WWDC: Fix the existing before launching the new

In a week’s time, leading developers for Apple’s products will be gathering in Los Angeles for its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Over the last few weeks, many Mac sites have been speculating as to how Apple will wow those who should be its greatest fans, with thoughts of Siri for OS X, OS X 10.12, or possibly new hardware products.

Rather than wishing for new toys, I’d like to consider briefly what Apple needs to deliver. For despite its phenomenal growth, size, profits, and stash of cash, in many respects Apple in 2016 has changed little since Apple in 1991. It is beginning to look worryingly overdiverse and unfocussed.

In the last three or four months, Apple has released system software updates which have turned some of its latest MacBook Pros, iMacs, and iPad Pro 9.7″ models into hopelessly unreliable nightmares, and worse.

MacBook Pro and iMac models have been stricken since OS X 10.11.4 hit them on 21 March. No matter what they might try, some users find their Macs crashing every day or two. Even Mac OS X Public Beta back in September 2000 was more stable and usable than that. Those who had hoped that 10.11.5 might address this were not only insulted by its complete lack of release notes, but shocked that nothing had been fixed. Then there are those Mac users whose Bluetooth remains unreliable, looking at their unusable Magic Trackpad 2 and wireless keyboards wondering why they wasted their money.

Even more shocking was the bricking of many iPad Pro 9.7″ devices with the iOS update to 9.3.2 on 16 May. A fixed update to 9.3.2 was not released until 2 June, two and a half weeks later. Judging by Apple’s special instructions for this update, even now, what has been released remains a quick kludge, not a finished and polished product.

Then there are ‘features’ like the App Store and iTunes which are drifting aimlessly away from the user’s needs, and interest. These are of immediate importance to the software developers attending WWDC, as growing user dissatisfaction there loses developers money. There are once-leading apps like Final Cut Pro which are withering on the vine, going nowhere fast, but driving users to switch to third-party products.

So before anyone starts offering new toys to WWDC, Apple needs to tell us when our existing, and far from cheap, products are going to work reliably again. Otherwise Siri on OS X might get some forthright words the next time this iMac freezes and auto-restarts.