The phrase "Everything just works with a Mac" is a tag Apple has been repeating for a long time to argue that its products are superior to competitors like Microsoft. But judging by recent events, Apple might want to reconsider revising its mantra to something like, "everything mostly works with a Mac." The thing is, you could also say, "everything mostly works with Windows."
Consider, for example, Apple's recent release of Snow Leopard, the latest upgrade to its acclaimed OS X operating system. Apple was careful to point out that Snow Leopard was about making improvements under the hood for OS X, such as optimizing the software to take advantage of dual core processors. There were to be no major interface changes, and very few new features added that users would notice. In the end, Apple was true to its word, and Snow Leopard consisted of nothing more for the end user than a tweaked QuickTime interface, some improvements to the OS X Dock and Exposé, and a smaller hard drive footprint.
But for a release that was supposed to be largely about system improvements, Snow Leopard sure came loaded with significant problems. Complaints after Snow Leopard installs included compatibility problems with peripheral devices, devices stuck with Mac's equivalent of the blue screen -- the spinning pinwheel of death, application incompatibility, and problems with the Cisco VPN.
On Thursday, about two weeks after Snow Leopard's initial launch, Apple released Snow Leopard update 10.6.1 in an attempt to solve some of these compatibility issues. Previous updates to new versions of OS X were released along a similar timeframe.
iPhone OS 3.1
Then there's the iPhone OS 3.1 that was also released on Thursday. The first update to the iPhone OS included another range of complaints including battery life problems, random shutdowns, and issues with the iPod function. But the most significant reported problem came from iPhone 3G owners, who complained they could no longer sync their e-mail with Microsoft Exchange servers. The problem has been traced to the fact that the iPhone never officially supported the Microsoft Exchange encryption standard, but Apple changed that policy with iPhone OS 3.1. But now some iPhone 3G owners are stuck without remote access to their exchange e-mail until Apple releases a fix for the problem.
No, Apple is not the other guy
Now, I don't want to fall into the trap of trying to argue that Apple is turning into Microsoft. That's been done before, and we all know it's not true. But we also know that Apple's software, just like Microsoft's, has problems, and, just like Redmond, Cupertino needs to issue software updates to fix these problems.
For Apple, though, these problems are becoming more common. Don't get me wrong; Microsoft has had just as many, if not more, software issues, especially when it comes to security issues. But then again, every year there are more reports about OS X vulnerabilities. As Apple's market share grows, it's only a matter of time before Macs get plagued with a major security issue.
Let's face it: Apple makes great-looking, easy-to-use stuff, but, at its heart, it really is just another software company with products vulnerable to incompatibility issues and security issues. Just like the other guys.
When Ian Paul is not typing out blogs on his MacBook, you can connect with him on Twitter (@ianpaul).