Is Jony Ive killing the Mac?

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?

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.