Developers and customers need better communications from Apple

I've been making a living with Macs long enough to remember the era before Steve Jobs returned to Apple. It was a bad time: Apple made a lot of poorly differentiated, crappy computers, and its operating system wasn't great, either. But before Steve came back, Apple was reasonably open with developers and high-level customers who had issues. Even if they couldn't or wouldn't necessarily correct the problems, there was a bidirectional communication channel. It was for good and for ill: I remember in those days the publication of record for the Mac communication was a weekly trade magazine called MacWeek, and it was known colloquially as "MacLeak," because Apple would regularly talk to them.

That changed after Steve took the helm. One of the first things he did was make Apple a black box. Apple public relations stopped returning phone calls unless they had something to say on the record. Apple developer relations changed the same way. Certainly that policy paid off in spades for Apple when it came to publicity. When new products emerged, they were a complete surprise. Apple generated tons of visibility for its new products that way. Visibility and publicity it couldn't have paid for.

Since Tim Cook took over, things at Apple have changed again — and a lot of things have changed for the better. Some of you may find this hard to believe, but Apple's a much more open company than it ever was even a year or two ago. Some of it is, admittedly, directed at shareholders: Apple pays dividends, which they never did under Steve Jobs' stewardship, for example. But Apple PR is more responsive and more engaging. Apple talks on the record and files public reports about things that it never would have in the past — supplier reports, its environment record, human rights issues.

When it comes to how it handles developer and customer-related issues, Apple is still halfway there.

But when it comes to how it handles developer and customer-related issues, Apple is still halfway there. It's made strides forward since the sandboxing debacle of OS X Lion — there's even a Swift Twitter account and blog (opens in new tab) for chatting with developers. But there's still little transparency over App Store rejections and code oddities, and as much as we're all encouraged to file radars, it still feels too much like throwing a paper airplane into a black hole.

Likewise customer-facing problems: Despite hundreds of support threads, questions, and bugs in Apple's own discussion forums, Apple support staff rarely if ever chimes in publicly with help or suggestions. It's nothing new, really. But it's maddening. And as Apple's platforms grow, we need better.

On Monday developers will get their first look (and hands on) the next major release of OS X, which will come out later this year. I have no problem at all with Apple maintaining a veil of secrecy when it comes to new product releases. In fact, I encourage it. We want to be surprised and delighted when Apple has something new. We crave it.

We don't want live in the dark with the gear, software, and services that we already rely on.

But by the same token, we don't want live in the dark with the gear, software, and services that we already rely on. Not when we have legitimate problems with things not working the way we need them to, or the way that the company said they would.

Last year's WWDC was a big step forward for Apple. Hopefully WWDC 2015 will be another, and one that gives Apple the opportunity to show a different side of itself: A side that's more open and forthcoming with developers and customers alike.

Peter Cohen
  • I wonder what the iMore haters will have to say about this article. I suppose they'll still find a way to claim y'all are blind Apple fanboys/girls who never criticize Apple....
  • Actually no. I’m not sure whether I meet the criteria for ‘iMore Hater’, but I really do like Apple products. I think Apple themselves are a faceless, deceptive and horrid organisation, (along with the one I work for), but their products, great. Communicating more with the world is a definite plus for consumers and something I think seems to be happening more and more under Tim Crook.
  • "faceless, deceptive, and horrid..."?! Hardly. Just on the "faceless" accusation alone, you lose all credibility. Ever heard of their keynotes?!
  • Seriously, you think that contrived freak show they put on every time they see so much as a webcam can be considerd a ‘face’? I’m not sure which is worse, not speaking to the public at all or doing it in the way they do. Don’t even get me started on that HPD attention whore Johnson Ive.
  • There you go again: histrionics characterize your rage and exaggerated attacks, not the estimable Mr. Ive. Also, see my reply to Premium1 just below, 2nd paragraph, and substitute "Apple" and/or "Ive" for "Rene."
  • Ok, we’ll leave that there. Rage? If you say so.
    What on earth is it about Ive that makes him estimable?
    If you cannot see that virtually everything Ive does is contrived you are deliberately ignoring it. He comes across as an animated fool which doesn’t get my respect that’s for sure. I saw some footage of him years ago and he didn’t behave like he does now. It is an act. Mind you, maybe he does and the ‘normal’ footage I saw was actually the act - doubt it somehow. Why does somewhere you work or what you do mean that you cannot be dishonest or blind or must be objective?
    “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” If BC can do it in that job, Rene can be a little dishonest in his, (which isn’t to say that he is BTW).
  • Rene didn't write this article, Peter beats on apple often, not the blind love that Rene shows.
  • "blind love"?! Hardly. Rene regularly criticizes Apple and points out areas needing improvement, fairly comparing platforms and product lines. Sure, he loves Apple, but it's obviously not blind. You really think Mobile Nations would have lead editors on their sites with no shred of objectivity?! There really seems to be some sort of collective transference phenomenon going on here with the Rene-haters; something about him triggers your issues. Would be entertaining if not so crudely done.
  • Calling Steve Ballmer, calling Steve Ballmer.........
  • Thank you, Peter. As a long-time customer of apple products, I have to say, there are more bugs and issues since iOS 8 and 10.10 than I have ever experienced (I've owned macs since 1998). Tim Cook once said that apple would not follow a calendar, that products would not be released until they are ready...he needs to really go by this, and not holiday shopping season. If they keep releasing products for holiday shopping season, even if they have not yet worked issues out, it will bite them in the arse in the long run. Customer service ratings could go down as a result. People used to complain about waiting for new features, but, apple used to be relied on for stable, reliable products that just worked. I prefer products that work, that might not have every little thing, over products that have to get power cycles daily, or more, to kind of work. Sent from the iMore App
  • This is a difficult balance to strike though. For instance, I’d rather have had a inelegant solution to Copy & Paste on the iPhone than wait as long as I had to for it.
    Same goes for MMS.
  • If you contact Apple Support, that does generate bi-directional communication. Granted that approach isn't as passive as reading an Apple Support Engineer's response on a Support forum.