Dear Steve Jobs, What Happened To Quality? [Open Letter]

Dear Steve Jobs, What Happened To Quality? [Open Letter]

Dear Steve Jobs:

What happened to quality?

Not long ago, before Apple became big and popular, your company was loved by many of us without hesitation. We still love Apple, but it’s getting harder to feel that way. Apple is clearly loosing a foothold on quality. Perhaps you are taking on too much at one time.

I’m writing this letter after experiencing a ton of problems with my new iPhone 4, including issues with Bluetooth, the proximity sensor, and yellow-tinged photos from the camera. I just took it back to the Apple Store to be replaced. Customer service is still awesome, but quality is slipping.

It’s obvious you’ve noticed quality problems too. That’s why you just appointed Jeff Williams as a Senior Vice President of Operations, and gave him the job of ensuring the highest standards in quality for Apple products. He’s got his work cut out for him. So we hope he’ll hit the ground running.

Steve, please consider the following examples of why Apple’s attempts to do too many things at once are resulting in quality failures in just about everything it does.

Dear Steve Jobs, What Happened To Quality? [Open Letter]

Jeff Williams, Senior Vice President of Operations dedicated to quality at Apple, Inc. (via AppleInsider)

MobileMe Crash of 2008

This is where it all started. Remember that fiasco where .Mac was transitioned into MobileMe? The service wasn’t quite ready for prime time and Apple ended up giving not one, but two free 30-day service extensions to all subscribers. The bungled transition went so badly it included system downtime, lost e-mail, and Push Services that didn’t quite work yet.

White iPhone 4 Delays

The white iPhone 4 has been delayed not once, but twice. Customers seeking to own the chic ivory phone were dismayed enough that it wasn’t available at launch or even shortly thereafter.  Now the truth is not even you know when customers will have these in their hands.

iPhone 4 Rollout

The problems that have been dogging Apple for years came to a head with the release of the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 was the crown jewel of quality failure at Apple, since nothing else before it has had so many problems. The iPhone 4 had a plethora of issues, including:

iPhone 3G Rollout Failures

Let’s not forget the iPhone 3G rollout. There were iPhone activation problems, server meltdowns, long lines, and frustrated customers. Apple Store staffers even sent customers home without their iPhone 3Gs being activated. A lucky few finally got their iPhone 3G activated about four hours after leaving the store. Others were not so lucky.

Later on that year, Apple recalled the 3G’s ultracompact USB adapters used for charging. Not exactly part of the overall iPhone 3G rollout, but close enough.

27’ iMac Display Problems

Apple’s has had a long and tortuous ordeal trying to solve its 27-inch iMac production woes in 2009. The problem caused shipping delays for the premium model iMac for several weeks until the root cause was found. In the meantime, customers that had problems ranging from cracked screens to screens with a jaundiced appearance had to hope that the replacement iMac didn’t suffer the same flaws or gave up and asked for a refund.

Time Capsule Power Failures

The original Time Capsule had a flawed design that allowed heat to build up and fry internal components. First-gen Capsules would die after just eighteen months: not good for a product that is supposed to provide reliable backups. The problem was so widespread that customers set up a Time Capsule Memorial Site that recorded 2,500 failed devices. Apple is quietly replacing TCs that are out of warranty, but has never publicly acknowledged the issue.

iTunes Software Bloat

Take a look at iTunes. It has evolved into a bloated, over-tasked piece of software that sends my high-end iMac into spasms of rainbow beach balls. Using it isn’t much fun either, because of the terribly slow user interface. There’s also the tiny buttons, especially the one to check for app updates. I can’t even tell whether or not that button registers a mouse click. I click it. Wait. Nothing. Click it again and again in frustration. Nothing. Suddenly I realize that iTunes is just slow after it finally prompts me for every frustrated click I made. Some people are calling iTunes Apple’s worst product.

iTunes Poor App Management

Apps are great, but the interface for managing them isn’t what we’d normally expect from Apple. It’s come a long way since 2008, but it sure has a long way to go. I have more than 466 apps in iTunes and it would be nice if I were able to manage them more effectively in iTunes or on my iPhone.

Slow USB Device Synchronization

Syncing an iPhone, iPad, or iPod takes hours. Each time I have to update the firmware or restore a device, it takes hours — and sometimes overnight — to sync all my content back onto the device. Oh and while this goes on, I get visits from the beach ball and my iMac slows to a crawl. That isn’t very useful. How about spending some time optimizing the entire sync process? Or better yet, I’ve noticed that sometimes I have the ability to restore firmware without whacking my media. Why not make that an option?

iPad Document Syncing

The iPad would be great for creating but the document syncing provided in iTunes is lame, because it is completely manual. There is no version control, which is puzzling that’s already been mastered with MobileMe syncing (bookmarks, etc.). I’ve had to turn to a third-party for a solution Apple should have provided right out of the box.

Conclusion

Apple is growing too fast and furious. Apple needs to slow down. We want to see the pre-2008 Apple where quality isn’t an issue — or at least it isn’t as noticeable as it is now. There are a lot of people watching you and we still love Apple. We don’t call ourselves Cult of Mac for nothing and we wouldn’t exist without you. We want you to succeed, but that success needs to include quality in everything you do.

What do you say Steve?

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About the author

David W. MartinDavid W. Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a programmer, systems and business analyst, author, and consultant. David has written for CNET's iPhoneatlas.com, MacLife.com, CultofMac.com, BYTE.com and recently for aNewDoman.net. He comes to Cult of Mac's website with deep knowledge and passion for the all things Apple. Follow David on Twitter @david_w_martin or see what he's up to now at davidwmartin.com.

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