Rotten Apple: Why all the buggy iOS updates?

Ordinarily, when life is throwing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune my way, I’m right in the line of fire with a target on my chest.

But maybe my luck is changing. In the past few months, I’ve dodged not one, but two bullets — both times because I neglected to upgrade the operating systems on a couple of Apple Inc. products.

In October, I spaced off doing an upgrade on my iPhone 5. As a result, I missed out on an iOS 8.0.1 bug that essentially blocked users’ ability to make calls.

Then, within the last few weeks, I blew off upgrading the OS X on my desktop Mac to Apple’s latest and greatest operating software, dubbed Yosemite.

I’m still shaking my head at how laziness saved my bacon on that one. Among some of the bugs users have reported, by one account, were problems with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mail, notifications, graphics, crashes, the web browser Safari and a program called Handoff, which supposedly makes the desktop version of OS X play nice with Apple’s latest operating system for wireless devices.

“When I installed the new (Yosemite) operating system … my computer acted like I’d just tried to choke it to death,” reports another writer. “It gagged and seemed ready to barf.”

Apple: Make testing your priority – now

When I ranted about my iPhone non-upgrade in October, I noted a Bloomberg report that pointed out a pair of issues in Apple’s testing process.

One was differing priorities among various factions of Apple on questions of testing for and fixing bugs. One Apple committee, called the Bug Review Board, sometimes sees engineers arguing for more time to fix issues, while product managers push to meet deadlines, Bloomberg noted.

Turf battles are also appearing, resulting in problems such as software updates failing to get as much testing if they are geared for the latest handsets, according to Bloomberg.

Regardless of what the problem or problems are, Apple needs to take a serious look at its testing process pronto.

Apple has always sold itself in large part on its ability to avoid the types of buggy software like Yosemite turned out to be. Remember their slogan, “It just works”?

That is starting to seem like a joke now –- one that the old Microsoft Corp. would tell.

Microsoft, of course, was renowned for decades for pushing out software to meet release deadlines, and then fixing the bugs later. That was all well and good while the company was the world’s most valuable business on Wall Street.

But after Microsoft’s market started flatlining following the dot.com crash, the question of buggy software became a bigger deal up in Redmond, Wash. While some observers believe Microsoft has largely dealt with the problem, the company’s brand was tarnished long ago – and remains that way in the eyes of many customers.

Now Apple seems to be in the same position that Microsoft was in the 2000 time frame. With a market value of roughly $670 billion — more than the entire Russian stock market — Apple is the king of computing.

And, like Microsoft did years ago, Apple seems to be putting aggressive software release dates ahead of testing.

And that’s a shame. What Apple may be forgetting is that a brand is like a white T-shirt. Once it gets soiled, the stain never comes out.

Freelance writer Jeff Bounds covers technology from Dallas.