Another Bite of the Apple

If you’ve ever been on the campus of your typical university, you’ve seen the followers in legion. The services provided by this monolithic organization, ruled with an iron fist from a warmer country thousands of kilometers away by a single, reclusive man with an iconic wardrobe, cost the devoted untold millions year upon year. Their presence within the city is unmistakable, defining entire city blocks with their imposing architecture. Most insidiously, they have hijacked their adherent’s minds, worming the brand into their very identities.

Juuust kidding Juuust kidding.

Behold!

I am, of course, referring to Apple, the world’s favorite soulless corporation. After posting their greatest profits ever in the middle of a recession, while giving us innovations  like the iPhone and iPod. Their impact to most industries that they come across is undeniable; they revolutionized the online music industry and invented new streams of revenue (like the app market), while simultaneously injecting the spark of competition among rivals in the world.

So why, then, do I have an ax to grind with this super corporation? For me, it comes down to the fact that Apple does not play well with others. Apple’s trademark is the completeness of the computing experience that ‘just works’. In other words, Apple controls every aspect of the end-user experience, from case to browser. It’s the extreme proprietary nature of this approach that irks me.

Take the iPod, for example, arguably one of their biggest sucessess. Instead of taking .mp3 files (the industry standard), Apple forces you to use their software to convert your files into something that mac will use, which also conveniently scrambles the files so that it is virtually impossible to find and sort your files without iTunes. They then make it so you can’t even take your own music off of the iPod onto another computer, effectively locking your stuff onto what is fundamentally a flash drive that plays music. Woe be to you if you wish to use your flash drive for things that flash drives do (like store files), because that isn’t allowed.

When users want to expand the functionality of their own devices (you know, the definition of invention or innovation) Apple responds by killing the device. We saw this when apple released a mandatory software update that bricked thousands of iPhones, all of which were paid for by their users. You may be saying at this point “Ah, but those users broke the warranties that came with their devices”, but that’s my point; Apple doesn’t respect their customer’s right  to autonomous choices. Yeah, it’s legal, but I get the feeling that Apple is attempting to make users conform to what THEY think a user should be.

Another big problem I have with Apple is their exploitation of early adopters combined with their intentional planned obsolescence. Take the hype surrounding the first generation of iPhones. Apple fanboys went fucking CRAZY over this device, some lining up for days just to be the first to possess this gift from their prophet. Each and every one of them sank 600 bucks and a 3 year contract, and proceeded to spread the gospel of apple to the ends of the blogosphere. Six months later, Apple comes around and releases a better version that makes the first one look like shit (faster, GPS enabled, better battery life, etc), which forces these trendsters to fork over yet more money just to keep up. At the same time, apple punishes people ‘jailbreaking’ (telling phrase right there, isn’t it?) their now-obsolete phones by making their entire investment completely worthless.

Nope, nothing cultish about this whatsoever

I bet the same thing will happen with the new iPad, or as I prefer, the iTampon. We all know this is just the first in a whole new line of products in which Apple will be utterly untouchable. I have no doubts that the industry will respond with content specifically generated for the iTampon, but in six months to a year, those people who drop the cheap (!?) $500 on this first gen will get screwed over when the gods release one with SD/Video/Multiapp support/battery life/whatever-else-you-don’t-like-about-the-iTampon. You can be sure that Apple won’t allow any user tweaks to the interface, and every app written for it will have to be meticulously vetted by Apple.

If the picture I am painting of Apple makes it look like an egotistical, self-obsessed, power-hungry dictatorship, it’s because that’s exactly what they are. Apple wants to control every aspect of your experience (allegedly with your interest in mind) but make you feel like you are cool, trendy and cutting edge. Fine, I won’t argue that Apple products are cool, trendy and cutting edge, but I guess I just value my freedom more than you do.

It should therefore come as no surprise that I advocate open-source alternatives to your computocracy. I use and advocate linux, which gives you a comparable end-user experience for free. Oh, and the complete functionality and look of the latest OS for mac can be reproduced (for free) on Linux. Look what I did with a bit of time without paying a cent:

Let the Cognitive Dissonance commence.(check the other desktops I made in my spare time by clicking through)

I know I come off as a snobby, nerdy elitist, but I look at the actual products that you get for the amount of money that you spend, and I am pretty underwhelmed. The whole idea of paying hundreds of dollars for something that you can literally get for free is pretty absurd, and even when you pay the huge prices, you are treated by a delinquent or a child. Mac knows better than you, and if you think differently, well, tough.

I’m not saying Linux could or should replace any of the mainstream OS’s, because frankly, most people wouldn’t be able to use Linux. However, I reject the idea that the we should just accept Apple’s modus operandi as-is, because there are less evil ways of satisfying the computing needs.

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~ by Andrew on January 21, 2010.

4 Responses to “Another Bite of the Apple”

  1. Lappy resents this post.

  2. Pretty harsh words coming from an iPhone user :-p

    Unfortunately, technology constantly becomes obsolete. Look at Intel; when they design their processors they design their products not with the current technology, but with with the technology they expect to be available by the time it is ready to produce (Moore’s Law)! They routinely raze their facilities, costing billions of dollars just to build their next generation of processors. They have even “scheduled” for the “end of the silicon era” at which point we will enter the age of quantum computing.

    Sometimes Apple will create great products that revolutionize entire industries and sometimes they produce duds, which no doubt the iPad may be. But it’s difficult to criticize a company for making things people want to buy and for doing what is in their power to keep them within their intended use. Open source is great, but not every company can use that as its business model… like a rock.

    • No I agree, as a business model Apple is unparalleled; it’s a hugely successful way to make money and keep your fan base excited about your projects. However, I’m speaking in a broader philosophical context, and the effect that such closed development has on industry-wide innovation. From this io9 article:

      “[T]he iPad isn’t so much new technology as it is a shiny, pretty doorway to a mall where you can buy everything from books to movies.

      The iPad hasn’t brought us forward into the future. It’s taken us backward to a world of strip malls and televisions.”
      http://io9.com/5458822/why-the-ipad-is-crap-futurism

      Apple stifles innovation on it’s on products that aren’t developed in-house; take Google Voice and Apple’s unwillingness to allow that on iPhones. It’s that stifling rhetoric that I disapprove of, and that was what I was trying to say.

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