Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dear Mr Bob Egan - about your iPhone4 assessment...

I do not accept the argument forwarded in a blog where a certain Mr Bob Egan defends the performance of the iPhone4 and critiques the Consumer Reports' assessment:

I dislike imagining being in the shoes of Mr Bob Egan - as he was annoyed enough to speak his mind without remembering to take in as full an engineering perspective as possible. Presuming he is an engineer and understands the practice of engineering.

Was he calculating on most of us not knowing what engineering analysis is, or perhaps counting on most of us practicing our unique analysis methodologies within our respective fields, and so would not see that his blog posting is flawed?

I would like to forward my proposal that he has calculated wrongly in his estimation of the composition of the population he was attempting to defraud. Most likely, he was not attempting to defraud anyone, but he does not possess the technical integrity to comprehend that the term "engineering grade" has a rather wide spectrum of implications and preferences of implementation.

Using vague terminology such as "scientific" or "engineering" grade - those are very attention catching phrases which he managed to use to implicate how bad the tests were done and how unworthy they are of professional consideration.

Mr Bob Egan, I think you are wrong. But, honestly, I am not sure. In other words, I don't trust your comprehension of engineering practice.

I have done quite some signal analysis myself and even wrote programs to generate and test responses to those signals. But, honestly, I am still struggling to figure out some of those things I did.

What you must be thinking is to conduct the experiments in a way where the parametrics could be easily isolated, that the team did not decouple spurious effects (or what some people who design experiments call noise decoupling). May be they made a mistake of presuming linearity. It may be they deliberately made that simplification - after all, Consumer Reports is not a scientific or engineering journal but a consumer magazine which illustrates their product assessments in ways the general consumer could understand.

Of course, you could fire back and say - that is the trouble, they have oversimplified the experiments as an inaccurate portrayal of the issues to credulous consumers (or to whom some people of your calibre would silently condescend as technological muggles). But, that is not the issue.

Regardless of the amount and exhaustiveness of tests and experiments a technically competent team has performed to solidly justify the performance of a product, there are always the final gates of consumer-simulation burn-in and buy-in. A technologically oblivious group of people uses your product who more often than not manages to squeeze out bugs we never expected. Mr Bob Egan, you must be better than not to know or not to have experienced that.

When the results of the failure come out, do we complain that the technically oblivious consumer-simulation has mixed up all the parameters and their experiments not being designed with engineering grade parametrically isolatable permutations and combinations?

What the Consumer Reports team has done, I suspect, is having successfully achieved an assessment that the iPhone4 will fail consumer expectations terribly. You should admit that - that the iPhone4 is no good in the hands of the consumer. Period, full-stop.

I suspect Mr Bob Egan is an artefact left over from 1980's American engineering practice where we lost out to the Japanese due to poor understanding of what quality engineering is all about. The problem does not afflict every unit, so it must not be the product's fault. Quality engineering, Mr Bob Egan, includes treating field conditions and consumer habits - you should woogle and google on it. Perhaps, he is the usual manager-type for a respectably large company and possesses cursory knowledge of what which equipment does but actually delegates all the hand-dirtying work of working and programming the equipment to less venerable souls like myself.

Perhaps, he is akin to a Tea Party activist yelling all the right words. I, on the other hand, would accept the honour to be perceived as an Apple Cider Party activist. Tea Party is a cursory expression of what happened in Boston that day. The actual underlying activity was the Apple Cider Party that happened afterwards which then became the actual catalyst to the American Revolution. The American rebels threw all the tea overboard but brought home all the apple cider over which they discussed revolutionary plans. Tea partying only addressed the apparent issues, whereas apple cider partying addresses the underlying and more potent core issues. 

Well, what do I know!