Instapaper Founder Sounds Off on Lack of Quality OS X Updates


Instapaper creator and ex-Tumblr lead developer Marco Arment touched a nerve when he expressed his concern for the future of Mac OS X. In a blog post he published yesterday, Arment points to the “embarrassing bugs and fundamental regressions” of Apple’s recent OS releases.

Mac OS X Yosemite

Just a few years ago, we would have relentlessly made fun of Windows users for these same bugs on their inferior OS, but we can’t talk anymore.

“It just works” was never completely true, but I don’t think the list of qualifiers and asterisks has ever been longer. We now need to treat Apple’s OS and application releases with the same extreme skepticism and trepidation that conservative Windows IT departments employ.

His blog post was apparently ignited by Geoff Wozniak’s (not related to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak) blog post in which he describes why he quit OS X after ten years and went back to Linux. Wozniak’s blog post was taken down today, by the way.

As we could see during the past four years (since the release of Lion), Apple has been pushing out major OS X releases every year, ending the previous two-year release cycle. While some of us may have enjoyed the fact that we can install a fresh OS on our Macs — and Apple did a tremendous job in putting together great hardware — this wasn’t to the benefit of the software.

The results speak for themselves: Apple’s reputation has suffered a lot during the past few years, and that’s because marketing seems to have a higher priority than maintaining a high quality, argues Arment.

Let’s face it: Apple is dealing with huge pressure from all corners — remember those “Apple is doomed” and ‘”will Apple be able to innovate” stories? — to release new and innovative products (software included).

I suspect the rapid decline of Apple’s software is a sign that marketing is too high a priority at Apple today: having major new releases every year is clearly impossible for the engineering teams to keep up with while maintaining quality.

However, that brings up a major issue, Arment says: “I doubt that any cohesive engineering team could keep up with these demands and maintain significantly higher quality.”

While receiving tons of new features sounds great to every user, I think we can agree with Arment: we would like our devices to work well first. Do you need major OS updates every year?


  • K3

    “Do you need major OS updates every year?” Absolutely not but security updates would be important.

  • Joe

    Stability comes first. I work for a company that uses a lot of Macs, and we are still running Mountain Lion on most of our systems. A few new Mac Pros (Trash Cans) we have shipped with Yosemite but we were forced to scale back to Mavericks on them due to bugs with native apps such as Mail (!), and compatibility issues with other special apps we use in our company.

    Apple isn’t as bad as Windows, but the lack of customization definitely makes it difficult to update the OS for fear that something will be changed with little/no way to get it back the way we wanted it.

  • hub2

    My dad jumped from Snow Leopard to Yosemite with a new iMac. He’d have been ok with the rest of the UI changes… except for Apple throwing out literally 28 years of Mac UI convention by changing the zoom button from “resize window” to “go full screen” (Zoom button was added to Mac System 3 in 1986, though it was at the top-right of windows at the time). There are literally no apps whatsoever that he uses where this is useful, since he doesn’t use iPhoto, iMovie, etc and regularly switches between programs all the time.

    We all thought Apple was smarter than Microsoft in not merging tablet/mobile and desktop/laptop user interfaces. Turns out that might not have been true after all, they’re just phasing in changes to OS and apps more slowly.

  • talkiewalkie

    I would say Snow Leopard & iOS 6 was Apple at its peak.

  • Thomas

    I think it would be wise for them to start a big small yearly schedule, similar to the way they handle hardware. The big and small updates of OS X and iOS should be offset. iOS should get its big update the same year that they release updated hardware designs for the iPhone. On the years that iOS gets a big update, OS X could focus on compatibility with the new iOS and stability. The next year OS X would get the big update and iOS would focus on compatibility and stability.

  • I agree that Apple is slipping on their OS updates, ESPECIALLY in terms of throwing out decades of UI expertise. And, while I agree with other here that OS X is still far better than Windows, Apple had better get their act back together.

    That said, Mavericks -> Yosemite is, IMO, far better than iOS 7 -> iOS 8. Maybe iOS 8 is better on newer devices, but I’m still kicking myself for updating my iPad 2 (and won’t be updating our iPad minis, etc.). While they’ve fixed it a bit (speed wise) since the initial releases, even simply stuff like keyboard input is unbearably slow and choppy.

  • danieldadalt

    They should at least let us downgrade to ios 7. Its ridiculous that im forced To use an os that is working poorly with my one year old 5c.