Software Quality Emerging as Apple's Soft Underbelly

News Analysis: Apple is undoubtedly a premier provider of tech products. But the one place where it might be lacking is in software. Recently Apple has had to make rapid updates to the iPhone 3.1 software and to its Mac OS X version code-named Snow Leopard. If things don't improve soon, it could be an opening for the competition.

Apple arguably enjoys the most respect and adoration in the tech industry. Consumers all the over the globe wait to hear what the company will be offering next. But in the past two days, Apple has released an update to the iPhone OS and its new "Snow Leopard" operating system.

The latter update came just two weeks after Apple released Snow Leopard on Aug. 28. Some might say it's not a major update and it encompasses a few minor fixes to enhance Snow Leopard's experience. But I'm not so quick to agree. I think it reflects a real problem Apple is having: Its software isn't as reliable as it wants us to believe.
There's no debating that the iPhone provides an outstanding experience. Its software has made the device so successful. With applications, almost perfect touch response and a healthy helping of slick features, the iPhone has risen to the top of the mobile phone industry.

But it's not without its problems. An iPhone 3.1 update fixed several problems, including how the phone synchronizes with Exchange. eWEEK's Andrew Garcia wrote in his review of iPhone OS Version 3.1 that prior to installing the update he wasn't able to "synchronize in a predictable manner unless data push was enabled." Finally, only after the update was added to his iPhone, was he able to sync properly through Exchange.
On the Mac OS X side, things aren't much better. Just a couple weeks after releasing Snow Leopard, Apple has already been forced to update the software with several fixes. Snow Leopard 10.6.1 fixes an issue that might stop DVD playback without notice. The update also addresses printer compatibility problems (an issue I'm still dealing with) and a bug that makes it difficult to remove items from the Dock. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more issues addressed in the update, including a security fix.
It should be noted that software needing updates isn't anything new. Apple, like every other company that's forced to maintain operating systems, needs to constantly deal with slight problems that really only show themselves when they're made available to the public. But it's the fact that Apple, a company that prides itself on selling a premium product for a premium price, has spent so much time over the past few months updating software that's cause for concern.

Earlier this in September, Apple released a note saying that Mac OS X "Leopard" versions 10.5.8 and later are susceptible to a security problem that could allow a "Java applet to obtain elevated privileges."

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...