A question for Apple fans

I realise there is a chance I may come to regret this post – the Apple Wars are something that sensible bloggers steer well clear of, because of the strong feelings on both sides – but I am curious about this, and asking in a spirit of genuine inquisitiveness, not accusation.  I hope that mention of certain key phrases in this post won’t bring hosts of trigger-happy RSS-watchers along, or that if it does, they come ready for a gentle chat, not an all-out blog fight.

I should start by saying that I am pretty ignorant about Apple.  I’ve never owned any Apple kit (whether MP3 players, phones, computers – whatever), not because I hate Apple, but purely on grounds of cost.  I’ve always been in a position of having no option but to go for a cheaper alternative.  The fact I haven’t been able to afford Apple hasn’t made me bitter or jealous, though, it’s just one of those things.  (Or, at least, I don’t think it has, but I guess that’s really something other people will have to judge.)  The closest I have ever come to Apple kit when I was at my 6th form college, back in the distant days of the late 80s/ early 90s.

I spent quite a lot of time when I was at the college as a kind of honorary geek, basically because I was too scared to go into the common room in case one of the Goths who lived in there growled at me, and so hung around in the computer department instead.  I didn’t qualify as a full-blown geek – I wasn’t doing Computer Studies A-level, and I didn’t have a computer at home (well, I had a ZX81, but I knew enough to know that wasn’t something to boast about) – but I did find the kind of things that geeks did cool, I could hold my own in a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy conversation, and would, on occasion, Talk To Girls, which the proper geeks found impressive.  (Of course they didn’t know that I got on with girls because I didn’t fancy them, and was as tongue-tied as any of them in the presence of…let’s call him Antoninus (he had pretentious parents who had named him for a Roman emperor, but a different one), who was the most beautiful human being I’d ever seen – and, having just googled him, apparently still is…)

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes that’s right – lovelorn honorary geek hanging around the computer rooms and getting involved in various Geek Projects, such as programming a BBC Master to play ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and using a new and exciting thing called a ‘Modem’ to connect via a command-line interface to equally-impressed Computer Studies students elsewhere in the country.  So, there were two rooms of networked computers in the department – one of Archimedes, and another of Apple MacIntosh Plus.  The Macs were the prized toy of the teachers – and to be fair had I think represented a huge investment on the part of the college – and so we didn’t often get to play with them.  But I did spend a small amount of time with them.  I remember disliking the concept of a mouse (the first time I’d ever used one – and, no, I didn’t pick it up and try and talk into it…) and thinking that it would never catch on, and being especially irritated by a little animation of a comedy boot stamping on something.  I can’t remember what it was for – deleting something possibly? – but I remember finding it impossibly twee and winsome and annoying.  Insofar as I have an opinion on Apple that is founded in actual experience, that’s it – being irritated by a wannabe-cute animation, and thinking that the curved plastic design was kind of naff.

So, as I say, I’m pretty ignorant about Apple kit, although obviously I don’t live in a bubble, and so have become pretty aware of the company’s offerings.  I’ve noted with interest that Apple seem to have become almost a hybrid between a technology company and a fashion house, with quite a lot of their marketing budget (especially for the iPod, less so for the iPhone) focussed on the idea that their various products are ‘must-have’ accessories.  As someone who’s more or less allergic to the idea of fashion, and especially to the idea of branding myself by association with corporate logos, that approach was always going to leave me pretty cold.  I also have to say that, on a purely aesthetic level, I’m not a fan of Jonathan Ives’ designs – I can see what he’s aiming for (elegant minimalism – a great thing to aim for), but he often seems to fall short, partly as a result of specifying sub-standard materials (the tacky translucent plastic on the iMac was a particularly bad error, I thought) – which can make falling in love with Apple products something of a chore for me.

But, of course, all of this is fluff – what matters is how well the various products do their job.  This is where Apple kit seems to pick up very good reviews from its aficionados, with virtually everyone who loves Apple citing ease of use and smoothness of operation as the stand-out reason why they love Apple products.  Now, of course, one of the main ways they achieve this is by operating a closed shop, where they are fully in control of both technology and software, and so can minimise the kind of compatibility issues which are often the cause of problems.  Those who are not Apple fans often emphasise the flipside of this: namely that you can only use an Apple device (especially the more tightly controlled mobile devices) in ways that Apple approve of, and that there is the potential for Apple, if they were to choose to do so, to use their role of gatekeeper to hold back the development of interesting ideas and applications by third parties, even if those ideas and applications would be welcomed by their customers.

There’s been a lot of fuss about this lately, of course, with all the back-and-forth about using Flash on the iPhone.  I’ll be honest, I can see both sides to this one.  I can see Apple’s point about the stability problems with Flash – whenever my browser crashes, it’s almost always after an unsuccessful struggle with a page containing lots of flash content – but I also think I’d be pretty frustrated if I was an iPhone user and couldn’t access Flash video.  I’m a grown up, after all, and would pretty much like, I think, to be trusted to come to my own conclusion about whether the upsides of installing Flash outweighed the downsides, rather than having Nanny Apple decide that for me.  What I find rather more interesting is a case I read about today on Rory Cellan-Jones’ technology blog at the BBC website.

Greg Hughes is a 19-year-old computer-science student at Birmingham University. Software development has been a hobby for a while, and he works for a web design firm when he’s not studying.

A while back, he came up with a way of synchronising his iPhone to his computer over a wireless network; as things currently stand, you have to plug the phone in.

After paying the £60 fee for Apple’s iPhone software development kit, he turned his idea into an app and submitted it for approval.

Apple rejected the app, which is not in itself surprising – the whole point of having an approvals process, after all, is to make it possible to reject sub-standard apps.  What’s a little more surprising is that Mr Hughes was subsequently contacted by Apple who told him (in the process of offering him the possibility of future employment with the company, so impressed were they with the app on a technical level) that there was nothing he could do which would get it approved.  In other words, the app was not turned down on the basis that it was poorly executed, or would conflict with other apps; instead, it was the whole idea of wirelessly syncing an iPhone that was rejected.  Mr Hughes went on to make his app unofficially available for people who have jail-broken their iPhones, and it has proved very popular, which means that, presumably, the ability to wirelessly sync their iPhone with their computer is one that many ‘legitimate’ iPhone users would also welcome.

To me, this seems like a fairly terrible set of circumstances in a number of ways.

I think, for example, that it’s pretty bad that Apple are attempting to stifle entrepreneurship in this way.  It strikes me that most of the big-name players in the tech field got to where they are by figuring out a way to do something that people wanted to do and then marketing it, and it’s pretty clear that’s what Greg Hughes has done, albeit in a smaller way than, say, Mark Zuckerberg.  As it happens, the rejection by Apple wasn’t the end of the story for Mr Hughes, but if Apple had their way there would be no jail-broken iPhones his app could be installed on – Apple intended their rejection to be the end of the line.  It’s true that they offered him a job (or rather offered him the possibility of an offer of a job in the future), but that’s not really the point, I think, just as it wouldn’t have been the point if IBM had blocked the development of a 3rd party OS for the PC, but offered Bill Gates a job in-house working full-time on OS/2.  From a commercial standpoint, preventing someone from working for themselves and then offering them a job to come and work for you is a fairly strong-arm tactic (and presumably only legal because, far from having a monopoly, Apple are pretty small players in the mobile phone market), but it’s also troubling in a less legalistic sense, I think.  In recent times, technological progress has come down to a really quite remarkable extent to individuals with clever ideas – as opposed to large companies with big R&D departments – and if those clever ideas are blocked before they can be fully developed then that’s likely, in the long term, to have a chilling effect on technological progress.

I also think it’s pretty bad that Apple have treated their customers in this way.  It seems fairly clear from the success of the app among jail-broken phones that iPhone users would really welcome the opportunity to sync their phones wirelessly.  It seems more than a little disappointing for them, therefore, that Apple have decided that they can’t, even though there would appear to be no technical reasons why – at least, if there were technical problems with the app then it’s surprising that Apple offered its creator a job, and that people with jail-broken phones don’t seem to have reported any problems.  I think, if I was an Apple customer, I’d be pretty annoyed by this – that Apple seem to be using their gatekeeper role not just to keep out buggy software that would trash my phone, but also to stop third party developers from helping me to do something with my phone that I want to be able to do.

But, of course, I’m not an Apple customer, which is why I would be very interested to hear from people who are.  What do you make of the whole thing?  Have I got hold of the wrong end of the stick in my criticisms?  Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?  Like I said in the beginning, I’m genuinely curious about this, and really don’t feel like I’m motivated by hatred of, or love for, Apple (but I’d also like to hear from you if you think I am).  I’ve decided to set up a poll so that people who don’t feel like commenting can venture an opinion, but I’m also very interested to hear from anyone and everyone directly – please comment if you’d like to.

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9 Responses to A question for Apple fans

  1. J. Wibble says:

    Disclaimer: I’m not an Apple customer, just an opinionated nerd with too much time on his hands.

    This was mentioned in a recent Cracked article (warning: may induce paranoia), along with some of Apple’s other unsavory practices. The app process did allow Baby Shaker through, which makes you wonder exactly what the verification process consists of.

    I have staunchly refused to own any Apple products partly because I’m a contrary so-and-so (iPhones are the second greatest cause of smug after Hybrid cars) and partly because I take great delight in the fact that my friend paid over four times as much for his iPod as I did for my MP3 player (they both have video, and mine also has Tetris and a radio on it). I don’t have an iPhone because, aside from the cost, I have broken two mobile phones in the past three years via the means of leaving them in my jeans when I go to bed and then getting up in the morning and standing on them. If my entire life was stored on said phone (as would appear to be the point of an iPhone), I would be completely screwed.

  2. Alex says:

    Interesting post, and a tough question. I have an iPhone, but I can’t in all honesty pretend I need all the functionality of it. I mean, it’s nice to be able to check my email and tweet on the move, but there are plenty of other phones that would let me do that and also not cost eleventy bajillion pounds a month on contract. So why’d I buy one? Short answer: distracted by the shiny. Longer answer: I fell for the ‘must have best new thing now consume consume consume’ thing hook, line and sinker. Plus I like the aesthetics, and I always end up feeling compelled to have pretty things in my life regardless of actual functionality or need. This may also go some way towards explaining past relationships, psychoanalysis fans.
    And Apple itself? Well, I think that rather like Google, they’ve spent a lot of time and effort on maintaining the image of being fun and cool and ethical, and rather like Google, it’s a great deal of bullshit, and that like any company their first loyalty is to their profit margins. So to my mind the best thing to do here if you have an iPhone is to jailbreak it and support independent developers. It’s just a shame that not many people do.
    Also, die-hard Apple fans are downright scary. They have this weird beatific glow about them that’s slightly unnerving.
    Apologies for the novel-length comment. ;)

    (Incidentally, what is it about gay school crushes having Latinate names? Mine was, too. This is becoming a trend, I fear. Just my luck to be named for an overachieving Macedonian bisexual, then.)

  3. The Chuckle says:

    OK, looks like I’m the die-hard Apple fan here then!
    First off – Apple pioneered the GUI (graphic user interface) way back in an attempt to make computers work for people, rather than the other way round as DOS did. They did a good job (and they’ve been constantly refining ever since) to the extent where Windows has desperately tried to play catch up ever since. And failed. Apple have made computing make sense – why have a computer if doing stuff on it isn’t easy? I’m not saying getting your hands dirty under the bonnet isn’t a good thing (it is and schools should be making this part of all education) but the majority of people want to plug and play, rather than plug and pray (please note it was a Windows-loving friend of mine at uni that told me that joke, and he said that’s what Apple does so much better).
    As far as the closed system goes, this is where it gets quite interesting and a lot more convoluted. Apple is built on a Unix system (open source) which allows much wider dev than for Windows (DOS). Apple did this for 2 reasons:
    1 – A very stable platform.
    2 – Open source dev means faster and cheaper dev as the source code is open to more individual developers.
    3 – This has lead to Apps on the i-phone and now the i-pad. MUCH greater revenue stream.
    I’m not claiming this has been done for the greater good – Apple is a large corp that answers to its share holders like any other. But what they have done is moved computing on at a much greater rate of knots by being revolutionary in their approach to computing AND to the business of computing. The i-phone forced smart phones to get off their backsides and improve, as did the other products in their respective markets. Other companies have been forced to stop developing for the lowest common denominator: cheaper is best.
    Obviously their products are pricey – and I would rather they weren’t – but I would much rather have to pay more and get a superior product because I use their products to earn a living. They’re more powerful, more stable, easier to use, less buggy…all these things make my life easier. I would never want to go back to a PC after using Apple for so many years. When I’m forced to use them – for checking sites in development etc – it’s a real chore. So I think they are superior in that sense.
    However I also understand the ‘closed system’ of the App store has riled many – even many Apple fans, both in the design/computer industry and home users – because it gives a sense of stifling competition and entrepreneurship. To some extent it does. But here’s the thing – if you walk into any high st store and they don’t stock something you really want, that’s the store’s prerogative. OK, I know it’s not a perfect analogy because Apple is the only App store for their products, but it puts a bit of perspective into the situation. Steve Jobs said in an email exchange with someone giving him some grief over this (annoyingly I can’t find the link) that you can always use someone else’s products if you don’t like how Apple do things. Which is true. But Apple’s name is built on certain key things and they need to protect their brand collateral (sorry about the marketing blurb but that’s how it is) and so they’ve been (over) cautious about Apps. I agree they should be a bit more relaxed, but that’s their business.
    One point I would make is this : Adobe have screwed up by producing ever more bloated applications that run poorly. Flash is one of the worst and they failed to develop Flash in such a way as to be a great product. Apple are not supporting Flash for good reason – as far as video goes, Flash is fast becoming obsolete and although they’re not there yet, Apple are renowned for makoing the leap to new tech and ditching the old in advance of other (USB and Firewire instead of SCSI, dropping floppy drives etc).
    So you can judge me as an Apple nutter, slavering at the mouth while my eyes roll back into my head if you like, but I think that Apple are going the right way…just not yet with the perfect balance.

  4. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    J. Wibble – There’s nothing wrong with being a contrary so-and-so. :o) I’m not sure Apple ownership induces smug in quite the same way that hybrid cars do. Hybrid drivers (or, at least, hybrid drivers who talk about being hybrid drivers at every opportunity) are Making A Point about how they are Saving the World (kind of like when Bono hijacked Make Poverty History), whereas Apple fans are just keen to tell you how Apple products have made their life so much easier. There’s a difference, i think, although that may just be because of my strong sense that Apple fans don’t have much to be smug about. Nothing to be not smug about either, i hasten to add – it’s just that they’ve made a different consumer choice.

    It’s not specifically an Apple-centric point – it seems to be a general trend that Apple are part of – but i’ve always had my suspicions about the drive towards having a single device for everything, partly because of the consequences if you lose it, or, as you say, tread on it… ;o)

    AlexSo why’d I buy one? Short answer: distracted by the shiny. Longer answer: I fell for the ‘must have best new thing now consume consume consume’ thing hook, line and sinker.

    That’s a very honest answer, although i suspect you’re being unduly harsh on yourself. :o) I don’t think it’s a moral failing to like exciting new toys – it is fun after all, and it’s very much the sense i have when i buy stuff. Plus i can remember a period of time a little while back when you were blogging from your phone because your net connection had gone down, so that’s clearly a big practical benefit you got from having your iPhone. Plus i enjoyed your tweets and pics from Pride last year, too. :o)

    I like the aesthetics, and I always end up feeling compelled to have pretty things in my life regardless of actual functionality or need.

    I actually think this is a very good reason to buy Apple – a world filled with beautiful things is greatly preferable to one filled with unthinkingly ugly things. Of all Ives’ designs, the iPhone is actually probably the one i like best. I quite like a form-follows-function aesthetic (one of the reasons i hated the translucent plastic on the iMac was that it had nothing to do with functionality), but that’s not to say that i reject the idea of aesthetics being an important part of choosing what to buy.

    And Apple itself? Well, I think that rather like Google, they’ve spent a lot of time and effort on maintaining the image of being fun and cool and ethical

    I think Apple are well aware that being seen to be fun and cool and ethical is important to their brand image, certainly. But i also think they are genuinely interested in being fun and cool, and they never had “Don’t be evil” as a company motto, which has always seemed to me to suggest that Google knew it had a tendency that way.

    Apologies for the novel-length comment. ;)

    I am really in no position to criticise others for writing long comments. ;o) But even if i were i wouldn’t, because i’m always interested in what people have to say. :o)

    The Chuckle – Thanks for taking the time to reply – i hope you don’t feel like you’re being ganged up on as the only Apple fan who’s commented thus far. :o) Also, having re-read this just prior to submitting it, sorry for going on and on at such excruciating length – sorry, but you made me think, and i’ve clearly decided to think in text! ;o)

    I’m always surprised by how much Apple fans define the company whose products they love in opposition to Microsoft. I deliberately didn’t mention Microsoft at all in this post, because they’re not really relevant to a discussion about the mobile phone market, but a goodly chunk of your reply focusses on them, and defines Apple’s succeses predominantly in contrast to Microsoft’s failings.

    I will admit to finding it a slightly irritating habit, even in discussions of the desktop and laptop computer markets, because it’s based on a fairly fundamental logical flaw – namely, that while Apple equals Apple, PC does not equal Microsoft. So listing Microsoft’s many undoubted flaws, both on a technical level and in terms of their corporate ethics, can end up in a situation slightly analagous to one in which Fred West is considered to be a stand-up guy because he killed so few people when you compare him to Harold Shipman. That’s a deliberately OTT and facetious example, but it has some relevance, i think, especially when we’re discussing the relative ‘openess’ of operating systems – MacOS may or may not be more open source compared to Windows (i don’t know enough to have an opinion, i’m afraid), but both are massively closed when compared to an actual open source OS like the various flavours of Linux.

    Apple pioneered the GUI (graphic user interface) way back in an attempt to make computers work for people, rather than the other way round as DOS did.

    Sorry, but that’s just bad history. Neither Apple nor Microsoft pioneered the GUI – Xerox did. Apple got there before MS, but that doesn’t mean that Apple were there first. It’s also a little misleading to talk, in the context of the mid-80s, of a battle between Microsoft and Apple – back then, the PC was pretty much entirely a business machine, and Apple were primarily in competition with computers like the Amiga and the Atari ST – both of which developed GUIs at around the same time. Truthfully, at the time GUIs were clearly the Next Big Thing in computing, and Apple can be more accurately seen as one participant in a gold-rush – neither the first to stake their claim, nor the last – not lonely and far-sighted pioneers.

    The second half of your sentence – the bit about computers working for people – i definitely agree with. It’s always struck me that one of Apple’s biggest strengths is in starting from the perspective and needs of the user and building up from that, as opposed to starting with what the technology can do, and building back to how the user can be made to interact with that.

    Windows has desperately tried to play catch up ever since. And failed.

    It’s problematic, i think, to talk about Windows having failed where Apple have succeeded when Windows has 92% of the total OS market on all platforms (desktop, laptop, mobile), and Apple has 6% of all platforms. If Windows genuinely were the unmitigated disaster one might suspect from reading the comments of Apple fans it would seem pretty unlikely that it would have proved to be so succesful.

    the majority of people want to plug and play, rather than plug and pray (please note it was a Windows-loving friend of mine at uni that told me that joke, and he said that’s what Apple does so much better).

    Plug and play on Windows was indeed dreadful – i’ve heard that joke many times, and like Homer Simpson once said, “it’s funny cos it’s true”. Or, at least, it used to be. These days computer peripherals are connected on both Mac and PC via USB, for the most part, and that standard is just as well implemented under Windows (and Linux…) as it is on MacOS.

    Apple is built on a Unix system (open source) which allows much wider dev than for Windows (DOS).

    I’ll admit i don’t have figures, but i would be truly astonished if there is wider development for a family of OSs with 6% of the market than there is for a family of OSs with 92%. It’s pretty much my gut feeling that the amount of new software released for Windows each year (whether pro releases, or amateur enthusiasts in their bedroom) massively exceeds the amount of software released to run under MacOS. Oh, and Windows and DOS aren’t the same thing – these days Windows is built on the NT kernel, not the DOS kernel, and has been for 9 years.

    what they have done is moved computing on at a much greater rate of knots by being revolutionary in their approach to computing AND to the business of computing. The i-phone forced smart phones to get off their backsides and improve, as did the other products in their respective markets. Other companies have been forced to stop developing for the lowest common denominator: cheaper is best.

    I think you may be over-playing the significance of Apple here. It’s important to keep in mind that Apple are only the majority player in one of the market sectors they operate in – MP3 players – and in every other sector are minority players, often quite significantly so. It might be more accurate to argue that it is the competition from other, established, players in the market that have forced Apple to up their game, not the other way around. In any case, competition is a symbiotic thing, with all participants in the market keeping each other on their toes. It’s an oddity of the tech press – both in print and online – that they give so much coverage to a very small company, and can lead, i think, to warped perceptions of that company’s significance in the grand scheme of things.

    I would much rather have to pay more and get a superior product because I use their products to earn a living. They’re more powerful, more stable, easier to use, less buggy…all these things make my life easier.

    These are all excellent reasons to use Apple. The bugginess of Windows is overstated – it’s a pretty stable platform these days, and when it falls over it’s usually as a result of problems with third party software or a non-standard hardware configuration (and, of course, unlike Apple, you have a choice of OS – in most scenarios Linux is more stable than Windows). But this is, as i said in the original post, the great advantage of Apple’s model – that they can prevent these kinds of problems from arising by the simple expedient of drastically limiting the range of hardware and software available. When you priority is being able to sit down and work when you need to, it makes absolute sense to invest in the products you have confidence in.

    But here’s the thing – if you walk into any high st store and they don’t stock something you really want, that’s the store’s prerogative. OK, I know it’s not a perfect analogy because Apple is the only App store for their products, but it puts a bit of perspective into the situation.

    This is a very standard argument, and to say it’s not a perfect analogy is to massively underplay its shortcomings. H&M don’t insist, just because i bought a pair of jeans from them, that i sign a user agreement preventing me from buying anything from a different High St store while i’m wearing their jeans, they don’t threaten to remotely disable my jeans if i do go to another store, and they don’t compound all that by refusing to sell in their own store something that i would like to buy and is freely available in other stores.

    Steve Jobs said in an email exchange with someone giving him some grief over this (annoyingly I can’t find the link) that you can always use someone else’s products if you don’t like how Apple do things. Which is true.

    Don’t worry about the lack of a link, i’ve heard that view ascribed to Steve Jobs many times, even without seeing the link. :o) It is true, but i think it may also prove to be somewhat counterproductive. The latest figures show that Apple’s share of the smartphone market is still growing, but that they are still a long way from being top dog (are in fact still 3rd dog), and other players are growing their share (admittedly from a much smaller base) far more rapidly. The potential exists, i think, for the iPhone to become an also-ran in the smartphone market, in which case it will be interesting to speculate how much of that is down to people taking Steve Jobs at his word – that they didn’t like Apple’s way of doing things, and they did go elsewhere.

    Apple are not supporting Flash for good reason – as far as video goes, Flash is fast becoming obsolete and although they’re not there yet, Apple are renowned for makoing the leap to new tech and ditching the old in advance of other

    You see, that just strikes me as really very odd: Apple ditch old tech in advance of the replacement becoming available? I can see the sense of actively working to develop a better replacement, either on their own or in partnership with others, but to kick out the old tech before that replacement is ready – or, at least, before it’s widely distributed – seems pretty extraordinary to me. In how ever many years time when Flash is toast (if it is – important to keep in mind that Flash is in continuous development too) it will be nice that Apple supports whatever the new standard for video is, but in the here and now not being able to access the bulk of video content on the web seems a bit of a downer to me.

    So you can judge me as an Apple nutter, slavering at the mouth while my eyes roll back into my head if you like, but I think that Apple are going the right way…just not yet with the perfect balance.

    I certainly don’t judge you to be an Apple nutter. :o) I just think you have a different opinion on some things. Since the point of this was to find out what Apple fans think about it all, i’m really grateful to you for giving me an insight into that. I hope i haven’t overstepped the mark from expressing a different point of view into attacking yours – if i have, it wasn’t intentional. :o)

  5. gun street girl says:

    I love my macbook and my (now very old) iPod unreservedly and I am generally a fan of Apple for the reasons The Chuckle mentions above. They are innovative, stylish, reliable, and now that they are intel-based as versatile as my PC is. But I don’t have an iPhone because it is too f’ing expensive. Not to buy the phone. To use it. There is only one authorized provider for phone/data services on the iPhone (and now the iPad as well) and that is At&T. The cheapest bare minimum account you can have is $70 a month. I have one of AT&T pay-as-you-go plans and I don’t put $70 a year on it. Everyone I know who has jail breaked (broken?) their iPhone has done it so they could choose their phone plan provider. Being able to add apps of their choosing is a side benefit. I can certainly understand why people that pay a premium for the product want to be able to use it however they choose, especially since the technology is already in place for it and it makes no difference one way or the other to Apple’s bottom line.

    Speaking of the iPad…I have rarely been so disappointed in a product. I went out to buy one the other day and when I was actually holding it in my hands (it looks and feels great, btw) I realized that it is nothing but a way to drive revenue through iTunes/iBook. There is no DVD slot so if you want to watch a movie…you need to rent it via iTunes. iBook is a nice reader but the books are pricey and if you’ve already purchased it via Kindle or whatever, too bad. There is no USB port so you can’t put anything on it without doing it via a PC or Mac. Even pictures. I had thought I read about a camera converter for it that would allow me to move pictures directly from the camera to the iPad and upload them to the internet, but the genius said “nope, has to be done via a computer.” (camera>computer>iPad>internet…seems like the iPad can be left out of that sequence entirely…)So essentially the iPad is a just a larger iPod Touch. It has no camera or microphone although apparently space exists for them inside the case. If it did it would be awesome for videoconferencing, Skype, etc. The sound is poor and you need a separately purchased headset if you are going to use it for music or movies. It won’t recognize Hulu (Flash-based). At least it does wireless effortlessly and the 3G plan is month-to-month.

    I left the store without one. It’s an entertainment device and not really meant to be useful outside of those fairly narrow parameters. I guess it’s my bad for expecting anything else.

    But I do love my macbook. :)

  6. The Chuckle says:

    Thx Aethelread, This is a great post (which I should have said b4)…you made a few fair points there. Just a couple of clarifications, Ref: GUI early days, I wasn’t suggesting they created it, I was suggesting that they took it further faster than anyone else – I just didn’t make that clear. The original Apples were also developed for industry use – at the time that Macs were kicking off DTP as more accessible than ever before, typsetting was still being done in code on most PCs.
    The other main point was that Flash has already been blind sided by HTML5 and the standards for video embedding. Flash is likely to lose share of online video very quickly as the new codec is faster, leaner, lighter on battery and native to browsers without need for plug-ins. Apple knew this from the w3c last year (poss year before) and made the move to ignore flash. But it will be interesting to see what happens on that front, especially with other mobile product makers.
    I guess the only other point I’d make (and this is slightly tongue-in-cheek) is that most Mac users were previously ‘other’ users who changed to Apple and wouldn’t move back, where as a lot of people who have given me grief about Apple before have either never used one or spent 2 minutes playing with one in a shop. At the end of the day whatever you use it’s a tool for a job, whether it’s work or play and I’ve never been bothered about the brand as long as it does what I need well.

  7. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi gun street girl, thanks for commenting. :o)

    I think the being locked into a single provider thing is one of the definite downsides of the iPhone, and something that i think might have put me off, even without the cost issue. But this is theoretical since i haven’t had a mobile of any description for getting on for a year now and have found that i really don’t miss it in the least.

    Interesting to hear your thoughts on the iPad. I’ve only read about it, but from what i can tell lots of people have had your reaction of loving the look and feel of it, and have then stopped to wonder what it’s for. I’ve never been quite able to shake the feeling that it’s been released in a deliberately hamstrung format – the lack of a camera and microphone, no DVD device, no USB slot, can only run one app at a time etc – in an effort to deliberately make sure there’s an upgrade path, with new iterations of the iPad coming out every few years with those features that could have been included now. That said, people have been predicting that a tablet computer is going to be the Next Big Thing for years, and the iPad is a tablet computer, so it may end up revolutionising the world. But my gut feeling is that too many people are going to have your reaction, and think that it’s cool and exciting and fun – but, actually, they can manage without it.

    Glad to hear you love your iPod and macbook. :o)

  8. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi The Chuckle – sorry for not replying to you in my last comment – i have a bad habit of wandering off to look at other things on the net, then coming back here to reply without pressing refresh first. :o) Thanks for saying you like the post, too, but you really didn’t have to. :o)

    Fair enough about the GUI point. I’ll be honest, i don’t really know enough about the development of GUIs to know whether what you say is right or wrong, but i’m certainly prepared to trust you! Pretty much the only thing i know about GUIs is that Microsoft were slow to see the potential, and then slow to solve the technical challenges.

    I also take your point about Flash – web standards are in continuous change and development, and HTML 5 is certainly going to be a challenge to the dominance of Flash. I guess, in the end, the question of what format wins out is going to come down to the choice made by a single player – YouTube – and they will, i imagine, make their choice based not on which format is best from a technical standpoint, but which is the most widely supported. If non-Flash video is native in browsers then there would seem to be little reason to not go down that route – but the potential still exists for Flash to come up with some kind of game-changing additional feature which people decide they want. And i’m afraid i still think that it’s a poor decision on Apple’s part not to allow people to install Flash if they want to, given that the alternative is not yet widely spread.

    I think there’s quite a lot of intransigence on both sides of the Apple Wars. It certainly seems to me that many of the people who most strongly criticise Macs have, as you say, never used them, or if they have used one for 5 minutes, do that thing of finding that things are done differently to Windows and automatically assuming it’s worse when it’s just different. Mind you, the same can be true of Mac users, i think – many times i’ve read that Apple’s way of doing things is intuitive when actually it’s just that it’s familiar. I hope i managed not to fall too badly into either camp – and i certainly wanted to be sure to make the point that i was writing from a point of ignorance in terms of hands-on experience of Apple kit – but i daresay i’ve fallen way short of that. :o)

  9. Adair says:

    Hmm, I fail miserably in computer-geekhood, but my two personal computers in my short lifespan have been a Compaq laptop running XP (lasted for a little over 2.5 yrs) and a Macbook running Leopard (I’ve had it for 2 years).

    I have to say, Macs aren’t more intuitive to me. I actually had to buy a book to tell me how to use basic functionalities–this after I owned the thing for almost a year and was being driven to desperation because I couldn’t manage my schoolwork. My big complaint about the macbook is the compatibility thing, both software and hardware. Sometimes a needed program either doesn’t have a mac version, or it’s just way harder to find advice on the internet. And it’s really, really frustrating to have an external hard drive that doesn’t work with PCs and an old 20G MP3 player that doesn’t have drivers for Mac.

    For the most part, I don’t have complaints with either system. I’ll go for a PC when the macbook’s had it for the price reason (the macbook was a gift while I was still hoping my first lappy could be fixed).

    An example of apple-fan illogic: I worked with a maths prof last summer who blamed the poor performance of the standard campus computers compared to his multi-thousand-dollar apple computer on the fact that the campus computers were PCs, not that they were (a) shared and therefore loaded with who-knows-what and (b) older and cheaper in the first place. I wonder if any studies have actually been done on performance of equally-priced PCs and Macs; it’d be nice to have a non-anecdotal answer to this question. Right now, I’ll say that I don’t have enough evidence to voice an opinion.

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