Ex-Apple Engineer Says Apple’s Internet Services Are a ‘Mess’

An ex-Apple employee has a lot to say about the company, particularly when it comes to their Internet-enabled endeavours (including services like iCloud, MobileMe, and .Mac). According to engineer Patrick B. Gibson, “almost everything Apple does which involves the internet is a mess.” (via ZDNET) Gibson helped build the original iPad before leaving Apple for work at Tilde Inc., making his opinion of the company something that rides on the border between ‘insightful’ and ‘jaded’.

Describing himself as a “long-time Mac user and a diehard Apple fan,” Gibson feels that Google is making design strides far faster than Apple is improving with their web offerings. This accusation would make it seem like Google is gaining on Apple overall and set to overtake the largest tech company in the world. Possible? Certainly. Likely? I’m not so sure.

To better decide whether Gibson is correct, we should take a closer look at Gibson’s rationale:

Gibson: “Apple can’t update its online store without taking it offline first.”
Sure they can. This maneuvre is hardly rocket-science in the web-development world. Apple chooses not to: taking the store offline is the online equivalent to a drum-roll. It builds excitement and enthusiasm (while also keeping people watching the keynote instead of sitting on their browser hitting refresh 400 times per minute).

Gibson: “A popular Game Center game was able to bring down the entire network.”
While this may not be overly impressive, it’s also interesting that in a sea with tens-of-thousands-of games, his statement is in the singular tense: ‘a game’. Once. Big deal.

Gibson: “Apple requires you to re-friend everyone on Game Center, Find my Friends, and Shared Photostreams.”
While this may seem like a downfall for some, it is a positive for many others. For people trying to manage a balance between business and personal lives online, certain services should be shared with certain people –instead of the suggested ‘friend once, give them a back-stage pass to my entire life’ approach.

Gibson: “Notes requires an email account to sync.”
So? How else would you like it to sync? Email account, social media account, whatever you use as the common thread… it’s all still about consistency. Most people are tied to their email intimately, so this really shouldn’t be a big deal. Besides, it can be nice to have your notes inside your inbox (if you choose to configure it this way).

Gibson: “The iTunes and App Stores are still powered by WebObjects, a mostly dead framework written almost 20 years ago.”
Gibson should first define ‘mostly dead’. Using something from the past sometimes makes better sense than adopting the bleeding-edge technology that isn’t well supported by all browsers and operating systems. Anybody who has tried to script for the web in a way that keeps Internet Explorer AND Firefox happy at the same time will understand this all too well. Relevance is sometimes a little subjective… just ask the engineers out there still using Fortran or the multitude of mainframe programmers still embracing Cobol.

Gibson: “iMessage for Mac lives in an alternate dimension in which time has no ordered sequence.”
Gibson fails to mention that it’s pretty remarkable that iMessage works at all on the Mac. It is a first-generation version of the software that will evolve, but no other integrated service out there will let me send and receive G-Talk (and other Jabber-based) messages, iMessages (even to a phone number, not just email addresses) and sync nicely with my iPhone and iPad.

Gibson: “Ping.”
While Ping wasn’t successful, it certainly isn’t the only social media experiment to fail. Google+ hasn’t really become a resounding success either.

While Gibson does end with a compliment, saying Apple has “excellent” web browser teams, the rest of his statements barely make sense. Google’s improvements aside, he admits that they still lack the “shine and sparkle” of Apple (which has arguably made them so successful because people -like- owning and using devices and services with ‘curb appeal’).

Gibson also weighs on on whether Apple should purchase Twitter and states that they also suffer from an “inability to recruit and keep talented web engineers, as the firm prioritizes consumer gadgets and products.” He concludes that while they probably should purchase the social media company to help with their recruitment problems and to add to their knowledge base that they probably won’t.

Of course, chances are good Cook and his executive team already have a plan in mind and don’t much care about Gibson’s opinion (plus, they seem to be at least a little bit successful these days so something must be working for them).

Do you think Gibson is right? Is Google really that much of a threat?