Guest blogger, Tom Henderson, is a regular contributor at IT World, An Open Exchange. Tom blogs at http://www.itworld.com/blog/5506.
I’m tired of the closed system. I’m tired of the capitulation to the Hollywood moguls. I’m tired of Apple’s nyet-policy. Apple: eat dirt.
The 1984 images worked for a long time. I tend to identify with iconoclasts. I’m also a tool user. For better and worse, I use computers for a living. In my garage is a huge cabinet with automotive/motorcycle and homeowner tools, but I don’t make my living with them.
In 1981, I sold pallets of Apple IIs. You started them with the ignoble and unintelligible sequence: PR#6. Apple IIIs did me in. I didn’t revisit Apple much until I stopped believing in Windows. I was tired of scraping systems clean of viruses, and educating people on how to do what ought to be simple things that Microsoft hid behind their retirement plan of an operating system.
Yes, the Mac “just worked”. It had but a single mouse button. Linux was nice, but open source peripheral drivers were an anathema to peripheral makers, who believed that drivers were their secret sauce. Counterintuitively, they were right. So I ventured into Macs because I needed a reliable machine. They were hideously expensive and used a ‘screw-you-Intel’ CPU, the G3/G4/G5 PowerPC chip.
They were lovely. Around the same time, the iPod was born, and while comparatively primitive, it too, “just worked”. The iTunes ecosystem was a savior for the music industry, which was getting pirated left and right. Here was a business model that satisfied sufficient numbers of interests that they all pushed it ahead.
Then came the iPhone. A similar business model propelled it to have more applications for smartphones than any in history. People did what they should: experimented, evolved, and used the iPhone as a palette for untold applications and it, too, was propelled to stellar success. Sadly, it didn’t ‘just work’. Crippled by AT&T’s “broadband” network, real data applications were difficult to use. Delivery of multimedia applications was and is spotty. But no one can argue with its success. Apple’s stock is a success story in a sea of failure stories.
Fast forward to the million iPads now sold in Apple’s first month of the product. Relying on the same deadbeat broadband network, the iPad was one of the most over-hyped products ever launched. The mystery and rumors and distraction that it provided was huge. Yet Apple learned something from its iHistory: controlling the ecosystem was tantamount to success or failure. The form factor dictated the hardware design, and in a fit of obfuscation, Apple said that it wouldn’t support Adobe’s ubiquitous Flash, starting a firestorm/flamestorm of questions.
I don’t disbelieve that Steve Job’s claims that Flash causes the vastly underpowered iPad problems in both performance and in battery life. The CPU in the iPad must deal with a lot work to provide Apple’s “user experience” correctly, and criticisms of performance would do the iPad in. But it also locks users into Apple’s preference of things like video rendering — and dictates where users will consume what. People trying to use the iPad to view videos over 3G “broadband” networks are finding content blocked. AT&T’s network can barely lift a feather in some regions, so this is understandable. Nonetheless, choice has been removed.
Apple gets to control the price of media you buy, or what you can buy if it hasn’t been able to reach a deal already with the content providers. Thank you, Nirvana. Apple can control application content, too, as the widely criticized Apple App Store rejections have shown us. Don’t criticize. Don’t be naughty. Don’t do something that we could get slimed by, even though we’re only the device maker.
It gets stranger.
You can buy one of Apple’s various really overpriced notebooks, but the only interchangeable parts might be the hard drive and maybe the memory sticks. I had to do that yesterday when I committed accidental death yesterday on my MacBook Pro by pouring coffee on it. A convenient Craigslist MacBook was available. The cup of coffee cost me $450. I deserve paying the price. There is no question of this.
People, however, sell used MacBook Pros like they were used Mercedes Benz models. The secret sauce and reality distortion field behind this isn’t the actual hardware in the machines. Yes, they’re nicely engineered. What makes them work is a combination of hardware control and Apple’s use of MacOS. MacOS is very much like Windows now, with dubious value in new releases, and tons of bug fixes (and a few security heart-stoppers) along the way.
The compatibility issues remain. Only recently, Apple released APIs to work with Microsoft’s email components and Outlook. I don’t use Outlook. But I do use a damnable Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone, which has a snowball’s chance in hell of linking via Apple’s iSync application. It seems like an all-or-nothing kind of Apple existence. I had enough of that from Microsoft, whose compatibility has often been lip service, obfuscation, and hijacking.
Do I go with a commodity notebook platform based on Ubuntu? Do I trash years of experience with Apple’s Mac as a platform? Steve Jobs has angered me in a personal way by behaving like the other boorish executives in the industry. I get FUD fed to me on a daily basis, and my FUD detector is strong. Like other consumers, I can be a strong ally. But I’m not a fanboi, not a lapdog sycophant, and am pro IT industry and not a stockholder.
There’s an HP Pavillion with my name on it out there for $300. It’s a nice used machine. I’m wondering now what it will look like with Lucid Lynx on it. Maybe a VM with Windows 7.