Elon Musk uses iPhone email bug to illustrate the importance of software innovation

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Elon Musk claimed that one of Apple's recent iPhone updates had broken his email system during an on-stage interview at Satellite 2020, and has used it to demonstrate how properly functioning software is crucial to everyday life.

Musk during an on-stage interview at Satellite 2020
Musk during an on-stage interview at Satellite 2020


Elon Musk has used Apple's iPhone as an example as to why companies should recruit fresh talent to solve software-related issues. He claimed that the companies' recent updates have been less than reliable and that they had broken his email system.





"What I was referring to is that technology does not automatically improve," Musk said, according to Business Insider. "People are used to the phone being better every year. I'm an iPhone user, but I think some of the recent software updates have like been not great, certainly feeding into that point. It, like, broke my email system... which is quite fundamental."

iOS 13 was buggy at launch, which was hardly a surprise. One bug included an issue in Mail that would replace the name of whoever sent a message with the words "No Sender." Another caused AirDrop to work only sporadically.

It's not unusual for software bugs to pop up in software as it's released. Often, it takes a large number of people using the same software all at once for bugs to surface in the first place.

Musk's point wasn't that Apple is uniquely bad for releasing buggy software, but that companies in general often suffer from a lack of fresh blood. He claims that software decays over time, and will need to be actively maintained and improved by smart, innovative thinkers.

"There sure is a lot of software out there," Musk said. "And some of it's like, the people who wrote it are retired -- or maybe dead. It's gonna be an issue."

By recruiting new talent, the tech industry might be able to solve software-related issues before general release. They also may be able to help retire old code bases in favor of creating newer, more stable ones.

Still, Musk has been known to take potshots at Apple in the past. In 2015, he claimed that Apple was where former employees go if they "don't make it" at Tesla.

"They have hired people we've fired," Musk said. "We always jokingly call Apple the 'Tesla Graveyard.' If you don't make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I'm not kidding."
FlaSheridn
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 78
    ROTFLMAO WAI
    razorpit
  • Reply 2 of 78
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 930member
    Lol. His so-called “autopilot” software kills people. Glass house much?
    mdriftmeyercgWerksd_2yojimbo007tmaybloggerbloghydrogenredgeminiparazorpitStrangeDays
  • Reply 3 of 78
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,088member
    I admire what Musk does.  He's a rockstar in my book... but whatever Musk.  Maybe it's "fresh blood" engineers that are breaking the software?  Maybe it's not iOS that was buggy, but maybe identified a problem with Musk's email system?  Lot's of assumptions being made here.

    Fresh blood is necessary in every industry.  Experience, especially of those that have been in the industry a while is even more preferred as far as I'm concerned. 
    seanjpscooter63yojimbo007redgeminiparazorpitStrangeDaysjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 78
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,503member
    sflocal said:
    I admire what Musk does.  He's a rockstar in my book... but whatever Musk.  Maybe it's "fresh blood" engineers that are breaking the software?  Maybe it's not iOS that was buggy, but maybe identified a problem with Musk's email system?  Lot's of assumptions being made here.

    Fresh blood is necessary in every industry.  Experience, especially of those that have been in the industry a while is even more preferred as far as I'm concerned. 

    He's an overrated ass hat.
    cgWerksd_2tmayArloTimetravelerStrangeDaysjony0SpamSandwichwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 78
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    JFC_PA said:
    Lol. His so-called “autopilot” software kills people. Glass house much?
    You beat me to it. :)

    While I'd rather have better Apple and Tesla software, I'll take the one that disrupts my email over running me into sides of semis, freeway barriers, or crashing into other people, killing them.
    redgeminiparazorpitStrangeDaysjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 78
    Apple sure broke cookie blocking. The iOS around 8 worked prefectly. Absolutely cannot block 3rd party cookies anymore even with block all and donot track. 
    Still better than the alternative. 
    FlaSheridn
  • Reply 7 of 78
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,652member
    Apple has had more problems with software in recent releases.  Some years back, I never had an issue with apps that stopped working and while there were some bugs, I never noticed them.   Now, even security updates break things.

    I don't think it necessarily has anything to do with not recruiting "fresh blood".   I think it's that Apple's testing is not as rigorous as it once was, that Apple doesn't care if they break older software and that Apple has become too large to effectively manage.  

    Back in the day, Apple would test every message presented to an end-user.   I remember an example which I think was in the old Apple User Interface Guidelines from the Apple II days where they needed to know whether the user had a color monitor or not and it took something like seven different versions of the question before all end-users answered it correctly.   But today, Apple's messaging is as bad and cryptic as Microsoft's.  

    I'm still on Mojave because I'm using too many 32-bit apps.   It's not that I'm too cheap to buy new apps, it's that I don't want subscriptions.  But I bet within a year, I'm not going to have much choice, but to update.  At some point, Apple will stop supplying security updates for Mojave. 
    cgWerksFlaSheridnrazorpitviclauyycDogperson
  • Reply 8 of 78
    WgkruegerWgkrueger Posts: 352member
    I like Elon’s vision. It’s far reaching and hopes to improve humankind’s prospects.
    viclauyycDogpersonminicoffee
  • Reply 9 of 78
    vvk1vvk1 Posts: 11member
    JFC_PA said:
    Lol. His so-called “autopilot” software kills people. Glass house much?
    You are misinformed by the media. Tesla Autopilot saves far more people every day than it "kills people." The media puts a spin on it to sell news.
    edited March 2020 yuck9viclauyycchemengin1Dogpersondigitoljony0
  • Reply 10 of 78
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,272member
    All software seems to follow a common lifecycle model over time. As more bugs are addressed by more and more developers who were not part of the original design team it starts to accumulate a lot of cruft and quick fixes and workarounds to meet release deadlines. This accumulation of cruft, crud, and crappy shortsighted quick fixes is collectively known as “technical debt” because the current software team has literally taken out a bad loan to buy a bunch of shitty workarounds that some future team of maintenance developers is going to have to pay for, and pay for at loan shark interest rates.

    When developers occasionally grow a little piece of spine they get up in front of management and talk poignantly about the dire need to pay down some of their technical debt, perhaps using “refactoring” or redesign, or god forbid, rearchitecting of the current code base. At some point in the spiel the management team challenges them with something to the effect of “so you’re saying you want us to spend a bunch of man-years of development resources, a boatload of money, and so many millions of dollars, and so many months of schedule to give us a refreshed code base that does pretty much what the old code  does, but without the hanging chads and dingleberries?”  At that point the little piece of developer spine turns to jelly with a “well yeah, pretty much.” So much for grandiose plans. The end result is that not only is the trash can of technical debt kicked further down the road, but the development team is tasked with adding a bunch of new money-making features on top of the shaky foundation that is like a rickety bridge waiting to collapse. Of course the new features introduce more technical debt and have to work around the shortcomings caused by the underlying technical debt. 

    It’s rather easy for a startup like Tesla to feel emboldened by their software prowess because they haven’t had time and customer volume enough to suffer the indignities that accumulate over time when you’re serving a billion customers around the world and have the second and third generation removed teams poking into a business-critical code base that is handed down to them, a code base that is tied to business revenue that has to keep flowing no matter what. Designing new software is usually fun and rewarding. Maintaining existing software is usually a grind and a thankless struggle. Technical debt is like a slow growing cancer, but as long as the supply of band-aids, duct tape, and baling wire is cheaper in the short term than excising the tumors they’ll keep adding on more layers of bandages until they are forced to blow it all up and start over again. Or maybe buy a bunch of software and people through an acquisition.        
    pscooter63radarthekathydrogenFlaSheridnjdb8167spice-boysirbryaninTIMidatorStrangeDaysFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 11 of 78
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member

    Musk's point wasn't that Apple is uniquely bad for releasing buggy software, but that companies in general often suffer from a lack of fresh blood.

    But that's not how the tech media will report on it. "Elon Musk says Apple software sucks" will be the blaring headlines, not that he was speaking about the industry in general. 
    Dogperson
  • Reply 12 of 78
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 1,066member
    Wgkrueger said:
    I like Elon’s vision. It’s far reaching and hopes to improve humankind’s prospects.
    /s

    (There...fixed it. You’re welcome.)
  • Reply 13 of 78
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    zoetmb said:
    I don't think it necessarily has anything to do with not recruiting "fresh blood".   I think it's that Apple's testing is not as rigorous as it once was, that Apple doesn't care if they break older software and that Apple has become too large to effectively manage.
    I actually think it might be too much 'fresh blood' in that they've probably had to hire a bunch of new people who haven't learned how Apple used to operate or brought in bad habits from the old places they previously worked.
    And, on the bigger picture, their stuff just isn't as well though out anymore, even when it does work.

    vvk1 said:
    You are misinformed by the media. Tesla Autopilot saves far more people every day than it "kills people." The media puts a spin on it to sell news.
    Just the opposite. The media, politicians, etc. seem mostly all in on 'artificial intelligence' and have a completely overblown view of how it works and what it is capable of (even in theory, let alone the reality of the situation).

    Humans have about 1 fatality in 100M miles driven on average. And, that includes (and is probably mostly due to) driving under the influence of various drugs, distracted driving, etc. Tesla is already up to what? 8 to 10 fatalities (I'm starting to lose count), in how many miles 'driven'?

    But, that's besides the point. This isn't about safety, but $$$. The push is to get automated taxis, transport, etc. If the push were for safety, then we have a lot of ways we could solve that problem with human drivers. Safety is the marketing angle.
    tmaymuthuk_vanalingamFlaSheridnspice-boyrazorpitDogpersonFileMakerFellermaltz
  • Reply 14 of 78
    Apple just needs to purchase a well crafted email software startup...
    DropBox had a mail client but refused to sell to Apple.

    Readdle Spark or AirMail are ideas for acquisitions.

    I hope Apple can make an acquisition that can eventually replace all the Cloud Services in iCloud.


    edited March 2020
  • Reply 15 of 78
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,823moderator
    Referencing Apple as an example of poor quality is dumb.
    leavingthebigghydrogenrazorpitStrangeDaysDogperson
  • Reply 16 of 78
    rain22rain22 Posts: 132member
    JFC_PA said:
    Lol. His so-called “autopilot” software kills people. Glass house much?
    Nice ad-hom attack. (durrrr)
    Even thou it may be ironic - it doesn't excuse Apple for their total abysmal record of late – which is what this article is about. 
    Apple's record on software updates is now a punchline.
    Shareholders should be demanding a little less focus on hundreds of billions in buy-backs, and a little more on investment in simple software common sense. 
    spice-boy
  • Reply 17 of 78
    tmaytmay Posts: 6,245member
    vvk1 said:
    JFC_PA said:
    Lol. His so-called “autopilot” software kills people. Glass house much?
    You are misinformed by the media. Tesla Autopilot saves far more people every day than it "kills people." The media puts a spin on it to sell news.
    Really? Then why is Tesla's death rate per 100,000 miles higher that ICE vehicles?

    https://phys.org/news/2018-05-fact-tesla-safety.html

    https://medium.com/@MidwesternHedgi/teslas-driver-fatality-rate-is-more-than-triple-that-of-luxury-cars-and-likely-even-higher-433670ddde17

    As per usual, Elon is blowing smoke up your ass.
    razorpit
  • Reply 18 of 78
    sjworldsjworld Posts: 94member
    JFC_PA said:
    Lol. His so-called “autopilot” software kills people. Glass house much?
    Tesla’s Autopilot is an extremely complex software to code, as compared to a basic ass email app that shouldn’t be having issues since it’s been in their iPhones since forever.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 78
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    Referencing Apple as an example of poor quality is dumb.
    It’s the phone he uses and has personal experience with.  Referencing Android and not being a user would be a bit odd.

    Apple did go through a period where they prioritized new features over stability.  Version 13 was actually much better, but obviously not bug free (which is impossible).

    I mostly disagree with Musk.  Hiring new talent will boost innovation, but it has nothing to do with QC and squashing bugs before software gets released.  I think what he’s getting at, is eventually patching software no longer works and a rewrite is needed.  The problem is that doesn’t fit his example very well.
    muthuk_vanalingamgatorguyDogpersonFileMakerFellercgWerks
  • Reply 20 of 78
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,455member
    rain22 said:
    JFC_PA said:
    Lol. His so-called “autopilot” software kills people. Glass house much?
    ...it doesn't excuse Apple for their total abysmal record of late – which is what this article is about.
    Um no it’s not, and no it’s not. 
    StrangeDays
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