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User reports are a generally pretty accurate reflection of how well the release of a new piece of software has been handled, and if the reports are to be believed, Apple has handled the release of iSync 1.1 pretty badly. As Andy Orlowski correctly points out, Apple’s big problem is that it is pathologically afraid of beta testing its software with real people – or even, if what I hear is to believed, with its own mid-level employees. By comparison, virtually every major software release gets an extensive public beta release, which the company even usually manages to get people to pay for.
Consider this: Why did Apple clamp down on ThinkSecret’s coverage of iSync 1.1? Was it simply because they hadn’t told the phone industry about it? Or (more likely) is it because iSync is one of Steve Jobs’ pet projects, and Steve’s pets don’t get leaked?
Either way, it’s not a healthy way to go about developing software. Linux works because millions of people test early, test often by using the software in anger, and feeding back not only bug reports but fixes. Microsoft long ago learned the merit of eating its own dogfood internally, and has now extended this to its customers. This kind of collaboration between users and software vendors works.
Ironically, it’s a lesson that some parts of Apple seem to know all about. Take Safari: not only was this a far more successful release than iSync, it’s been in public beta for ages, and will only be a better browser because of it.

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  • http://www.plasticbag.org/archives/2003/06/on_tiny_interface_imperfections.shtml plasticbag.org

    On tiny interface imperfections…

    I don’t know whether it’s because I spend time working on user interfaces or whether it’s because I’m profoundly anal, but the smallest imperfections in consistency in a UI can drive me mad. Weirdly, the large ones don’t affect me…

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