Posts Tagged 'apple'

The app hell of the future

Just over 5-years ago, in April 2011, I wrote this post after having a fairly interesting exchange with my then boss, Michael Dell, and George Conoly, co-founder and CEO of Forrester Research. I’m guessing in the long term, the disagreement, and semi-public dissension shut some doors in front of me.

Fast forward 5-years, and we are getting the equivalent of a do-over as the Internet of Things and “bots” become the next big thing. This arrived in my email the other day:

This year, MobileBeat is diving deep into the new paradigm that’s rocking the mobile world. It’s the big shift away from our love affair with apps to AI, messaging, and bots – and is poised to transform the mobile ecosystem.

Yes, it’s the emperor’s new clothes of software over again. Marketing lead software always does this, over imagines what’s possible, under estimates the issues with building in and then the fast fail product methodology kicks-in. So, bots will be the next bloatware, becoming a security attack front. Too much code, forced-fit into micro-controllers. The ecosystem driven solely by the need to make money. Instead of tiny pieces of firmware that have a single job, wax-on, wax-off, they will become dumping ground for lots of short-term fixes, that never go away.

Screenshot_20160524-113359Meanwhile, the app hell of today continues. My phone apps update all the time, mostly with no noticeable new function; I’m required to register with loads of different “app stores” each one a walled garden with few published rules, no oversight, and little transparency. The only real source of trusted apps is github and the like where you can at least scan the source code.IMG_20160504_074211

IMG_20160504_081201When these apps update, it doesn’t always go well. See this picture of my Garmin Fenix 3, a classic walled garden, my phone starts to update at 8:10 a.m., and when it’s done, my watch says it’s now 7:11 a.m.

IMG_20160111_074518Over on my Samsung Smart TV, I switch it from monitor to Smart TV mode and get this… it never ends. Nothing resolves it accept disconnecting the power supply. It recovered OK but this is hardly a good user experience.

Yeah, I have a lot of smart home stuff,  but little or none of it is immune to the app upgrade death spiral; each app upgrade taking the device nearer to obsolescence because there isn’t enough memory, storage or the processor isn’t fast enough to include the bloated functions marketing thinks it needs.

If the IoT and message bots are really the future, then software engineers need to stand up and be counted. Design small, tight reentrant code. Document the interfaces, publish the source and instead of continuously being pushed to deliver more and more function, push back, software has got to become engineering and not a form of story telling.

YesToUninstallAnUpdate[1]

Repair, Refurbish or redesign?

I posted this as a response to some of the very short sighted comments and rant going on over on PoguesPosts, the latest in Technology from NY Times reporter/columnist David Pogue. The topic was about replacing a broken screen on an iPhone and the $245 cost.

Universally though both David and all 108 posters before me seemed to completely miss is the opportunity to do things better, not to gripe about Apples costs, or the poor or otherwise design of the iPhone. So, here’s my take on it.

“I think the point is that we and the companies that we buy from, HAVE to start being much more responsible with our electronic goods from the point of design.

Is it unreasonable to expect the designers of one of the best gadgets in the last few years to think about how they are serviced, refurbished and disposed of, I think not.

We simply can’t go on forever buying stuff and dumping the old, unwanted broken stuff without regard. The designers have their part to play in this, as do the companies that sell us stuff. Why didn’t the designers expect to see a reasonable amount of broken screens? Why isn’t there a reasonably priced refurbishment program that replaces the outer case, scratched glass etc.

This is an important challenge and one we all need to rise to. It is simply not good enough to just keep dumping old electronic devices with no regard to where the raw materials, components for the next one come from, and where the waste goes from the last one.

Shame on Apple for not making it easier to replace a broken screen, shame on Apple for not providing a more cost effective repair service.”

{Edit: What really made me think of reposting this was because when I read the posted version(uneditable) I realised I’d missed a vital NO in “no regard” in the 2nd from last paragraph.}


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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