I'm not afraid to admit when I'm wrong. 

Last week I wrote about macOS Catalina, the latest version of Apple's desktop operating system, and suggested that you should upgrade now because it offers some really useful features. I've been using it for a few months, and haven't had any problems beyond what you might expect with any beta software release. Plus, I stand behind my assessment that it's a worthwhile upgrade overall, but the situation is a little more complicated.

Many users are having real problems, not because of bugs, but because of  actual changes in the way the system works. For example, 32-bit applications like Apple's Aperture, simply no longer work. They're gone. If you're a photographer, you probably moved on to Lightroom a long time ago, except--oops, Adobe says Lightroom doesn't really work right now either. 

Apple also killed iTunes (which was admittedly long overdue), but in doing so, it broke the method that third-party apps can access your music library. That might not seem like a big deal if you're using Apple Music, but if you're a DJ, or use another music app, you might be out of luck.

When iOS 13 came out, many people and organizations, including the Department of Defense, advised that users wait until 13.1 was available to upgrade. That was because there were a series of known issues, including one that could allow someone to bypass FaceID.

By the way, these are real issues, but honestly, they aren't the real problem. The real problem isn't that iOS 13 was buggy, or that macOS Catalina will kill your 32-bit applications.

The real problem is that Apple has built its entire brand on the idea that everything just works. iCloud seamlessly syncs everything behind the scenes. Your photos automatically sync across all of your devices. You can start an email on your iPhone and continue composing it on your mac using Handoff. I can click an icon on my MacBook Pro and extend my desktop onto my iPad using Sidecar.

I can copy text on my Mac and simply press 'paste' and it appears on my iPad. I don't know how any of those things work, but they just do. Sure, you can piece together a somewhat similar experience on Android or a PC, but none of it 'just works' the way it does on a Mac. 

When things stop working, it's a problem for any software company, but it's especially a problem for Apple. Delivering products and software that just work, without having to figure out countless settings, or third-party applications has always been part of what makes a Mac or an iPhone worth the premium you pay for it.

Neither iOS 13 nor macOS Catalina 'just work.' For many users it's just the opposite: their bugs are making it very hard to work. Fortunately for iPhone users, iOS 13.1 is already available and the update fixes many of the bugs and problems of the previous version. For Mac users, however, there's no going back to 32-bit or XML files.

If you haven't already upgraded to macOS Catalina, you might want to wait, and evaluate which apps you currently use that won't be available after you update. At least then you can decide whether you should hold off until 64-bit alternatives are available, or skip this update completely, which may not be a great long-term strategy.

It also raises the question, why didn't either of these releases 'just work?' Or, more importantly, why did Apple release software to run their devices with so many issues, leading to such a lousy user experience? 

If your brand is based on delivering the very best user experience, there can be no margin for error. Anything less than the best is a failure to live up to your brand promise. Which, for a company like Apple, is everything. It's fair to ask whether this is just a bump in the road for the world's largest product design company, or if it's a sign of deeper issues.

I have no idea, but when it no longer 'just works,' that's a problem.

Published on: Oct 11, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.