On a recent episode of John Gruber’s The Talk Show podcast, Apple executives Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi chewed the fat on everything from the difficulties associated with trying to satisfy hundreds of millions of customers to their own roles within Apple’s in-house product testing regime.
The latter topic included a fascinating account of Cue’s seemingly unwavering devotion to testing the company’s products himself.
Before heading off on a business venture, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services (how wide must his business card be?) decided to install a pre-release version of OS X on his iMac when he “ran into a problem that I knew would be very difficult to recreate”. What the ‘problem’ was is anyone’s guess, but what he did next suggests it was likely rather more than a beach-balling Safari crash.
“I called Craig up, and I said here’s the problem that I’ve got… I want you guys to kinda look at this because I think this is kind of weird – I don’t think it’s gonna be easy to recreate.” And, with that, he threw his computer into his car (I’m not convinced you’d squeeze an iMac into the passenger seat of a Ferrari, so we’ll assume he took the ‘Baby on Board’-adorned people carrier on this occasion) and headed over to Federighi’s house. Obviously. Federighi’s in charge of software engineering, so he’s probably the best guy for the job. Even if it is 7.30pm and both of these guys have got literally thousands of people below them who are probably rather more suited to such dirty work.
I believe this story because A) I’m a bit gullible and, B) I do think it’s true. And how refreshing it is. When wearing my other hat, I’m a director of a software company which is a gnat’s hair width the size of Apple’s and I join my fellow directors in rigorously testing our own software. If I find something wrong, I take it to heart and want it fixing there and then. But a company the size of Apple’s? Surely the top guys and girls at One Infinite Loop are far too busy counting their shares and partying with Dr Dre to get involved with such flim-flam? No? Seemingly not.
Tales such as Eddy’s give me hope – hope that the alarming rate at which Apple’s products and services are growing will be properly dealt with before it’s too late. They’re in danger of overcomplicating both their product lineup and the software embedded within their devices, but if their execs really are this serious about everything they churn out from their ivory towers in Cupertino, they too must feel nervous about what is rapidly becoming a galloping, runaway steed of a voluminous iPad line-up, more Macs than you can shake a confused customer at and a roster of what feels like half-finished operating systems and neglected legacy apps.
Maybe all is not lost.