Apple Archive

Software Bugs Could Cost Apple Users and Market Share

- 2003.10.17

Some people are aware of the problems that the Mac OS X 10.2.8 update recently had. I am holding off from updating my PowerBook. It works fine as it is, and since I have critical work on it, I don't want to risk the update - especially after what happened with my sister's machine.

She's got a 450 MHz iMac DV+ that we upgraded last year from the 10.0 that we installed on it shortly after we bought it to Mac OS X 10.2. It's not used all that often - only occasionally for her to check email or instant message friends. Since she doesn't have a printer connected to it, she ends up using the PC downstairs for homework.

Perhaps this turned out to be a good thing. I was checking a few things on it, to make sure they were up to date. I figured I'd run software update, as she was at OS 10.2.1, and I thought it might be a good idea to update to the latest version. I ran software update, but midway through the download an error came up and said that it couldn't download the file. I tried a few times, and each time the error would appear at the same time.

"No problem," I thought and went to Apple's website in search of a stand-alone updater. I got one and downloaded it. No problems downloading it with Safari, and then I ran the installer. It installed perfectly, and after it was done I hit Restart and waited - and waited, because when it restarted, it went right from the gray Apple to a blue background and spinning cursor. No "Welcome to Macintosh" box at all. I restarted it again; still the same. I booted in single user mode, where I typed fsck -y, which, of course, found no problems with the hard drive.

I figured "No problem, I'll just use my OS 9 CD, boot from there, and then run Disk Doctor."

Oops, I had misplaced the OS 9 CD since I had gone so long without a single problem on my beige G3. The next option was to reinstall OS X - not something I wanted to do or she wanted to do, since she has some files and email saved that she wanted to hang on to.

Right now her machine's sitting on her desk, quite useless, thanks to lack of sufficient testing for a software update.

Apple used to be known for quality control issues back in the mid 90s with their hardware. But more recently they've been having issues with their software. Remember iTunes 2 for OS X that would erase your hard drive? That was fun. And then there was iCal 1.0, which was so slow you could make a cup of coffee before it would switch from month to week view. Now we have an OS X update that disabled many people's computers.

This is really not acceptable. When it's something critical like a system software update it should just work. Honestly, I will say that I've had no problems with any of Microsoft's Windows updates (other than the security holes that are eventually found).

Now, I like Apple software. Safari is a good browser. iTunes is just excellent. The Mac OS is a good operating system. But if things don't work properly, it will start turning people off to buying Apple products. Since Apple computers are designed for the Mac OS, it's not like you can just get a copy of Windows /2 and install it instead, and setting up Linux, while possible, isn't necessarily what a computer consumer, sick of software update problems, wants to go through.

And it's not just Apple. Any company, whether they make cars, guitars, or computers, needs to make sure that the quality of their product will satisfy the consumers, as it's the consumers that will decide whether the company's market share grows by recommending the product to others.

I've always recommended IBMs for those wanting a PC and Macs for those that just want a computer. I always discuss the positives and negatives of each: IBM's have fantastic proprietary software (such as on the ThinkPad, where you can view information on anything in your machine), but they are pretty ugly.

Now it looks like I may be adding "some software is buggy at first" to the negative side for the Mac. Its not something I want to do, but until these quality control issues stop, I think it's necessary in order for someone to have fair information when computer shopping.

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