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Marco Arment sparks debate about Apple software quality

Gregg Keizer | Jan. 8, 2015
Analysts agree with prominent blogger's premise but not necessarily the solution: Slow down upgrade pace.

"Apple needs to keep up with the pace of change, but it needs to be cautious in following into the trap that Microsoft did at one time," Baker said.

Not everyone agreed with Arment and Baker.

Apple has to keep up
"Hardware is increasingly commoditized, and the value comes from the software," countered Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech. "In today's software world, you must increase the pace of releases and you have to add more bells and whistles [to attract customers]. You have to accept the world we live in."

Thinking that Apple, or any major operating system maker, could reduce releases is naive, Milanesi added. "Apple's gone from an alternative to Microsoft [and Windows] to being much more mainstream," she said, and that means regularly cranking out upgrades. "The pressure is there because of the competition between the operating systems."

Neither Baker or Milanesi were surprised that Arment's original post sparked broad discussion, although Arment himself seemed taken aback by the attention.

"He's a big name in the Apple community," Milanesi said in explaining the reach of Arment's argument. "But he's been around the block. He knew it would stir things up and fuel all the other stories. And what better time than CES on the part of the people who wrote blogs based on his comments?"

Apple does not attend the International CES, the huge trade show that runs through Friday in Las Vegas. Announcements from CES have dominated the technology news throughout the week.

Apple presents a big target
"People love to throw rocks at the leader, and Apple is not the underdog any longer," added Baker, referring to the numerous follow-up news pieces and blogs that Arment said used his name "and a few of my words, to create drama, fan the flames, and get some [page] views."

Nor is the discussion about Apple software quality new. It's constant: Arment only brought it to the surface, said Baker.

"Apple's a huge company now and they're under increased scrutiny -- in fact, they invite it," Baker said. "They might as well paint a big target on their chest. And people will take shots. Arment threw something out there that had the potential for controversy, and with the typical behavior on the Internet, that got amplified."

Baker was right: Apple frequently gets bad press when widespread bugs irk and frustrate customers. And in the past several months, users have railed at the company over both iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple's newest mobile and desktop operating systems, respectively.

In September, Apple was forced to pull the first update to iOS 8 after customers reported that their iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones could not connect to a cellular network. Users lashed out, arguing that Apple's quality control had vanished.


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