Apple’s “Pathological” Approach to Customers

I think Lawrence Lessig puts his finger on it pretty well with this post about the problems with Apple’s “communication” strategy about bugs/feature removal in upgrades:

But the argument I want to advance here is different. It is that in the “hybrid economy” that the Internet is, there is an ethical obligation to treat users decently. “Decency” of course is complex, and multi-faceted. But the single dimension I want to talk about here is this: They must learn to talk to us. In the face of the slew of either bugs or “features” (because as you’ll see, it’s unclear in some cases whether Apple considers the change a problem at all), a decent company would at least acknowledge to the public the problems it identifies as problems, and indicate that they are working to fix it.

Why is that what decency requires? And why, then, is the pathologically constipated way in which Apple communicates with its customers indecent?

Because when you see the incredible effort that is being devoted to dealing with these either bugs or features, there is an obvious incredible waste of time and resources that Apple could avoid simply by saying what they know.

For many users, communication is one of the strongest arguments for open source.

The fact that the source is open may not make a lick of difference to people who aren’t good with code, and/or are uninterested in spending the time to maintain or add features, or fix bugs. But they can have a direct line of communication with the developers who are working on features. Maybe a project you’re using goes in a direction you don’t like (for example) but at least you see the “WONTFIX” in the bug tracker. With Apple? Who the heck knows?

Many of the freedoms that are important to open source/free software folks seem like abstractions to non-developers. Apple provides a really good object lesson that shows that there are concrete reasons, beyond just hacking the code, that users should prefer open source.