What’s the proper pace of innovation?

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

Marco Arment:

Apple’s hardware today is amazing — it has never been better. But the software quality has fallen so much in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future. I’m typing this on a computer whose existence I didn’t even think would be possible yet, but it runs an OS with embarrassing bugs and fundamental regressions.

The problem seems to be quite simple: they’re doing too much, with unrealistic deadlines.

We don’t need major OS releases every year. We don’t need each OS release to have a huge list of new features. We need our computers, phones, and tablets to work well first so we can enjoy new features released at a healthy, gradual, sustainable pace.

It’s true, Mavericks completely broke Gmail for me. The one thing that I use my Mac for 90% of the time, email, was almost unusable for the first six months after I upgraded.

So there is a reasonable case to be made that Apple’s yearly release cycle is too ambitious, and that they should develop each new release until they can be sure it’s free of show stopping bugs.

The problem with the yearly release cycle however is that it’s yearly. And in some ways it’s already too slow. When Facebook, Twitter or Google have a new feature that’s ready, they ship it. They don’t save it for a massive release once a year when they unveil all of their new features at once.

If Apple slowed down their release cycle I would worry that features that allow Apple software to remain competitive would take longer to roll out (how long can Apple sit on transit directions for iOS?). But crippling bugs aren’t acceptable either.

I think there needs to be some middle ground here. Perhaps there’s a world in which major updates with significant code rewrites are released less regularly, but then user facing features that add competitive functionality should be rolled out on a more iterative basis.