Is Jony Ive killing the Mac?

Is Jony Ive killing the Mac?

Summary: Even as eye candy has been added to the Mac interface, basic functionality critical to data integrity and reliable operation have been subtracted. Is this Apple's design chief Jony Ive's fault?

TOPICS: Apple, Storage

Jony Ive's iconic industrial designs--from the original fruit-colored iMacs to the iPhone and iPad--have redefined the look and feel of computing devices several times. That's all good.

But computers and phones aren't simply designer bling, but tools that users depend upon for important work. They need to work reliably, which means investing in their underlying technologies to handle changing needs.

In the last 10 years, disk capacities have grown 100x and many users have tens of thousands of multi-megabyte image, music, and video files. For example, Mac OS X is still relying on the much-patched 1980s file system technology of HFS+--something it planned to replace years ago.

Many Mac fans have discounted my concerns, but now Lloyd Chambers of, a former software engineer and long-time Mac user and fan, has weighed in with a multi-page indictment of Mac core rot.

What he documents are not theoretical problems, but problems he has personally experienced. Not just with HFS+, but with several other key Mac software products.

The whole piece is worth a serious read, but several of his points stood out for me, and I quote his bullet points:

  • OS X Finder — damages the system, can't copy files reliably, can't do useful things it ought to do at all, hides key files, rife with bugs

  • Disk utility — under some conditions, destroys arbitrary numbers of volumes, no real upgrade for years, took two minor releases to fix RAID support

  • iCloud — a organization-destroying bug-ridden unreliable disaster

  • File system — continued use of HFS Plus instead of robust ZFS.

Chambers is an exceptional and demanding user. Yet if pro users are seeing these problems today, we know that in less than five years many less-demanding users will too.

The Storage Bits take

I used to hang with industrial designers, and I appreciate the creativity and deep knowledge of industrial technology that the best of them have. But they aren't software engineers.

Apple has plenty of money and expertise to fix these problems, but it will take sustained effort and attention from top management--including Ive--to fix these problems on OS X and iOS. Ive is particularly important because he's been given significant software responsibility by Tim Cook.

I include iOS because in 10 years it too will be handling workloads 100x greater than it does today. Fix OS X and then migrate that technology to iOS as needed.

Mac software engineering knew ZFS was a good thing seven years ago, but has since stuck with HFS+. OS X is overdue for a fundamental overhaul and a re-commitment to excellence in software engineering.

Let's hope it comes soon.

Comments welcome, of course. Industrial design trivia question: Who was the first industrial designer in a major Hollywood movie? Eva Marie Saint's cool blonde in Hitchcock's great North By Northwest.

Topics: Apple, Storage

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  • I tend to agree

    Personally after using Mac's for 15 years I have to agree with your conclusion. I think the Mac through Jonny Ive is more about form then function. But then again I think Apple has always been about that. Steve Jobs hated buttons and it started when he made the one button mouse.
    I myself have since gone back to Windows laptop. Not because I never liked my Mac's of which I have owned several over the years. But rather I am a person who wants functions over form.
    After buying a Macbook Air 3 years ago I realized that Apple was now moving towards a non upgradable Mac. You buy everything at point of sale and if you need more. You have to buy another Mac. Might be good for Apple. But not good for me. That move eventually convinced me to start moving back to Windows. I think Apple's biggest problem is not Johnny Ive but the fact that less Apple consumers think paying what a Mac costs is worth its form and function anymore. I mean a lot of consumer I think find a iPad effective enough for what they need.
    Maybe their is a top price users are willing to pay for design and maybe Apple has gone past that?
    • I agree

      I hate the idea of a piece of hardware that cannot be upgraded. Sorry but, 2010 MacBook Pros are the last model I would buy and they are dated with the Core 2 CPUs.

      I would build a Hackintosh if it weren't such a pain in the ass! I wish they would just start selling the OS for install on normal desktops.

      Also, they could use EXT-4 for OS X as that would likely be an improvement.
      • Wow. You need to point me to

        your upgradeable laptop vendor so we can all buy one and swap out motherboards and video cards whenever we want a faster machine.
        • Well....

          I have actually upgraded the CPUs in two different laptops, but it is not something I would routinely recommend.

          More to the point however, RAM and HDDs (SSDs) are routinely upgradable in most laptops, but from what I understand, that is becoming increasingly difficult if not impossible on many Macs, particularly of the "Air" variety.
          • But we've been told that as long as you have

            the ability to plug in external storage, how much you have internally is irrelevant.

            But that double-standard aside, the reality is that the need to upgrade computer hardware is becoming less and less important. The days of constantly feeling like you wanted to do more than your machine would let you is over for a lot of computer users. These users want simplicity and low maintenance. They really do want a computer appliance, and have no more intention of upgrading the hardware in their computer than they would upgrade the video card in their HDTV or TIVO.

            This is a hard reality for the techgeek crowd who earned their bona fides on being really smart and indispensible from their ability to "fix" their friends' computers with upgraded hardware.
          • SSD in MacBook Air can be upgraded by the user!

            D.T.Long, you are incorrect when you say that the SSD in the MacBook Air can't be upgraded.

            The internal storage is very easily upgradable by the user. For example, you can buy upgrade SSDs for the MacBook Air from Other World Computing, in various capacities (120GB, 180GB, 240GB, and 480GB).
            Harvey Lubin
        • Well

          I am in the process of resurrecting my Gateway AMD dual core desktop, which is currently in dead state to life by replacing a motherboard. I got a very good deal at Microcenter for motherboard and processor. This will replace my 5 year old dell the hell desktop that needs to be donated.
          Ram U
      • Huh? 2010?

        And how is the 2010 MacBook Pro (unibody) any more upgradeable than the 2012 MacBook Pro (unibody)? They use the exact same casing, share the removable bottom plate and are both extremely easy when it comes to RAM and drive upgrades. They, in fact, IDENTICAL in every way except for the processor and motherboard design, which has no impact whatsoever on upgradeability.

        The only change to the unibody design came in 2009 when Apple went to non-swappable batteries. Now if you are talking about the Air and retina models, yes, those are non-upgradeable for RAM (drives are upgradeable).
      • Ummm... no.

        My April, 2010 MacBook Pro has an I5, NOT a Core 2.

        I think you have no idea what you are saying.
      • I agree with the MacBook commentary,

        Notebooks have never been the ultra customizable entity so many desired, but I agree Apple blew it with not having user replaceable ram and removing optical drives. I will be very upset come time to replace my 2010. Cloud storage and "media store" download marketing are making hardware totally suck! Apple and Microsoft download stores are to blame for low quality gear and music and video files that are sub par quality as well.
        • Out with the old

          There are some people such as yourself who have been saying that Apple "blew it" by discontinuing optical drives as standard hardware in desktops and notebooks.

          There was a similar uproar in 1998 when Apple introduced the first iMac. It didn't have a floppy drive (which every other PC included for many years afterward) but instead included an optical drive (which very few other PCs included standard).

          In each case, Apple made the right decision to discard old technology for a better new technology.

          Although you can buy an external optical drive, we have reached a point where there is very little reason to use optical disks.

          People don't buy software on floppy disks or optical disks anymore. Software (including operating systems) are downloaded over the Internet.

          And people don't use optical disks to store or carry files anymore. Not when a DVD-ROM only holds 4GB, but a tiny 16GB thumb drive can be bought for less than $10... and that thumb drive is reusable, and you can write data to, and read data from it much faster than using an antiquated optical disk.

          Removing the optical drive from notebook computers is especially beneficial. These are a few of the benefits:

          - The optical drive ads size and weight to a computer that you really want to be as compact and light as possible.
          - The optical drive adds complexity to your notebook, and optical drives are usually the first components to die.
          - The optical drive is an energy hog, and can cut hours of use from a notebook battery.
          - And as stated earlier, the optical drive is now redundant, and has been replaced by better, more efficient technologies (Internet, thumb drives, pocket drives, etc.).

          There may be some hold-outs who still love burning optical disks and even using floppy disks, but technological progress does not hold still for laggards.
          Harvey Lubin
    • This is a bizarre article...

      ... When a writer builds his entire article around the totally incorrect ravings about OS X, of blogger who reviews cameras, then it only reflects how far into the bizarre zone Robin had to go to "support" his anti-anything-Apple agenda.

      None of the points listed in the above article are true, even though readers that support Robin's views will take it as gospel (because Robin wrote it in his article ;-)).

      It would be a major effort to shoot down EVERY incorrect point quoted in this article, so I'll just focus on the first line quoted: "OS X Finder — damages the system, can’t copy files reliably, can’t do useful things it ought to do at all, hides key files, rife with bugs."

      1) The Finder doesn't "damage the system". There is no example given of how this might be accomplished (because one does not exist). The operating system is protected from all applications, including the Finder (yes, the Finder is just another application. It is not part of the system as Windows Explorer is in Windows). A user would need to use administrator privileges, and in some cases root privileges, in order to purposely "damage the system".

      2) "Can't copy files reliably"??? That is just a dumb statement not even worthy of a response.

      3) "Can’t do useful things it ought to do at all"... you mean like make you coffee, or serve you dinner? Again, an extremely moronic and baseless statement.

      4) "Hides key files"... can I hear a big "Duh!" from the choir? Certain files in the operating system are by default hidden from users. These files are critical to the operating system, and are hidden so that novice users don't accidentally overwrite or delete them. Any experienced user who feels secure in doing so, can easily unhide those files... but there is rarely any valid reason to do this.

      5) "Rife with bugs"??? First the reality. No operating system is so completely "perfect" that it never needs updates. But to say that OS X is "RIFE with bugs" is so bizarrely wrong that I hurt myself slapping my forehead when I read it. Of all the operating systems I've used (including Classic Mac OS), OS X is by far the most stable and bug-free of them all!

      The erst of Lloyd Chambers comments are just as crazy, and for Robin to quote a crazy person to support how much he dislikes Apple products, is really a bad reflection on Robin... not on Apple!
      Harvey Lubin
      • Anti-anything-Apple-agenda??? Ri-i-i-ght

        Harvey, welcome to Storage Bits. Hope you'll become a regular visitor!

        But just in case anyone else is laboring under Harvey's misunderstanding, I bought my 1st Apple product - the original Apple ][ - in 1978. I've been a regular Mac user since the late 80s, and have owned many Macs, including the Cube, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, a Mac Pro and currently own a fully loaded 2012 MacBook Air & Thunderbolt Display and a 2012 Mac Mini as well as a 64GB iPad 2 and an iPhone 4S. Apple should many such customers as good as I am.

        But I'm an analyst, not a cheerleader. I call 'em as I see 'em. I've lost data to file system corruption. I've seen other serious problems with OS X. While it is still my preferred platform, I do not have unlimited patience for substandard products. The Mac software group needs a serious kick to get moving again, if only to start catching up to the many improvements Microsoft has made inside W8, including file system modernization.

        R Harris
        • So in other words....

          So in other words you agree with the totally false, bizarre ramblings that you quoted???

          You don't need to be a "cheerleader" to call out false information when you read it... especially when the person quoted is a camera reviewer (hint: Apple hasn't made a camera since the 1990's) who may be a user of OS X... but that does not really give him any credibility.

          I know of some of long-time users in my circle of family and friends, who still don't know the basics of OS X, and blame Apple for their problems, until I provide some information to them. Every "example" that Lloyd gives can be chalked up to user error, and just not understanding why those things are happening.

          Robin, you may own some Apple hardware, but if you've actually read Lloyd's article and can't see that the "problems" outlined are things that could have been avoided in the first place with a little bit of knowledge, then you really can't honestly call yourself an "analyst" of OS X.
          Harvey Lubin
          • An example of user error or not understanding OS X

            (Can't edit to add onto my previous comment, so I'm replying to it)

            Just one example that Lloyd gives is:
            "A file copy to a network drive silently skips files, leaving large chunks uncopied. There is no error reported. Observed repeatedly."

            The only times that you can't copy files to a network drive in OS X, is either if you try to copies larger than 4GB to a hard drive that is formatted FAT32 (this is a limitation of FAT32), or if permissions belong to someone other than you.

            But, in either case OS X will give you a clear error message explaining the problem.

            These are not problems with OS X. It is user error, plain and simile!
            Harvey Lubin
          • A taste of reality

            Robin, instead of quoting the vague and bizarre ramblings of a person with no credibility as a reviewer of operating systems (he apparently does not know much about the one he is supposedly using), you really should read the review of OS X published by a reputable journal.

            One of many such reviews was a thorough 5-page review of OS X Mountain Lion done by PCMag. Their conclusion:

            "The Best OS is X
            Year after year, we're more and more impressed by OS X, and Mountain Lion continues Apple's tradition of building on its strengths, innovating wherever it needs to, yet preserving continuity wherever it can. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is our Editors' Choice among desktop and laptop operating systems, and it looks likely to retain the distinction for some time to come."

            Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion was given an Editor Rating of "Excellent", and received the coveted "Editors' Choice" award, placing it well above all other desktop operating systems. (By the way, last year's Apple OS X 10.7 Lion OS received the same accolades from PCMag!).

            But I have a suspicion that you have chosen to ignore this and other similar reviews from other professional publications, and will continue to side with Lloyd and his trumped up complaints about non-existent "problems".
            Harvey Lubin
          • PC Magazines can be as biased as anyone else

            I take PC magazines' ratings with a grain of salt. So many of them are biased towards Apple and have no clue about Windows, especially Windows 8. Why do I claim to know this? Because I know Windows very well and I see videos and articles all the time showing people the "least direct" ways of doing things in Windows because they are clueless as to the most direct ways.

            In fairness though, they may be exactly the same with Mac OSes. You would know a lot more about that than I do.

            By the way, I'm not trying to say Windows is better than the Max OS, I'm simply saying I don't take any notice whatsoever of someone else's opinions when they have already demonstrated they are not qualified to judge. The UK's PC Pro magazine are incredibly pro-Mac, just as an example.
          • Always blame user-error

            @Harvey, I don't own a Mac and have never even used one, so I'm just being open upfront. I frequent graphic design forums and I have read more complaints about Mac OS in recent times than ever before. A lot of Mac users are becoming disgruntled.

            I used to debate with a die-hard Mac fan over the Max Vs PC argument, more as fun thing than anything else. I never said a bad word about Macs (because I don't have anything bad to say about them), I only shot down his false claims about Windows. That same guy recently announced he is switching to Windows as he is fed up with the issues he constantly runs into on his Macs (Macs as in plural). I'm not kidding, he was one of those you could never say a bad word to about a Mac without getting your head bitten off.

            I am doing a web development course at the moment and one of my lecturers is a Mac person. He even told me that the OS is very restrictive and is getting more buggy and, yikes, more like iOS (which personally, I loathe).

            My point is that Macs are apparently encountering more issues these days and people like you just cannot admit to it.
          • That makes sense :-\

            @MelbourneTweetr: "I don't own a Mac and have never even used one"

            And yet you claim to be more knowledgeable about OS X than the professional reviewers at PCMag?

            Of course you are willing to listen to any crank that supports your totally biased and baseless theory that OS X "is very restrictive and is getting more buggy"... which is totally contrary to reviews by professional publications like PCMag... and contrary to reality!

            But go ahead and ignore reality, if it comforts you. ;-)
            Harvey Lubin
          • Network file copy issues

            Harvey, the file copy issue is actually real and relatively common. I *think* it may have been fixed with Mountain Lion, but I haven't used it enough to know for sure.

            The issue occurs when copying files to an SMB share. Drag a file to a folder on that share. You'll see the grayed-out file appear, which indicates that the file is in the process of being copied. When the copy is complete, the file will sometimes disappear from the share. It has been hypothesized that some sort of authority issue is to blame, as the file seems to copy fine but then at the end (presumably when authority bits are being set) *something* goes wrong and so the file is deleted. I don't know if this is the case, but I do know that I've seen this happen probably 8-10 times between my Mac and my server at home. It's not user error and it is repeatable. You can find this documented on many home server sites. Further, it doesn't seem to happen when other applications place files onto the share, only the Finder.

            I agree with you that the source article on which this one was based is sometimes thin with facts, but in this case at least it is dead-on.