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by adam mathes
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The Pinging Makes My Ears Bleed: Apple Succumbs to Synergy

Last week, after the first Apple keynote to be live webcasted without a hitch we were quickly reminded that while we may live in the future with live video on our magical, revolutionary devices, that future still has client software.

The boring, downloadable, late to arrive kind of client software.

In a bizarrely anti-Steve crack in the anal-retentive attention to detail expected from Apple launches, the launch of iTunes 10 that was promised was conspicuously absent from the web as people clicked through from iTunes.com and were confusingly offered iTunes 9 instead.

When the update finally came that night and we were all ready to try out this latest incarnation of SixDegrees - become life partners with Lady Gaga and Linkin Park today! right now! in your iTunes! - it became clear that Ping was a dud.

It’s not just that Ping is a feature-deficient version of its older and less old predecessors. Sure, it is - but Apple has found astonishing success by releasing products that pundits said were just feature deficient versions of other products.

And it’s not that the expected Facebook integration that was promised was oddly removed due to unspecified “onerous terms.” (That Facebook, a company that spent years violating every major webmail’s terms of service by scraping email and spamming people, can find the cognitive dissonance to shut off competing networks from accessing its data helps to solidify their increasing claim to the title of biggest asshole tech company run by a Harvard drop-out.)

No, the true tragedy of Ping is it reeks of the same stench from overly integrated products from other bloated software companies.

None of the above

Software products usually face the following unbalanced tripod of tradeoffs -

  1. Product quality
  2. Time to market
  3. Integration with existing products

In the vast majority of cases you get none of the above - crappy, standalone software that is delivered off schedule.

In some rare cases, you get one of the three.

In some extraordinary circumstances you might get two, but you never actually get all of them.

Integrated on a schedule? Your product will suck. Want to release something decent on schedule? Do not spend hours in meetings with that giant 500 engineer “successful” team. Want to release something decent and integrated? I’ll see you in 3-5 years after the industry has zoomed past you and nobody cares.

Auteur software developers with no frantic managers yelling at them? Optimized for quality.

A startup with limited funding and no strategy tax but without the wisdom or taste to realize when things are crappy? Optimized for time to market.

A giant company with a monopoly-level share in operating systems/search queries/social networks? Over time, they can’t help but to optimize forsynergy.”

And that’s what’s so sad about Ping.

Ping is exactly the sort of third-rate bullshit product with “tight” integration at the expense of everything else, including common sense.

Who needs quality when you have synergy?

Look, I expect this sort of bullshit from other companies. After you release Knol or like every other feature in Windows for the past 15 years a certain expectation for crappiness sets in.

Why can I only “follow” Lady Gaga and a few other featured “artists” I don’t care about? How hard would it be to just one click follow any artist and add their newly released albums to an activity stream instead of these artist-as-brand “updates?” That might actually be useful in instead of creating another platform for obnoxious musicians to remind us how they are the genius voice of a generation.

Why do my profile photos have to be “approved?”

Why is the activity limited to commercial purchases rather than listening habits?

What happened to the world where my music streamed to any device?

These updates are terrible and there’s no “next page” functionality!

Social is a Feature, But Only If You’re a Middle Manager

I expect Art from Steve. That’s why I spend thousands of dollars on this stuff. To be a part of this giant performance commercial art piece filled with glass, chrome, and our technicolor future.

So I expect when someone proposes putting a half-assed, shitty social network into iTunes Steve says “no” or “not until it’s insanely great” or “I hope pretending to sprinkle magical social pixie dust into software means you’re Tinkerbell because I’m about to throw you out this fucking window.”

All that’s left now is to switch back to Winamp 2.95.

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