Walt Mossberg: Apple should fix its software in 2016


Walt Mossberg speaking with Steve Jobs back in the day.
Photo: Joi Ito/Flickr CC

Walt Mossberg was Steve Jobs’ favorite critic, and has long been one of the most respected Apple analysts out there — with some people even arguing that he can be too forgiving when it comes to Cupertino’s mistakes.

But in a new article about what tech companies should do to improve in 2016, Mossberg has no problem taking aim at something a lot of people view as Apple’s big weakness right now: its software.

Mossberg starts off by writing for The Verge that Apple “needs to use 2016 to get a better handle on its software,” before elaborating:

“The core Mail, Calendar and other out-of-the-box apps on the iPhone, iPad and even the Mac haven’t had really major re-thinks in years. Both iTunes on the Mac and the Music app on iOS also need simplifying and renovating, especially since Apple Music was grafted onto them. And the company’s cloud services — long a weak point — need shoring up.

It’s great that Siri can summon up tunes on your new Apple TV, not so great when the tunes stop playing midway through.”

As much as I’ve always loved Apple hardware, when I first started using Macs back in the early-to-mid 1990s, it was the software that stood out to me. Over the past couple of years, however, a growing number of users (and even some former Apple employees) have criticized Apple for losing its magic touch when it comes to creating software that “just works.”

Do you think Mossberg is right in his assessment of Apple? Has Apple lost its way when it comes to software, or is there something else you’d like to see the company work on in 2016? Leave your comments below.

Source: The Verge

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  • iStillLikeApple

    I think Apple is focusing on trying to rush things out the door instead of QA’ing as much as it should. Older versions had less going on but I feel that it “just works” used to be true and now it isn’t as much, however it still seems better than the alternative… so there is that.

  • Barry Marshall

    That would be nice. Calendar definitely needs some major work.

  • Jony Wonderbread

    If we are going all the way back to what they should work on in 2006 let’s go with a better camera and 3G in the first iPhone. Bazinga!

    • Luke Dormehl


  • c_hack

    Between Family Sharing bugs, Apple Music being notorious for overwriting people’s personal music collections, countless bugs in iOS (not to mention major lag in iOS 9), iCloud on Windows crashing all the time, and the nightmare called iTunes; YES they should put some of their billions in profits to write quality software for a change.

  • Josef

    it’s time to stop excusing of poor quality software. We pay a premium for a premium quality products. I love Macs, but the buggy, random inconsistency of the software just inspires my ire. Come on Apple! I am with Walt on this, in case this was not clear

    • Jerome  Soucy

      Yeah… i’v ehad my share of run ins with IOS, OSX and all software included on my Mac products. Far from the days where i was never able to make the systems crash unless using Flash we are….

      More features does not mean better… Better software, less buggy, more responsive with useable features is better.

  • Marian Bîrlădeanu

    2016 is the year of software for sure: SOFTWARE WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. As hardware platforms gap is getting smaller the software gap are sometimes worlds apart. SECURITY is a must. THE ABILITY TO BE A SMART/INTEGRATED SOFTWARE is a must. The ability to CORRECTLY TREAT ERRORS is a must. The CONNECTIVITY of an app is a must. These are our IT days for now and the future is not for sure our.

  • Jerome  Soucy

    Mail and Calendar have been favorite pet peeves of mine for a while now. A good way of handling mail and calendar is what Outlook does. Whatever you may think about Microsoft, Outlook (2016) comes pretty close to what email and calendar best can be. They aren’t perfect…but unless someone finds a new way of handling things efficiently, Outlook makes it convenient and all in one place. day planning and emails go hand in hand in most companies.

    This brings me to the next problem. CalDAV. You cannot sync your CalDAV caendar (iCloud) in Outlook. I still fail to understand why. This is the biggest problem for Outlook users on Mac. Not being able to have my personal AND professional calendar in 1 spot makes me angry. I have to rely on my iPhone solely and since i am a consultant, I often cannot put my professional calendar on my personal iPhone. This is likely a MSFT problem but, in a space where the user is at the heart of your profits… providing them with what they need is greater than providing them a solution that half works.

    • devonair

      I’ve long ago switched to Outlook on my iPhone, and it works great with both my personal Gmail accounts AND my work’s exchange server — you can even set different notification sounds based on the individual account (i.e., my personal and work emails have different alerts). If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it!

      • Jerome  Soucy

        I have used it. The problem is not on the iPhone but on the Mac… Outlook does not speak CalDAV it seems and there is no cure in sight.

      • emcampbe

        I haven’t used outlook on iOS, but to be fair, there are much better things to crow about then alert sounds. Yes, Mail on iOS has several issues, but alerts aren’t one of them in my opinion – I have different alert sounds set up for different accounts and seems to work fine. The pain is only with the initial setup – in settings -> notifications -> mail and then selecting the account and the sound you want from there. The painful part is finding the “mail” within notifications – as like all places where apps are listed in various settings areas, there is no way to search for the app you are looking for, you have to scroll through the list (which is at least in a logical kind of order – alphabetical – not always the case in Apple apps). And once set up, works well.

  • devonair

    Hmm, Mail and Calendar do everything I need them to on OS X (basically, managing both my personal accounts and my work’s exchange accounts). But their iOS equivalents need work to keep up with MS’s offerings; iOS Outlook (formerly Accompli) is so much better at handling Gmail (especially because of lack of push in Apple’s app), and it’s frustrating that OS X Calendar can open my work’s shared exchange calendar but the iOS app cannot.
    As far as the rest, yes: iTunes and iOS Music both need major overhauls (too bloated, too complicated), and now that Apple Maps has finally become reliable I’d love to see it add traffic re-routing features like Waze.

  • TheMadTurtle

    I agree with Mossberg and will go even further and say that it also needs to be more intuitive. Back in the day, you just sort of inherently understood how to do things. Now it seems (especially in iOS) much of what you need is buried in settings (either general settings or application settings).

  • Martin Stachowski Albeck

    Expectations and reality
    I work on both windows and mac all the time. For me, mac still just works. Whereas the windows environment is much more cumbersome and need constant tweaking.
    Can apple improve their stuff ? – certainly.
    I agree that apple music is a good example of a closed garden product that needs some cleaning up.
    But – can apple improve your personal and work life while they live up to impossible standards ? – not so much.
    A modern macbook pro with El Capitain is still vastly more efficient and reliable than their windows counterparts. In fact I will stick my neck out and say mac and associated environments has never been better.

  • Apple needs to just start over with iTunes and rebuild it from scratch. Every single version of it has been broken in some fundamental way, and every overhaul of the interface improves something but makes something else more confusing and inconvenient to use.

  • Laurent Daudelin

    Apple’s software is definitely worst than it was. I don’t know if it is caused by this mentality of “dumbing it down” or something else. By dumbing it down, I mean, for example, the “new” Disk Utility in El Capitan. You can no longer format your raid disks in it. Or dumbing down their entire line of Macs. Now, you throw it away when it’s no longer fast enough. You can’t even add memory to almost all MacBooks. They got a it with the iPhone and now, all their hardware converge to that smartphone design.

    Speaking of the “core” apps, one thing I never understood in Mail on the iPhone is how it can display a notification count on its icon but if I read the unread messages on another device, it never updates the count.

  • bdkennedy11

    This is what happened in the early 90’s when Apple had too many products and the quality started going down hill. Over the past few years they have been offloading their beta testing onto us. I hope someone in upper management realizes this.

    • Larry Fulkner

      They’ve always done this. Especially when Steve Jobs was around.

  • Yep. Apple’s apps are unreliable. Take mail on iOS. When I delete all of my mail, and it shows back up the next time, that’s just amateur. Same when I delete everything in the trash and they also magically show back up. How about when using the flashlight and then when i go to swipe into the homescreen, there’s no swipe/unlock slider. Big fun. Solution is to reboot the phone. Just sloppy s**t.

  • I agree. I’ve never bought so many 3rd party apps to replace standard Apple apps as I have in the past 4 months. I’ve just grown tired of the lack of attention and/or failure to meet up to modern capabillities. I’ve switched my Calendar to Fantastical. I’m still searching for a better mail client (Outlook and Spark have been attempted). It’s frustrating. More needs to be done. A lot more. Well, at least for the standard that I’ve held Apple to for so many years.

    • wlym

      I’m using Airmail 2 on my MBP and it’s mostly great, and mostly better than OS X Mail. I understand they’re bringing out an iOS app soon.

  • TrueNorth_Steve

    Apple Mail is a mess of an app.. since they removed true support of exchange – its been brutal.

  • BoingCameron

    Yes they need to redo their core apps and the programs on the Mac

  • Serban Veres


  • I don’t use much Apple software. I tried to get off of Publisher with Pages so I wouldn’t need Parallels but that didn’t work. I like Gmail much better than Mail and Google Calendar much better than Calendar. iTunes has become a f’ing train wreck, I can’t figure out how to get a song on my iPhone these days and Photos has duplicated about 4 of every photo I’ve taken in the last 15 years as I’ve upgraded machines. And i’ve had a Mac for 25 years and generally I think I know my way around this stuff. The operating systems are fine but the individual apps suck.

  • Ben

    couldn’t agree more.

  • Hector Rex

    The random glitches in iTunes, iCloud, and OS X Mail are by far my biggest issues with my Apple gear at this point.

  • I 100% agree…. they have gotten lazy and bloated…. Microsoft is the new Apple. I ahve been a Mac user for over 25 years…. but they just aren’t innovating with their software anymore… and they are releasing very buggy beta style versions as finished polished versions… they know Mac users are passionate about their OS and that they will install new versions RELIGIOUSLY…. they need to really tighten all this up and once more become the inspirational innovators they were…. Microsoft is catching up!!!!

    • David Malcolm Puranen

      I’ll agree that Apple’s software (especially iTunes has seen a decline in stability and reliability, I had Apple Music corrupt my entire music library rename files in the finder and attach the wrong id3 tags to things. The whole library was butchered) However having just tried to help someone at a place I volunteer with his external HDD and Windows 10, I have to say Apple is still worlds ahead of Microsoft.

      I have no idea how but somehow the major partition of his external wasn’t showing up in Windows Explorer. Finding the Windows version of disk utility (which looks like it’s from 1995) was a real pain even though I knew it’s name. Typing it into Cortana didn’t help bring it up, I’m still not sure where I typed it in that I finally found it. But it took me almost 20 minutes to figure out why it wouldn’t show up in explorer. (Apparently I needed to tell it to have a letter in front of it’s name? I think I had to use a contextual menu for that.)

      I’d like to see iTunes get the Photos treatment. I’d actually like to see OS X Music, and then the iTunes stores spun off as their own apps.

  • A wise man, but the direction of Apple shareholders isn’t the same than Apple users. Since Apple went mainstream, they becoming more like Windows, when windows try to reach Apple old standard, and I got to say While I am more deceived by Apple software and hardware, I have been quite nicely surprised by Windows 10, it is not perfect but it’s getting there! Of course Apple should improve their software making it lighter and more stable, I mean the biggest perfomance I have seen in laptop lately was due to memory ram and ssd, you take that off and you got a slow computer! Why? Cos the software count on hardware upgrade to run faster, rather than to be reworked to excel in perfomance! On the hardware side, one of their big mistake, is to not propose dual drive natively, where today, what people needs is memory! And I would add they do the same mistake on iPhone! iPhone is smart touch phone to run apps, that take pics, and read your music! In this case what is the point of having 16gb iPhone or iPad, that will become rapidly obsolete, after uploading a few apps, a bit of pics and a bit of music!
    Nowadays mac software should be able to deal with dual drive, with an architecture to deal with an ssd drive to push perfomance on the system, and an HDD drive for storage, with a way to backup both in a single click! 8gb ram should be a standard too as now Mac software is taking more and more resource unless they improve it to be less ram hungry. They should redefine what is the purpose of design, and find a balance with practicity! Hardware and software need to go hands in hands , do more with less!
    As well the life of a Mac is around 2 years long now when it used to be 4 years long, and resources to make a Mac are not sustainable, so for the long run, Mac should take the direction to stay upgradable, and stop the obsolete side of Mac for consuming purpose, that is not ethically ecological!

    • Larry Fulkner

      I’ve had the opposite experience with Win 10. It’s better than Win 8, but Windows hasentbeen able to make a good OS to save there lives. Still think OSX is worlds better.

      • Of course I’m still using OS X for now, but considering the way Apple went down in such a small lap of time since jobs is gone, it isn’t a good indicator for the near future! Becoming too mainstream,OS X will be here soon, just to sync your apple device! If they could work out a simple and functional OS X like iOS ( not gpu/memory hungry) it would be nice, but I think they will need some new brain to rethink the architecture of the software! And they should stop the race for consuming!

      • Larry Fulkner

        I don’t think there going down at all. This is simply Apple as usual. No different than when Steve Jobs was around, and they had to create Snow Lepoard, to smooth out the bugs in Lepoard. I think we really manage to blow this whole Steve Jobs Death thing out of per portion. Hell, don’t U guys remember the amount of OS complaints Apple got even with Steve Jobs Around. Hell, we talk about bend gate, but with Antenna Gate they actually had to give out free cases. Look, I think Apple is and will do just fine. Or at least better than the other companies out there.

      • Different point of view! For my part I agree that snow leopard was to be better, and this under Steve jobs monitoring, but since this one, it didn’t get better and that’s my point, I stopped at Maverick cos I was fed up of these new OS X when I think snow leopard was fine, the new OS X add just fancy fashion mainstream features that i do not need! Of course Apple will do fine, as long as there is no better alternative! But, that Apple is doing fine isn’t really my problem, it’s the product that we question! It’s harder to build a reputation than to lose it, it happened once to Apple, and it just a matter of time if they look only on the profit side, don’t forget than behind Apple, there is shareholders who are not some genius but people interested by profits!

      • Larry Fulkner

        Hmm… Well El Capitan is pretty smooth.

  • Frank Jantzon

    Top 3 to improve: iTunes, Mail and Calendar. All in need of a desperate overhaul!!

  • Steve Morales

    Couldn’t agree more with this article, iOS 9 and Mavericks are both scattered with Bugs, performance issues and it shows a lack of attention to detail that make Apple stand against the competition. I own a iPhone 6 Plus and it lags constantly with iOS 9, a 1 year old device is struggling with their in house developed OS, scary.

    Apple has definitely lost its edge when it comes to making software that “just works” and innovation, it feels like their are rushing everything out and just meeting demand for products instead of creating markets for new products. iWatch (Late to the Game), iPad Pro (cough, cough, Surface Rip-Off with a crappy OS), iPhone 6 (Cough, Cough, cathing up to Android), Apple TV (Amazon Fire TV anyone)?

    I switched from Mac back to PC (Surface Book) and couldn’t be happier with the decision.

    • Larry Fulkner

      Really. IOS9, and El Capitan, are two of the most stable OS’s out right now. IOS 9 has almost no bugs at all (granted I’m using an iPhone 6s). But, is ensanly smooth.

      • wlym

        ” IOS 9 has almost no bugs at all (granted I’m using an iPhone 6s)”

        Well my iPhone 6s with the latest version of iOS 9 says differently. It’s buggy. And then there’s the semi-functional Apple Maps, and the punch drunk, hard-of-hearing Siri. Flakey Handoff, unstable syncing via WIFI with iTunes on my MBP, crappy battery life compared to my 5s, etc… I swear, it’s only because it costs so damn much that I haven’t thrown it at the wall yet.

      • Larry Fulkner

        Wow, I’m not experiencing even one of those problems. But I can tell u this. I use Android, and IOS regularly, and the bugs I get using Marshmallow, makes the OS feel like a mess. But in regards to IOS, it may be because I’m using a 6S, but there are almost no bugs in site. & it runs smooth as butter(similar to the way the iPad Air 2 runs). From what I see out there, this is the general consensus. Even Siri hands free runs great.

      • wlym

        Wanna trade iPhones? ;-)

  • Justin Tyler Moore

    This is obviously just my opinion, but I personally feel they haven’t spent any time revamping or shoring up things because they do “just work”. I’ve been using Apple products since early 90’s as well and I’ve not experienced the bugs, kernel panics, or any of the issues that seem to plague others. I am a mail, calendar, iWork, and pro application power user and everything just works for me. One app that I can say does drive me crazy, especially now that handoff has enabled phone calls from my Mac, is FaceTime. There is no dial pad and it doesn’t easily function as just a phone. I can sympathize with mossburgs thoughts on iTunes. I haven’t used iTunes in years thanks to Spotify. I am an Apple Music subscriber but haven’t ever taken the jump from Spotify because the interface is so much more appealing and friendly to me. Another piece of Apple software that needs attention is Server. I use Apple Servers extensively and while it has gotten much easier, it has lost some power and with the ease, lost some troubleshooting techniques when things don’t work the way they should.

  • Forgnot

    Crashing daily… Stop making new stuff. Make the existing stuff work. Aperture was nice. Phoots is a broken bad idea. Wouldn’t want it even if it did what it hopes to do. Pages is completely broken. Safari dies many times a day. My iPad keyboard lag is 2-3 seconds a letter trying to type this!

  • When Steve was alive, Apple was about his ego, AND he was a genius. Now, Apple is about money. Feel the difference.

  • lcfbill

    I agree with Walt. Some of the stuff you see in Apple software is just plain bad. iTunes is an unreliable unstable mess that, along with Apple Music, overwrites user data. Apple Music was a bloody disaster that was designed to play inferior versions of music from the cloud over superior versions already on my device. Who would have ever thought people wanted that? iOS looks like the product of some Art/Design School graduate. Jobs said Apple was to exist at the intersection of Technology and the Liberal Arts (not Art School). Too much of the interface is designed for looks rather than function.

  • Bon Jon

    I agree with iStillLikeApple on this. It has definitely gone downhill, though still far far better than alternatives. iCloud and iTunes really do need to “just work” more often.

  • BoltmanLives

    Software is hard…getting lemmings to buy a thinner slab is easy
    Seriously what are any of you still using Appl crap?

  • I just posted this in another poll thread on this topic but I’m with Mossberg on this.

    If Apple paid as much attention to its software as Jony Ive pays to chamfered bevels, life would be a lot better.

    There are so many broken pieces in both OS’s as well as iCloud it’s tough to list them all. However, it seem to me that Mac OS is being neglected, either because of in-house issues or because so much of Apple’s income is coming from the iPhone and iOS.

    iCloud syncing isn’t consistent across all apps

    Safari in Mac OS crashes too often

    When will News come out for Mac OS? Ever?

    Buy Fantastical already and upgrade Calendar on all platforms

    Time Capsules should back up iOS devices rather than pushing people to buy more cloud storage to back up. Doing it in iTunes is a kludge.

    Document the use of USB hard disks attached to AirPort Extreme routers for use as home-made Time Capsules (documentation is piecemeal)

    Location manager in Mac OS has issues

    Fix AirDrop

    Either fix Mac OS widgets or get rid of them entirely

    Keychain application in Mac OS is a pain to use, needs overhaul and keychain doesn’t work consistently

    iBooks in Mac OS is terrible

    iTunes needs to be gutted

    iOS asks for passcode instead of touchID occasionally (saying it’s been over 48 hours when in fact it hasn’t)

    iOS countdown timer is a poor design

    In short, Apple needs to continue to tighten this stuff up. The bigger and more complex their ecosystem gets, the tougher it will be.

    I’m not sure about bringing back Aperture but Photos is terrible and needs a lot of work.

    • wlym

      “iOS asks for passcode instead of touchID occasionally (saying it’s been over 48 hours when in fact it hasn’t)”

      Okay, so it’s not just my iPhone that’s screwed up (why do I feel better?)! To add to my annoyance with this issue, when my iPhone periodically insists on a passcode, the screen is frozen and won’t accept any input until I use the power button 2 or 3 times to turn the screen on and off! What absolute crap is this on my $1100 phone?!

      • I’ve never had the latter part of your comment but I’ve had various friends have problems with the timing issue in other contexts: “you’ve not backed your iPhone up for 48 hours” when in fact they just finished backing it up (to iCloud).

        There’s no doubt a piece of code that looks at elapsed time that’s messed up on some phones for some reason.

  • wlym

    This is the first time in over 20 years of Apple use that I haven’t immediately updated my OS to the latest version (I’m still on Yosemite). I’m fed up with finding workarounds for the ever-growing list of bugs introduced with every update. Even my brand new iPhone 6s, thanks to iOS9, is the flakiest iPhone I’ve ever owned (it’s my 4th). It’s depressing how far my confidence has fallen with Apple’s software in the last few years.

    I still can’t trust Apple Maps, I still can’t assume Siri will understand me or be remotely useful if asked anything other than the time, and I still have to fight iTunes on my MBP to get it to sync with my iPhone consistently.

    And now that Adobe CC (Cash Cow) has my monthly tithe their software quality has taken a nose-dive too. Yay!

  • ChrisC

    The Apple Calendar, Contacts and Mail need a facelift, MS has nailed this by combining all three into on. Whilst mail is pretty good, the rest sucks

  • Jon G.

    Once seen as a major strength, Apple’s software has become erratic, unresponsive and just plain frustrating. What used to work seamlessly with their hardware now seems disjointed and unpredictable. A shame, as the accolades keep rolling in for their hardware – but at this rate the copycats will soon cease to envy the company that was once the standard for reliable interoperability unless they seriously acknowledge and resolve to perfect their flawed operating systems.