This began as an email to my father about the upcoming Windows 10 operating system from Microsoft. It evolved into so much more of a detailed response to him that I figured a larger audience might be interested in reading and commenting about it. So I decided to post it here.
Before anyone begins to flame me for this, let me offer up the following:
- I created my first graphics program on an Apple II Plus during design school in 1981.
- I have used and/or supported Apple computers in the work and/or home environment most of the time since then, including some 15,000 of them while I worked in the corporate IT department of Gannett (parent company of USA Today) and 1,000+ of them where I work as IT support now.
- I have used and/or supported personal computers running Microsoft and/or Apple operating systems (and Linux, to a lesser extent) for the past three decades, with 24 of those years as an IT professional.
- I have provided detailed written analysis of hardware and software to my various employers over the years, which has been used for IT decision-making at the highest levels.
With that out-of-the-way, I’ll continue.
Apple has been rather complacent since Steve Jobs began to move away from his hands-on involvement with the company, which began about a year or so before he died. They have not come out with any “insanely great” new products since then; it’s been more like business-as-usual — with their established product lines (both hardware and software) having relatively minor tweaks and upgrades applied to them.
Is there a new “gotta have” product anywhere to be seen from Apple? No. I’ll share my thoughts on the current Apple product line, starting with their hardware first:
Desktops: Their desktop line consists of several versions of an all-in-one (the iMac) and a costly high-end box with no serious expansion capabilities (the Mac Pro); the Mac Mini is an orphaned desktop product that Apple can’t decide whether to keep or kill off. And the competition is blowing by them; have you seen the new HP Sprout? It’s wild! And the Sprout represents just one example of the many that competitors are looking to unseat Apple with as the tech media darling.
Laptops: Apple’s laptop line is stagnating; they have the MacBook Air, which must be replaced often due to its anemic performance; and they have the MacBook Pro, which hasn’t seen a serious refresh for several years (the 2012 MacBook Pro I have at home has the same specs as the brand new one I’m using right now at work for our Mac migrations). And the competition has largely caught up to them; almost every laptop vendor now has a machine that looks good and can out-spec and outperform a MacBook Pro at a lower price.
iPhones: The only “new” product is the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus. I have a 6 Plus and am sorry I ever purchased it. It sucks; it’s too big and the ergonomics are horrible. I tried to take it back to the Apple Store and exchange it for a smaller iPhone 5S, but was refused. Oh, and the vaunted camera on the iPhone 6 Plus (which is the only reason why I bought it to begin with)? I find that it over-saturates the images it produces (especially skin tones), and some of them I can’t fix in post-production because the resulting JPGs are just too far gone. And the competition is already surpassing them; check out the new Android and Windows phones… the iPhone interface looks antiquated and out-of-date by comparison. Our next cell phones will not be iPhones; they will either be a Google Nexus or a Nokia Lumia.
iPads: The latest refresh from Apple was cosmetic and without any new capabilities. The competition is blowing by Apple with all sorts of innovation; have you seen the Microsoft Surface Pro 3? The Surface Pro 3 (SP3) has the specs and performance of a MacBook Pro, but in the form factor of an iPad 2 (granted, the SP3 is a little larger and heavier and lacks robust video support, but still!). The SP3 is the machine that Apple should have introduced to the world as its own years ago and represents the future of mobile computing — that’s why I put my money where my mouth is and bought one.
iPods: Dunno about you, but it looks like Apple has forgotten about them or is about to kill the line off, as they haven’t been refreshed in a long time and the iPod Classic is now gone altogether. Competition? Just about any other phone or music player on the market these days.
The Apple Watch: My perception is that it’s vaporware. I’ve owned several of the newer electronic watches and/or health monitors and they all had one thing in common — they must be reconnected to a power source on a near daily basis or they turn into a brick. And god forbid if you actually use them for health monitoring during long workouts; some of them actually need to suckle at the power teat mid-way through a day-long outing. Nothing I’ve read or heard about the Apple Watch is any different from the rest of them, so I consider this product dead on arrival.
Apple TV: We have one of the current versions, which we bought several years ago. Any new version on the horizon? No? Didn’t think so. Another example of vaporware, as far as I’m concerned. When it comes time to replace our Apple TV, I think a Roku will probably take its place.
Now to the software:
OS X Yosemite: What a colossal disappointment. I’ve used and/or supported Apple products since the early 1980s, and I’ve never seen a buggier version of their operating system actually released to the hands of their customers. How bad? Yosemite locks up and crashes on my MacBook Pro at least once per day. How is that even remotely possible? Yosemite — like all the earlier versions of OS X — is based upon BSD UNIX, which is utterly rock-solid. UNIX is so bullet-proof that machines running it are known for up-times that are years in length. What has Apple changed in this version of OS X that can cause the operating system to lock-up, black screen, and reboot repeatedly? OS X Yosemite — for me — is as stable as Windows 95. Why has Apple decided to completely revamp their GUI and take it backward in functionality? Why have they embraced so much of the social media integration into their core OS? Stupid. This is the first version of OS X that I cannot recommend to others; earlier versions have had their issues as well, but this is the first one that I actually consider a mistake to install. Even worse, I think that using it in the work environment is fraught with potential security and support issues; it’s strictly oriented to the consumer market, and badly at that.
iOS 8: The iOS user interface is seriously showing its age. Have you seen the phone operating systems from Google and Microsoft? Android in particular is eating Apple’s lunch, and I expect Microsoft to begin making significant headway in the marketplace with the next version of their phone operating system as well.
iTunes: Wow. Just… wow. iTunes hasn’t really changed for most of the past decade, but it has been tasked to deal with more and more of the Apple media universe — music, videos, apps, podcasts, books, radio, and iPhone management. A jack of all trades and a master of none. What a mess. It was great when it first came out, but I hate using it now. These days I stream music via Spotify and just avoid iTunes altogether.
iCloud: It’s convenient for email and iPhone backups, but little more than that. I plan to ditch it when we have our next cell phone refresh. There are many competitors in this space, and they are all leaving Apple in the dust.
OS X Server: Ummm, you didn’t get the memo? It’s dead, Jim. As is the server version of the Mac Mini and the dedicated Xserve hardware line. What exists now of OS X Server is just a series of apps that can be installed on top of the consumer-grade OS X Yosemite (complete with all the tightly integrated social media crap that should never be installed upon a dedicated business file server). Stick with UNIX, Linux, or the newer versions of Windows Server product line instead, as Apple conceded the enterprise space to its competitors long ago.
Professional applications: You know, like Aperture? Gone. Or in the process of being downgraded to work on an iPad. What few professional-level applications remain are in flux, much to the chagrin of their dedicated user base. Seriously, Apple — Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot? You were once the ONLY hardware and software solution for the creative professional in the visual arts, the science field, the medical field, or in the education field. But now? Your current products are just toys meant for content consumption — not for content creation.
Training and certification: The lack of professional applications now brings up the issue of support training and certification on Apple hardware and software products for IT professionals. Most of the classes and certifications have been killed off, at least for IT support staff that aren’t directly employed by Apple. The only way you can get the deep level of training now is to be an actual Apple employee, then leave Apple (they pay many of their lower-level employees very poorly) and hire on elsewhere. How do I know this? Because that’s exactly the route my current employer took recently; most of our current Mac-oriented staff members were poached from Apple (or one company removed from Apple) specifically for their skill set. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the official training classes available from Apple. For OS X, there are only two classes — OS X Support Essentials and OS X Server Essentials. That’s it — nothing else. I’ve taken both of those classes and can honestly say that they are good for Tier 1 level (low-level help desk and call desk) IT staff members to attend, but they fall far short for the training needs of Tier 2 or Tier 3 level staff members. Have you seen the list of official Microsoft classes? It numbers in the dozens. I rest my case.
Enterprise support: The lack of training and certification for professional IT staff in turn brings up the issue of Apple enterprise support. Or rather, the lack of it. My employer is fortunate to have access to “official” Apple support in the form of an account manager and a technical engineer, both of which are eager to assist us. But ultimately both of them are of little benefit to our organization as their standard response is to either:
- Tell us to file a bug report for our specific problem (which Apple is notorious throughout the industry for ignoring), or:
- Tell us that Apple is now a consumer-based mobile device company and no longer has the enterprise-level support infrastructure to aid us with our specific issue(s).
Cost: Of course, an overview like this wouldn’t be complete without touching upon cost. Apple has generally been known for being far more costly than the competition. However, there was a time in the mid-2000s when Apple hardware was very cost competitive with similarly configured and spec’ed hardware from the other PC vendors like Dell, HP, and the like. However, those days are long gone. I recently had to replace my wife’s laptop (a five year-old MacBook Pro) and came back to her with a choice — she could have either a new $2,799 MacBook Pro with all the specs she wanted, or a new $899 Toshiba laptop from Costco that had all the same specs as the MacBook Pro, plus a touch screen. Cindy decided the Apple tax simply wasn’t worth it anymore and chose the cheaper Toshiba computer instead.
So there you have it — my personal view detailing why Apple has jumped the shark, backed up with many years of in-the-trenches professional experience.
Thanks, Apple — you’re the best.