Way back at the start of the century, many years before the first iPhone, I was an Apple user when I had the choice.
My home computer was an iMac G4 that looked like it had been designed by Pixar. It was cool because it was a computer disguised as a desk lamp. It had a dvd drive front and centre and two really cute speakers.
Switching it on required shoving a finger very firmly into the back of the machine and I often wondered if that was a covert message from a disaffected designer.
I also had a little MacBook that was cool because it was white and plastic.
They served me well at home where I could live in a macBubble but they did strange and unpredictable things when I sent or received documents from the Microsoft-dominated world of work.
When Firefox came along at the end of 2004, I gave up the struggle to use Apple and built myself a little oasis around Mozilla and Google that gave me some independence from Microsoft.
I’m now at a point where I needed to upgrade my personal computers again. My experience of Windows 10 was so negative that I decided to look at Apple again. All the press said that the macPro 13″ Retina was the best laptop around so I bought one and got an iMac for my wife.
Now the iMac is supposed to be cool because it’s so thin it’s almost not there and because the keyboard and mouse are wireless and cute. The MacBook is supposed to be cool because it’s NOT plastic and because the screen is sharp.
Oddly, for the people who first bought us the tablet and the Smart Phone, neither machine has touchscreen technology or a simcard.
So now I’m sitting with my beautiful new Apple kit in front of me with all the latest doodads and thingamajigs on them and I expected to feel the Force reawakening. Instead, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve slipped over into the Dark Side.
The machines themselves are wonderful: elegant, robust, easy to set up and easy to use. If only there were Microsoft PCs as beautiful as this, the world would be a happier place. What bugs me is the Apple “Thou Shalt Have No Software Other Than Mine” mindset and the insistence on worshipping the great god of iCloud. Oh, and why the hell doesn’t Apple have a delete key? You can take the “Ah, but we’re different” thing too far.
On the one hand, it’s nice that Apple comes with enough software that you can do most things that you want to do and not have to buy anything else. It’s also good that some of the software had got a lot better in the past ten years: Keynote and Pages are much better than their predecessors, Launchpad is quite neat and Mail merges my mail accounts with the same efficiency as my Android phone.
On the other hand, why do I need a different book reader when I can have Kindle? Why do I need a map application when I can have Google Maps or Waze? Why do I have to download Flashplayer when half the web uses it? When did iTunes turn into such a monster?
True, I can now buy a version of Office that works well on mac and Apple doesn’t seem to be in open conflict with Adobe anymore but there is still whiff of twentieth century proprietary software here that has all the openness and flexibility of an old AOL account. It seems Apple doesn’t trust me to pick their applications because they’re better but instead makes using anything else much less convenient.
Then there is the “iCloud is good for you” mindset. It will give you continuity across devices. It will make it as easy as possible to share. It means you don’t need all that local storage. You don’t even need a dvd drive anymore. Except that using iCloud and the continuity it provides strips away my privacy to almost the same degree as the Windows 10 world that I fled to Apple from.
I’m left thinking that the engineers in Apple are still the best in the world, but the Apple mono-culture marketing mindset is the cyanide in the Kool-Aid.