Apple’s Shift to Quality Over New Features is “Methodical and Predictable”

Last week we reported that Apple was setting a new focus for iOS 12: prioritizing quality and reliability over shiny new features.

Now, a new article from Learning by Shipping’s Steven Sinofsky attempts to put these upcoming changes and recent bugs into a broader context and product development at large scale.

Sinofsky highlights four points that he believes to be of importance in this broad discussion about Apple and software: quality, pace of change, features “versus” quality, and innovation.

Sinofsky begins by praising Apple, saying that the level and quality of important work and innovation that Apple has done over the course of its existence as a company is incredible:

Scanning the landscape, it is important to recognize that in total the work Apple has been doing across hardware, software, services, and even AI/ML?—?in total?—?is breathtaking and unprecedented in scope, scale, and quality. Not saying that lightly or trolling. It just is.

Few companies have done so much for so long with such a high level of consistency. This all goes back to the bet on the NeXT code base and move to Intel for Mac OS plus the iPod, which began the journey to where we are today.

He believes that Apple, despite its recent shortcomings, has overall been a company always on the forefront, and that it has maintained a pace of change that continuously allowed, and still allows, Apple to revolutionize consumer technology:

The pace, scope, and quality of change is unprecedented in the industry. That’s a debt to the whole team, especially to the leadership like Jobs and Forstall (and the people in place now who were there). Apple was disrupting the PC market with a unique POV but no one knew. 

Apple has maintained a balance between the “features versus quality” balance, something that so many companies struggle to do:

What is lost in all of this recent discussion is the nuance between features, schedule, and quality. It is like having a discussion with a financial advisor over income, risk, and growth. You don’t just show up and say you want all three and get a “sure”.

On the other hand, this is precisely what Apple did so reliably over 20 years. But behind the scenes there is a constant discussion over balancing these three legs of the tripod. You have to have all of them but you “can’t” but you have to. This is why they get paid big $.

Sinofsky believes that with innovation come bugs, as with change comes a transitional period:

How does that explain general “buggy” feeling w/ so many super smart/skilled people saying products are suffering? It’s because of the depth and scale of usage that comes w/success. A responsibility.

Look, there are bugs. You (and Apple) can make a list of them. But mostly this is about change. I know people say that isn’t the case but it is. On any absolute scale number of bugs?—?non-working, data losing, hanging mistakes?—?in iOS/Mac is far far less today than ever before.

Overall, Sinofsky seems to be of the school that believes Apple’s shift on focus to overall quality as opposed to features isn’t reactionary or a response to a crisis. “It’s a methodical and predictable evolution of an extremely robust and proven system.”

Read Sinofsky’s entire article here.

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