If you’re a fan of Apple hardware, like me, then you won’t fail to miss headlines recently like these, which followed the WWDC 2016 keynote speech and the release of the various OS betas:
- 50 new iOS 10 features!
- macOS Sierra: Siri in-depth
- Watch OS 3.0 fixes all your Apple Watch issues
You might even see people wailing on forums or Reddit about bugs in the OS betas, and requesting help for ways of getting around them.
It’s all wasted words, filling the internet with cruft that’ll be useless in a few months. These are beta releases, not final releases. Nowhere near. Features might disappear, or end-up being radically different. This has certainly happened in the past with Apple’s OS betas.
There’s a geeky interest for people like me in plotting such changes, but for blogs and news outlets to authoritatively discuss what’s “new” is utter nonsense at best, and deceitful at worst for those users whose knowledge is shaky as to what a beta release actually is. Postings like these also deflate the actual experience of using the main release when it arrives in the Fall – which is when most us will WANT articles like the above!
Apple requests in the beta EULA that people don’t publicize the software but this is massively and widely flouted, seemingly with zero consequence. Copies of the betas were being passed around on sites like Reddit literally within minutes of the keynote announcement ending. Indeed, I suspect there are more people using pirated versions of the beta OS releases than there are actual developers – and many of them are expecting an authentic Apple experience, rather than a sub-par beta. Surely this can’t be good for Apple’s overall image?
Apple was once legendarily secretive with its beta releases, of course. I recall asking people on anonymous forums about what they knew, and even then they were too scared to reveal anything (eventually I bought my own developer membership to gain access for the books I was writing at the time).
Now it feels the pendulum has swung massively the other way. I doubt Apple’s unaware of this kind of publicity and it may well be part of Apple’s grand marketing plan to build anticipation for their hardware, which is where the money is. However, it’s having the effect of turning all Apple’s major software releases into damp squibs, and outright confusing millions of ordinary users who don’t follow these things so closely (“So is the update actually available, or what?”) Rather than building excitement, all these unpoliced beta releases are doing is dissipating enjoyment.
Apple needs to be a little more in control of the publicity machine – and who’d‘ve thought anybody would ever say that?! Personally, I’d like to see a controlled number of articles from authoritative sources, such as Ars Technica or The Loop, where Apple affords permission to break the licensing agreement. Outside of that, I don’t want to see anything – especially on cheap and sketchy blogs or YouTube channels. In any case the news sources and blogs that are running frankly deceitful features ought to preface each in very heavy type pointing out that theirs is a look at a beta, and not a final release – more of a gaze into a crystal ball than a conclusive review of software. But do you know what? I don’t think that’s going to happen because that might drive away readers.
And whenever I see a user griping about a bug they’ve found in an iOS or macOS beta, I try to point out that it’s not on a public forum they should be complaining, but Apple’s bug reporting system. That’s the whole damned point of a beta release – it’s a deal between you, the user, and the developer of the app! But, don’t you know, I get nowhere.
You might disagree with me about all of the above but I hope if nothing else that people will start debating this issue and that maybe Apple has a think about how they’re handling the beta releases. At the moment it feels a lot like everything is out of control – and that’s leading to the user experience and fun being seriously diluted.