out with significant changes to both systems.

While it’s easy to say, “I wish they’d taken a year off on the Mac”, that comes at a cost of functionality. We wouldn’t have these cool features if they hadn’t done the update. Maybe, in hindsight, that was a mistake by Apple adding so much but don’t forget how many people were talking about how stale and “closed” iOS was before iOS 8 arrived. I sympathize for the Apple engineers sitting somewhere right now, thinking they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. I, personally, think they did the right thing pushing forward with iOS 8 and Yosemite. I’m willing to deal with a few hiccups in exchange for these new features. 

While Marco may indeed be right and perhaps Apple should slow down the Mac OS release cycles, I don’t see how Apple had any choice in 2014 once they decided to give us the inter-operatability we’ve all been banging on about for years.