As usual, it’s OK if you’re Apple

The World’s Most Predictable Tech Pundit, MG Siegler, notes that Microsoft has issued a major update (170 MB in size) to Windows 8. That update is being delivered 69 days after the release of Windows 8 to manufacturing and 17 days before its release to the general public.

Probably not the best sign in the world that Microsoft has to release service packs to the RTM version of Windows 8 before it has even launched. I mean, why declare RTM then? Well one possibility is that you’re working to meet a deadline rather than releasing when a product is fully baked.

Yes, heaven forbid that a major computing company should release an operating system and then release major updates in response to user feedback and telemetry from hardware partners. Wait. What’s that, you say? Why, yes, the golden master of OS X Mountain Lion, version 10.8 was released on July 9, and Apple released a major update, 10.8.1, on August 23, only 45 days later, to address a long list of issues.

And yes, there was another major update, 10.8.2, on September 19. That is 72 days after the operating system was released to manufacturing. That second update is a humongous 665 MB in size. It addresses a serious, widely reported power management issue. It is large enough that one might call it a service pack. Hmmm. What can we conclude from this example?

  • If Microsoft delivers a 170MB update to its customers based on more than two months of feedback from enterprise customers and hardware partners, it is a sign of incompetence.
  • If Apple delivers more than 700MB of updates in the same period of time based on complaints from its customers, it is awesome.

Welcome to Silicon Valley. PS: The Windows 8 update is available now and will be installed automatically if you have Windows 8 automatic updates turned on.

Oh my, this is fun. A response!

In other words, a month after its release, Apple patched some issues. And yes, this is normal for all software makers, obviously. What Apple did not do is patch the “finished” software prior to its release, which is what Microsoft is doing here.

Sigh. Perhaps we need to go back to “I’m a PC” school.

You see, MG, in PC-land, independent hardware partners build most of the PCs that are sold with a new Windows version on them. So when Windows is “released to manufacturing,” it goes to those OEMs, who get to integrate it with their own hardware designs.

Apple can do this in about 16 days (the gap between gold master and final release in Cupertino). The PC ecosystem takes longer than that.

To put it another way. Apple has developers and retail customers, period. Microsoft has developers, retail customers, enterprise customers, IT pros, consultants, IHVs, and OEM (PC and device) manufacturers.

A more complicated ecosystem, a different set of rules.

So when Windows 8 was released to manufacturing, it went to IT pros, enterprise customers, and OEM partners, who get to test the new OS in the real world. And based on that feedback, the OS developer releases patches.

This is the way big software companies like Microsoft and Apple both work. Beta testing goes only so far. Sooner or later you need feedback from real users. Every Apple customer knows about those first two service updates that fix the bugs that they released to the public. It’s not a big deal.

To summarize: Apple sold expensive hardware to the public and let those customers suffer with bugs until it finally fixed them two months later. Microsoft released its software to a knowledgeable group of professional customers and incorporated their feedback and telemetry into the product before it was released to the general public.

I’m trying to figure out why this is a bad thing.

23 thoughts on “As usual, it’s OK if you’re Apple

  1. It’s all part of the death of objectivity.

    The relationship between pundits like MG Siegler and Apple is like the relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party.

  2. Great post Ed! Apple never does anything wrong; iPhone maps suck but it is ok because they are just getting in the map business.

  3. The relationship between pundits like MG Siegler and Apple is like the relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party.

    Ha – I used that same analogy just recently after catching up on some episodes of The Daily Show. Siegler, Gruber, et al. are definitely the “Fox News” of the tech world.

  4. You can’t really fight trolling and link-baiting with facts. Siegler learned this act from Arrington, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, and it works. The best thing to do is to simply report the facts and move on.

    Operating system companies release updates a month or two after their new releases are “done.” Apple does it. Microsoft does it. Siegler is trying to create conflict to gain attention for himself. Society would be much better off ignoring people who do this.

  5. You have a point, but this type of reporting is not generally true for “pundits” who lie Apple, but you seem to be happily willing to push that stereotype, that’s my impression. I believe the commenters above are all immature. Are now two companies playing a role of parties? Is it ideological, if you prefer Apple over Microsoft? What a kindergarten…

  6. We see this sort of thing in the media far too often – unbalanced perspectives about one vendor or another due to the personal preference of the ‘journalist’. I understand it’s hard to be entirely objective all the time, but it would be great if Siegler and others at least tried to take a balanced view.

  7. It just goes to show that old school mentality (read: stupid) survives. Today software is “living” and updated continually. Yes, even days after it’s released. If a software package was NOT updated, I’d be more worried. Software has become too complex for it not to be continually managed and kept up with fixes and changes.

  8. This is why I ignore MG. It’s the very definition of link bait when you write something so shocking and provocatively wrong as to just gain traffic.

  9. I’m confused. Can’t we just be happy that BOTH companies are doing this? I’ve always held the fact that Apple continously patches their major OS updates to be both a very good sign of persistent care and polish, and a good reason to use the OS. I’m happy Microsoft show similar tendencies. That perspective is strangely absent from the above post, as it instead struggles to present Apple’s strategy as a drawback (similar though it is to Microsoft’s), probably to enter into polemic with the original blog post.

    (However, if THIS blog posts wants to be considered a serious rebuttal to the post that ignited the discussion, it needs to be curated of the slanted perspective. Most of Apple’s OS releases are exceptionally bug-free, by all standards. The minor patches deal with rare bugs, stuff that plagues few, and actually add features.)

  10. And I thought EVERYONE knew that you never do a major upgrade until the xx.1 revision is out, ever. And that goes for everything, even new shoes.

  11. The way I understand it is that an Apple Golden Master (GM) is equal to a Microsoft RTM version. Apple has in the past also released updated GM’s to their developer community.

    Also Apple has sent out e-mails to developers stating that the released GM is equal to the publicly released version, which implies that this isn’t always the case.

  12. You have a point, but the suggestion that this is an “Apple thing” is misleading and predictable. The truth is that (ludicrously) technology has become tribal. For every non-objective Apple fan, there is a Microsoft apologist or a Google fanboy. Every day I talk to people who think Microsoft can do no wrong and Apple can do no right (and vice-versa). It’s all a bit sad, but bloggers (like MG Siegler, and like you) know that this is how people think and what people want to read and react to. So, please resist the urge to sanctimony…..Microsoft’s fans are just as annoying as the Apple spinners.

  13. Very good post Ed.
    MG’s suggestion that servicing software is fixing past mistakes is ludicrous. Software update should always be welcomed.

  14. The point, which you seem to have either deliberately ignored or just plain missed, is that they are releasing the fix after they said it was ready, but before they shipped it. Now, you could argue that this simply means that they have been prompt about noticing issues and fixing them, but you could also ask what has changed between then and now.

    Personally I think that they have too many hardware partners for them to work to their own schedule; Apple has the freedom to release software when they like, Microsoft has to release when they say they will.

    This difference is a product of the very different models these companies use, but I think it’s fair to say that it potentially leaves Microsoft in a position where they have to ship software which they know is incomplete but simply don’t have time to fix.

    When Apple ships incomplete software it’s because they don’t yet know about the bugs, Microsoft may well ship software with known issues that they don’t have time to fix.

    MG is simply looking at this from the perspective of someone used to the Apple method, which no-one is denying also frequently involves shipping buggy code.

    Is this issue really worth getting excited over?

    1. @Sajato: “they are releasing the fix after they said it was ready, but before they shipped it.”

      No, you’re wrong. They “shipped it” on August 1. The current release is not a beta. It is final code. It is in the hands of paying customers today. It is not yet in the retail channel. Unlike Apple, Microsoft has a large number of customers who buy through Software Assurance and who evaluate the software through TechNet and MSDN.

      “you could also ask what has changed between then and now”

      What changed? IT WENT INTO THE HANDS OF OEM PARTNERS. As they integrate it with their hardware, and as enterprise and IT pro customers use it, they discover issues. These issues are fixed.

      “Microsoft has to release when they say they will.”

      Well, no. If that were true, Microsoft would have provided RTM dates last September, or in February, or in May, when they released preview versions of Windows 8. They didn’t. Huh.

      Modern software evolves. That is true of every single platform, without exception. The question is not that companies release updates, it’s how well they handle those releases.

  15. But your missing the point. In addition to being computing devices, Apple products are must have fashion accessories. Don’t leave home without one.

  16. My advice to Microsoft, shut up and ship something great. As much as many of the commenters here dislike Apple, it’s impossible to argue with Apple’s success. Sure, make whatever excuses you need to (it’s marketing, it’s fashion, Apple customers are sheep, etc, etc). None of that makes the actual success go away.

  17. The best thing about this article isn’t Ed’s grasp of the facts, which is impeccable, but reading the tortured logic and inaccuracies of the various Apple apologists that have shown up to comment. Example: “When Apple ships incomplete software it’s because they don’t yet know about the bugs”. WTF? Does the recent maps fiasco ring any bells? That aside, I see MS’s new found ability to turn around early customer feedback in time to incorporate into the retail release as a very positive development. Indeed from a competitive perspective MS would be well advised to move to more of a continous update and feature improvement model instead of the historical monolithic “once every three year” releases with subsequent [mostly bug fix] updates.

  18. One of the roles Siegler and Gruber play for Apple, as “freelance flacks”, is cheerleader — helping to keep those in the fold from straying by making alternatives look inferior. And as with all PR pros, their goal is to tell a story — not necessarily to convey facts.

  19. Ed, who cares about the blog, or view MG Siegler? MG’s comment is so stupid it is not even worth being read. No importance should be given to those who have not.

  20. Never mind what we are doing, it’s only bad if we can convince you that the other guy is doing it. Ignore facts and the truth, just keep repeating it over and over until the subject changes, then repeat.

    This is a commentary not just on Apple/MS, but society at large these days.

    Reference MSNBC and FoxNews for more on the technique, but it applies to all apologists on all sides.

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