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Apple’s strength is that it now makes great products – not that it behaves nicely

Instapundit compares President Obama to Apple, saying, in connection with recent rather belligerent rhetoric from Obama, and similarly belligerent conduct by Apple regarding the alleged stealing of their latest iPhone before they had themselves unveiled it, this:

Like Apple, Obama’s strength is mostly in the image department …

That may be right on the money about Obama. Don’t know for sure. Don’t live there. But I definitely think it’s wrong about Apple. For me, Apple’s stellar “image” is based on an underlying reality of product quality, not on how nicely Apple supposedly behaves, or did behave until this recent atrocity.

A lady friend of mine has the earlier version of the iPhone, which she adores. Talks about it like it’s her perfect boyfriend, and looks at it like its a new and really good baby she just had. When she first got it, she could hardly stop gazing at it, and kept not listening to anything I was saying, instead wanting to demonstrate how fabulously it worked and how great it was for tracking emails and recognising pop songs and taking snaps and the rest of it, like she was a fat old geek with no life. Shame about the battery life, she says. But of course they are fixing that in the new version.

And then there’s my beautiful Apple keyboard, which a few months ago I purchased and attached to my clunky old PC because every PC keyboard I have ever owned or seen or heard of is total shite, either about a mile across with a completely useless accountancy section adding even more mileage to its width or, if a sane size, doomed to instant disintegration and requiring baby fingers to use even half accurately and so flimsy that if you type like an adult with your adult fingers it slides across your desk like a big insect. Also, on all the PC keyboards I have ever owned a few of the damn letters soon became invisible, and I had to buy new stick-on letters from Rymans. Contemptible.

My new Apple keyboard is the total opposite of all such shiteness. It is the keyboard I am happily typing on right this minute, and it is well on the way to convincing me that my next entire computer should be Apple as well.

Quality like this is not “image”, of the sort based on merely incidental nice behaviour. I suppose you could argue that what happens on the front of an iPhone is “image”, in the sense of legible lettering, clever pointiness and so forth. But that’s image of the kind that is central to the quality of the product. And my keyboard is solid, beautiful reality, at its most solid and most beautiful. (Make of that what you will.) Meanwhile, I also think of Apple, not as serenely nice people, but more like neurotic and borderline psychotic artists. The kind of artists who regard the transcendent excellence of their creations as a excuse to be mad bastards. I pretty much agree with them. It comes down to my understanding of the character of Steve Jobs. Genius. Mad bastard. Hell to work for, apart from that little thing that you get to make supremely great stuff and everyone thinks you are great too, which you are. “Insanely great”, you might say. So, for me, Apple getting the government to smash down the door of some defenceless little tech-bloggers is no deviation for them. That’s regular Apple behaviour. That’s Jobs throwing a mad tantrum and stamping his never-grown-up feet, insisting that just as his products must be perfect, so must the launching of them be perfect, or not enough people will buy them quickly enough and the network effect won’t cut in soon enough, and can’t you pathetic fuckheads see that!!!! And if the new iPhone that Apple’s psycho lawyers are saying was stolen turns out to be as good as all the other Apple gizmos have been, then Apple will continue to rack up insanely great profit margins.

The day may come when Apple products start to be only average, but the incidental madness continues. This is what I foresee if Steve Jobs ever departs, because of death or some such catastrophe, or because they fire him, again, on account of wanting quiet lives, again. Then nemesis will follow, and the revenge of all the other nerds will be something to see. But that’s not the story now.

In a related way, and to fly off at a bit of a final tangent, if the current British Prime Minister, also a mad bastard, whom I do know quite a bit about because I live here in Britain, was imposing sensible government policies on everyone with his mad bastardry, then we here would idolise him, certainly enough of us would for him to stay in his present job. Those mobile phones (does that include iPhones I wonder?) would hurtle towards the heads of his underlings, and they’d moan to journalists, and the journos would say: “Ooh that Gordon, what a character! He blames everyone but himself whenever he does anything wrong, like he’s a mad kid or something! He’s a laugh a minute, isn’t he? Now, about that wondrously falling government deficit …” And they’d be right. But alas, the Gordon Brown product is not insanely great, just insanely insane, and he and all the other mad bastards who foisted him on us are all about to be hurled over an electoral cliff and good riddance.

59 comments to Apple’s strength is that it now makes great products – not that it behaves nicely

  • Ian B

    “Useless accountancy section”? You mean the numeric keypad? Those of us who are out of the typing kindergarten use it all the time, it’s very handy to have the numerals in a more convenient place. Indeed, I shall use it shortly to enter the Turing code. There, I just did. I guess it depends on one’s level of competence.

    Apple products survive largely because of image. It’s a fashion thing. Apple have been enormously successful as promoting themselves as a progressivist, underdog company against right-wing, capitalist, evil Microsoft, and thus hordes of dim lefties will by anything in an off-white box that Steve Jobs excretes. And then justify it with all sorts of nonsense about it being a technological breakthrough; even an mp3 player so crippled that you can’t even choose what song to listen to becomes a “feature”; but then that’s very Apple ideologically- don’t make your own choices, we’ll make them for you.

    The products aren’t anything special, measured in technological and usability terms. But they’re fashionable, and they appeal to a particular culturally influential class who see themselves as black turtleneck clad culture warriors. It’s the NuLabour, Obama Democrat wing of consumer goods. Get your little white box here! It makes you different, and special, just like all the other people who bought it!

  • The products aren’t anything special, measured in technological and usability terms.

    Have to disagree. They generally just work right out of the box and have real plug and play or not plug and pray. Microsoft has come a long way since DOS (Lada) and Win 3.1 (Trabant), no doubt about it… Vista/Win7 (Ford Cortina) is not bad in that it will get you from A to B fairly reliably, albeit in not much style. But if you want a Unix powered Mercedes, you need to go to Cupertino.

  • Ian B

    It’s been a very long time since the competition between practical, useful DOS PCs and that funny little square box with the built-in two inch mono screen and not enough RAM that Apple produced, Perry. The one that would overheat because ventilation slots didn’t fit with Steve’s visionary style.

    And it seems like only yesterday that all the Jobbies were saying how PCs were inescapably inferior because they used Intel processors, right up until Apple started using, er, Intel processors…

  • BFFB

    Apple don’t make the best products in any specific area and are not technological innovators, but they are exceedingly good at three things; marketing, product design and plug-and-play usability.

    But I do agree with you about their keyboads.

  • Ian B

    The original Instapundit speculation (it’s really little more than that) is that this door smashing thing may harm Apple, because its image now depends on it not doing such things, in the way that someone else says Obama turning publicly nasty will hurt him, because Obama’s appeal has been that he is all nice. And that’s what I disagree with.

    You describe the appeal of Apple products differently to me. I say that I and my lady friend, and my friend Perry (and I can now think of more such friends) like our Apple products for good reasons. You say we are deluded fashionistas, in the grip of false consciousness. But however you slice it, it’s the products we like, or imagine that we like, or have been hypnotised into liking. We care far less about the Apple management style. I suspect my lady friend cares absolutely nothing about that.

    I of course think you are entirely wrong about me only thinking I like Apple because I want to impress people. Am I imagining the thing about the letters not disappearing on my Apple keyboard, unlike with all other keyboards I’ve had for the last decade? Is the splendidly solid feel of the thing just my malfunctioning imagination? And I’d add that the Apple keyboard didn’t even cost any more than the crap PC alternatives on offer. A bit less, actually.

    But that is a separate argument.

  • Build quality, too. Try carrying an Apple and a Sony laptop around in a backpack with you regularly. The Sony will fall to pieces. The Apple won’t. And Sony is not cheaper than Apple. Yes, PC brands with good build quality do exist, but it is another thing Apple does well.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Brian, there’s an IBM compact keyboard that is your basic PC keyboard without a keypad. Look for an IBM “model M” Part Number 1397681. Very high quality, excellent tactile feedback and quite short. I have two (both in use) and they are excellent.

    These have the detachable cable, so be sure one’s included: individual cables are harder to find than the keyboards.

  • You tell him Brian – I’m on my third Apple computer in seven years and I hate the image Apple puts across, but I much prefer it to the old PC I used to have. What I don’t like is going into an Apple shop – it feels like opening the Guardian with your pants down while you’re on the loo and other people can see you.

  • Pat McCann

    I work at a fairly high tech company (B2B, global reach, 170+ LINUX servers, hand full of SUN & HP UX, IBM MAINFRAME 11 LPARS) and the best keyboard I have found is a (about) 10 year old DELL chunk of iron, noisy as H**** but it works!! But todays pc don’t have a din connection…………………….

  • @IanB “And it seems like only yesterday that all the Jobbies were saying how PCs were inescapably inferior because they used Intel processors, right up until Apple started using, er, Intel processors…”

    Because Intel caught up and overtook Motorola/IBM PowerPC technology, which had got stuck in a rut, IIRC, when IBM abandoned the generic space and went off and focused the PowerPC into tight niches such as multicore game engines and big servers, both unsuited to laptop/deskside.

    Until that point PowerPC was better. Apple was always planning on the possibility of Intel doing this, as OSX had been cut on x86 since the very first pre-beta and was kept in such a state version by version.

    Even now, Apple’s Intel machines are better than Intel PCs because they use EFI and not PhoenixBIOS. Even before you get to the Operating System, the motherboards are C21st, not stuck in the 1980′s.

    It is a shame they do not have an Itanium model, as I would try and get OpenVMS to run on it…now THAT would be something – the most bulletproof OS* on the most beautiful hardware. I;d then run Erlang on that OS. If only I could get ZFS on there too…

    * OpenVMS is to Unix as Unix is to Win3.1

  • I find Dell gear to be very solid, particularly the accessories. I don’t have a Dell PC at the moment, but I have their screens, printers, keyboards etc. As a mass market brand, they are pretty decent. My major problem with them is that their support departments seem to get confused a lot. Once the hardware gets to the repair shop they repair it okay, and I’ve never had problems getting them to honour a warranty, but their logistics can get horribly confused.

  • EvilDave

    The thing I hate most about my iPhone (only Apple kit) is that is was clearly designed for a childless homosexual couple.
    There is no way for me to make this thing child-friendly. I can’t stop apps from being deleted or moved. I have to jailbreak it to make it so not every app can launch (password protect), and their media child protection is horrid.
    If I don’t want the kid to play R/PG-13 videos the videos just disappear and I have to deep into the Configuration UI to get them to show up again.
    .
    Steve Jobs may make good products, but he is horrid human being. Just look at the way he treated his child Lisa for years. (Yes I know NOW he has given her money and she has forgiven him. Dad of the year he is.)

  • Laird

    Wow, what a great rant! I’m still a little dizzy from flying off on all those tangents.

    But I agree with Ian B. I really like the numeric keypad, and the separate section with the arrow and control buttons. And from what I can see the slight advantages of using Apple products don’t outweigh the angst caused by having to associate with their acolytes. You may like them because of their functionality and features, but too many others are the technological equivalent of Obamaniacs.

    Still, I appreciate Apple’s assumed “outlaw” persona, and am surprised that no one has yet posted a link to their awesome “1984″ advertisement (a deficiency which I am happy to rectify): (Link)

  • As good as Apple are at creating lovely looking and solid feeling hardware, my fingers are just far too happy typing away on my IBM Model M from 1991 for me to switch away from a buckling spring keyboard.

  • Tanuki

    Apple stuff is invariably a “Walled Garden” – you get what Saint Jobs decrees.

    It’s very much like Socialism: the “Man in Cupertino” decides what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not.

    Google for “Choice editing”. Sure, Apple stuff “just works” – but only within the controlled paradigm defined by Steve Jobs.

    You want Flash on your iPhone? Jobs says No!

    Screw that for a game of soldiers.

  • Peter melia

    Like you Brian, I have been a lifelong IBM (in the office) and PC (home) man. I must have spent countless ages battling with the problems associated with PCs. In the office it didn’t matter, there was always the IT guy who could work magic, but at home it is wearisome and not cheap.
    So eventually I took the plunge, switched to an iMac.
    In the shop I asked the Apple man what I did for help. he looked surprised. “What help?” “You know, the problems, the usual stuff…” “There isn’t any ‘usual stuff’, there are no problems”. He took pity upon me. “Look, it just works. I too was a PC man, but now I wonder why it took me so long to switch, I must have been mad…”. He went on, “..you will be able to work everything out yourself, it’s intuitive. It’s so easy. What I always say is come to us by all means, we’ll surely help you, but it is better if you take note of any problems that arise, and call us in a few months time with the list. Not many people call us”.
    That was six months ago and I still haven’t had reason to call him.
    On the other hand my wife wanted a new PC, not a Mac. So we bought a 4G laptop with Windows 7. This is billed as being comparable with Snow Leopard. It isn’t, except like a Ford is to Mercedes. I’ve nothing against Ford, I run one. And a Mercedes. Both excellent. And there is no doubt that Henry’s product transformed civilisation for the better, whereas without Ford, cars would still be the prerogative of the rich, without even many decent roads.
    So don’t knock PC’s, they’re great, and don’t knock Ford either, they are terrific.
    Buy the car which suits you, if you can afford it, and buy an Apple, afford it or not!

  • It’s very much like Socialism: the “Man in Cupertino” decides what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not.

    Yes indeed except for the whole non-voluntary force backed thing it is just like socialism *rolls eyes*

    Strangely I bought a Mac because it works really well. Also I have yet to have Mr. Jobs send the kommisars around to see if I am using my Mac in an approved manner. Perhaps that will happen after the warranty expires or maybe if someone rats me out and tells them I also have a couple PCs.

  • James

    I confess that I continue to chuckle when observing all of the time, energy and money that people invest in the little electronic gizmos that (they willingly allow to) control their lives.

    The technology is neat, yes, but really, what is the appeal in organizing your life in so many infinitesimal ways? If I hear just one more git sing the praises of the “Atomic Fart” app…

    Yes, I have a mobile phone. It is an older pre-paid Nokia, a gift from the Missus. I’ve only ever needed to use once in many years of ownership, to call the Auto Club after having locked my keys in the car. Otherwise, it’s a challenge to remember to keep it charged. I get on just fine, thanks. One wonders how the others get through their days without their Crackberries and such surgically attached to their persons.

  • Ian B

    Yes indeed except for the whole non-voluntary force backed thing it is just like socialism *rolls eyes*

    It never ceases to amaze me how virulent anti-collectivists completely miss blatantly collectivist ideology when it doesn’t have a “government” stamp on it. See also: w3c. And, relevant to a previous thread, Boy Scouts etc.

    You don’t think sticking a lad in a uniform and training him to dib dib dib on demand, then giving him a computer with all the choices made for him by an authority, then telling him he mustn’t use <TABLE> tags for layout because that’s been verboten by a quango in waiting independent committee etc etc doesn’t have an effect on that lad’s perception of individualism?

    “I just got my w3c compliance badge dad! Can’t wait ’til I’m old enough to vote Nanny State!”

    “That’s my boy!”

  • Well yes, some people are collectivists, always will be – should we outlaw collectivism? You’ll have choice, dammit, whether you like it or not!

  • Ian B

    should we outlaw collectivism?

    No, but likewise there’s no obligation to approve of it!

  • Didn’t see it approved, not in Perry’s comment. All he expressed is indifference to other people’s preferences – as one properly should.

  • Ian B

    I wasn’t refrerring to whether Perry approved of it, I was referring to disapproval of it by others.

  • Strange, I thought you were quoting Perry in your comment, following which I made mine.

  • Ian B

    I did quote him, but the approval I referred to (or rather, lack thereof) was that of people who don’t like overtly collectivist private things, like Apple-ism and the Boy Scouts. We certainly can’t and shouldn’t stop people joining these weird cults, but are nonetheless quite at liberty to point out that they’re weird cults which individualists might wish to be suspicious of if they think things through.

    Taking a more profound issue, cultic Islam is a private institution, not a government one, but that doesn’t mean it’s any the less nasty.

  • Ian B

    I mean, we’ve all known people who started off just getting an iPod because it was the fashionable thing, then ended up camping out for a week outside an Apple store in the hope of touching the hem of Jobs’s garment, while sending minute-by-minute updates on their situation to the internet on a hideously garish laptop that nobody but a toddler could find visually appealing. Then starved to death, because they’d read a rumour about soon to be released iFood. Haven’t we?

  • Islam consists of two parts: it’s a religion (to which I am quite indifferent), and it is a political doctrine – indeed, it is a governmental institution in several countries, and it strives to become such in the rest of the world. That to me is of great interest (albeit not of an enjoyable kind). As to them Apple and other freaks – really, who cares? Do you really find that there is a need to tell individualists that they shouldn’t worship Jobs? Next thing you’ll use this space to tell us not to drink out of a toilet. Anyway, lets change the subject, talk about the weather or gay hobbits or some such.

  • Alasdair

    Hey – when PC user gets to Heaven, and is being given the virtual tour just beside Pearly Gates (Bill great great great etc grandfather, it’s actually not a place), after seeing the thronging multitudes all throughout Heaven, he eventually gets to see a walled area within Heaven … and, when he asks what that is, he is told that “That’s just the Apple True-Believers – they think they are the only folk in Heaven!” …

  • Tedd

    Apple products actually vary quite widely in design philosophy, so it’s probably a waste of time to even try to describe them with a broad brush. For example, the Unix-based OSX is the antithesis of the “walled garden” that some people have described. I run almost exclusively open-source software on my Mac. On the other hand, iTunes is about as locked down as any product can be.

    I would say that the only supportable blanket statements about Apple products are: they usually exhibit a greater focus on industrial design factors than their competitors; and they usually exhibit good physical quality (such as robustness and fit and finish).

  • You don’t think sticking a lad in a uniform and training him to dib dib dib on demand, then giving him a computer with all the choices made for him by an authority, then telling him he mustn’t use

    tags for layout because that’s been verboten by a quango in waiting independent committee etc etc doesn’t have an effect on that lad’s perception of individualism?

    Er, nope.

    I have worn all sorts of uniforms, joined clubs with rules and dress codes, worked in market associations with rules, etc. and bought artworks from artists who I liked even though they “did it there way” without asking for my input … indeed I bought their stuff because they did it there way… a bit like buying a Mac because I like how they work.

  • Ian B

    Well, I dunno Perry. A lot of these voluntary organisations that are supposedly benign because they’re not The State, from the Scouts to the Sally Army to the Womens Institutes, were set up by worthies with very specific social engineering goals in mind, in particular to encourage collectivist values in their members, and it seems to me they had some success. Neither should we forget that “corporate” model, while operating externally in a market, is internally arranged similarly to the communist or fascist dictatorships. That doesn’t mean that everyone involved becomes indoctrinated in a collectivist mindset, but it surely has had an effect.

  • Bruce Hoult

    Hmm .. where to start. This is going to be primarily at Ian B because, as much as I agree with him on many other things, he is simply off the wall on this subject. There is clearly some irrational hatred going on there, and I doubt I can convince him of anything, but if I remain silent then others may listen to him and be mislead.

    For what it is worth, I very much doubt that Apple asked for, or condones, the no-knock raid on the Gizmodo editor. It is disgusting, and is totally disproportionate for any crime that may have been committed.

    “”Useless accountancy section”? You mean the numeric keypad? Those of us who are out of the typing kindergarten use it all the time”

    And you may have one. Apple makes keyboards with those as well. They even sell for exactly the same price as the ones without the numeric keyboard and the pgUp/pgDwn/home/end and arrow keys island. I’d say that, even given the identical prices, at last 90% of customers are buying the ones without the numeric keypads.

    IBM Model M keyboards are excellent too. I’ve salvaged half a dozen of them, and take one to work when I am forced to use PCs on contracts and simply ignore complains about the noise.

    “Apple products survive largely because of image. It’s a fashion thing. Apple have been enormously successful as promoting themselves as a progressivist, underdog company against right-wing, capitalist”

    Apple are extremely successful capitalists. They are currently taking something like 30% of the total world profits on mobile phones, and I think over 50% of the total world profits on PCs. And all while customers love them in the process.

    “even an mp3 player so crippled that you can’t even choose what song to listen to becomes a “feature””

    That is factually incorrect. While the product is called “shuffle”, you are free to play songs in sequence, or skip backwards and forwards through them to choose the one you want. Certainly with no screen and few buttons it’s less convenient to do that on most other MP3 players (including Apple’s own ones), but it’s no worse than any portable CD or cassette player ever made. I wouldn’t want a shuffle as my only MP3 player, but they’re great for exercising or just as a “so cheap you can afford to break it” member of the ecosystem.

    “It’s been a very long time since the competition between practical, useful DOS PCs and that funny little square box with the built-in two inch mono screen and not enough RAM that Apple produced, Perry.”

    Yes it has. These days it’s been a very long time since anyone could with any justification dismiss the Mac as a “toy”. Not since the Mac II in 1987, actually. Rectangular box, separate monitor (up to six of them, actually), lots of expansion slots.

    “And it seems like only yesterday that all the Jobbies were saying how PCs were inescapably inferior because they used Intel processors, right up until Apple started using, er, Intel processors…”

    You mistake cause and effect.

    Intel and Motorola/IBM have swapped the lead many times. The 68000 was better than the 286, but not the 386. The 68040 beat the early 486′s but not the DX2′s. The early PowerPCs 601/603/604 were generally better than the original Pentiums, but then the Pentium Pro trounced it (and every RISC workstation CPU at the time too) at huge expense, and the cheaper Pentium II took the mass market. But then the PowerPC G3 in turn was better than the PII and the G4 with Altivec beat the Pentium 3 with SSE.

    The PowerPC G5 was generally better than the Pentium 4, but both were too power hungry to go into laptops — one with any battery life to speak of anyway.

    At that point two things happened. Motorola concentrated on embedded systems while IBM concentrated on mainframe-class systems. Really, that had already happened years earlier with the G4 (embedded) and G5 (workstation), but Apple had coped, just.

    The other thing was that Intel had a breakthrough with the Pentium M/Centrino, which spawned the Core, Core 2, Core i7 etc. Prior to that, Intel was being severely savaged by AMD with their Athlon CPUs. From 2000 to 2005 pretty much any x86 user who had a choice bought AMD not Intel.

    While I use Apple products a lot, I have bought four x86 machines over the years to run Linux (or OSX): a Pentium Pro 200, an Athlon 700, an Athlon 3200+, and a Core i7 860.

    Apple is using Intel Core CPUs because they are clearly the best today. At the times that they claimed the PowerPC was the best the claim was true, at least for certain things that were important to Apple’s core customers (e.g. Photoshop, sound and video processing)

    From Tanuki:
    “You want Flash on your iPhone? Jobs says No!”

    There aren’t any other phones with Flash. Adobe has ben promising it for years, but it’s not here yet. The jury is still out as to how much it will suck when/if it does arrive.

    “It’s very much like Socialism: the “Man in Cupertino” decides what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not.”

    I always find it amusing how fans of Microsoft and Windows manage to describe both Linux and Apple stuff as being like socialism or communism.

    For what it’s worth, I can do anything I like with *my* iPhone, using Apple’s SDK. I can write my own programs that do anything I want, using any APIs I find in the operating system. I can give copies to my friends to install on their own iPhone just by dragging them into iTunes. This is all totally legitimate and supported by Apple. No jailbreaking or hacking involved.

    The *only* thing I can’t do is force Apple to carry them in Apple’s online store if they don’t like what the program does or how it does it.

    I’m frankly surprised that people of supposedly libertarian bent object to my lack of ability to force Apple to do things.

  • You want Flash on your iPhone? Jobs says No!

    Actually, I don’t want any Flash at all. I hate the crap, and have it switched off in my browser. Nothing infuriates me more than to open up a site and have it be blank, only to find out that the only way I can access the page is to turn on GDF Flash.

  • …from the Scouts to the Sally Army to the Womens Institutes, were set up by worthies with very specific social engineering goals in mind

    I have no problem at all with trying to get other members of ‘society’ to see things my way… am I therefore a ‘social engineer’?

    As long as the Sally Army is not taking money from passers-by via pulling a Webley from their trombone and demanding it with menaces, why should I object to them quixotically attempting to spread the virtues of charity and belief in the Invisible Imaginary Guy In The Sky?

  • I’m frankly surprised that people of supposedly libertarian bent object to my lack of ability to force Apple to do things.

    Quite so. Moreover it appears that for Apple to reserve the right to make and market as they wish is “socialist” for some reason. Bizarre.

  • What Ted said – although I always prefer to have a choice.

    Ian: why is other people’s mindset any of your concern? Doesn’t sound very individualist to me.

  • It never ceases to amaze me how virulent anti-collectivists completely miss blatantly collectivist ideology when it doesn’t have a “government” stamp on it. See also: .. Boy Scouts etc.

    You don’t think sticking a lad in a uniform and training him to dib dib dib on demand, .. doesn’t have an effect on that lad’s perception of individualism?

    [elides for non Boy Scout stuff]

    The point of the Boy Scouts is that the kids run most of it with the older kids teaching the kids slightly younger all the way down the line. The scout master is there to make sure things don’t go all “Lord of the Flies;” it would not be possible for him to keep 50 kids in line or to have the technical expertise to teach them all everything.

    Scouts are given responsibility and autonomy much earlier than in the wider world. At large summer camps there are thousands of scouts and the various program Directors are 18-20 years old.

    I’m a USian so things might be different on the other side of the pond. Since scouts over there aren’t even allowed to carry pocket knives I’d bet they don’t teach 12 year olds to shoot, either.

  • Glad to see I’m not the only “technological retrograde” here.
    James: bingo.
    Ted: double bingo.
    IanB: “what a deep telepathic connection we have!”(c) Crowds of any kind make me a hermit; Apple crowds, with their self-satisfactory smirks of infantile superiority, make me puke – and go back to a normal keyboard, where I can type normal keys w/o looking.

    Periodically I’m forced to use an Apple keyboard and mouse@graphics’ lab at Pratt: what a pain. It’s flat, it’s white, it feels like a paper mock-up of a real thing; the mouse is an ergonomic horror compared to my Performance MX Logitech.

    Phones: I got one purely for calling and getting messages, thank you. No IFlash for me.
    Oh, and I hate when people are touching screens.

    Take your greasy paws someplace else!

  • Ian B,

    It’s not often that I disagree with you, but you’re so wrong on this issue that I don’t know where to start.

    Still, I’ll try here…

    The products aren’t anything special, measured in technological and usability terms.

    If you are talking about pure hardware, sure. But if you are talking about the OS and the hardware, nothing is comparable in ease-of-use. Nothing.

    I could also look at your rants about collectivism but I have tried not to do so too closely, because I would lose all respect for you.

    “Collectivism” is not always bad, and is often good: it is people working voluntarily as a team to achieve some particular outcome.

    Intelligent people don’t “completely miss blatantly collectivist ideology when it doesn’t have a “government” stamp on it”: it’s merely that they approve of it.

    The difference between the so-called collectivism of Apple, or the W3C or the Boy Scouts is that people enter into it voluntarily.

    The point about government collectivism is that it is not voluntary—it is imposed by force. I wouldn’t presume to speak for all of the other “virulent anti-collectivists” to whom you refer, but for me it is forced collectivism that is wrong and evil, not collectivism per se.

    Understand?

    DK

  • DK: “The difference between the so-called collectivism of Apple, or the W3C or the Boy Scouts is that people enter into it voluntarily.”

    The W3C or the Boy Scouts, maybe, but Apple has not been shy of using the force of the state to achieve its objectives.

  • Bruce Hoult: I’m frankly surprised that people of supposedly libertarian bent object to my lack of ability to force Apple to do things.

    So would I, if anybody had done so, but I don’t see that anybody has.

    Certainly some people have said that Apple make poor products, or that Apple’s authoritarian attempts to control the way products they manufacture can be used makes them a poor choice, but I’ve not seen anybody say that Apple should be forced to operate in a particular way.

  • I tell you what is Socialism/totalitarianism – Nokia before the iPhone.

    Even before I could find out about their measly development programme, they ask me to fork out £650. I put this into the “paying t’mill owner for permission to come to work” category.

    Then their poxy SDK only runs on frikkin Windows. Badly. And then I have to pay them to even consider listing it AND they demand a MASSIVE chuck of my revenues. Union dues in a closed shop and then taxing me, in other words.

    They considered it a monopoly and gouged away. And Socialism is all about that monopoly.

    Apple see the Appstore as symbiotic. they learnt that a good free IDE meant people developed on their Mac platform and so this is what they did for the iPhone. They knew people could chose to stay away.

    Nokia was shown up by this. Big time. They should have known better. Had they used their 2 yr or so advantage to build a community of developers, Apple would have been in a far worse position.

    Still, as they say, never interrupt your enemy when they are making mistakes.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    It’s very much like Socialism: the “Man in Cupertino” decides what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not

    Posted by Tanuki at April 30, 2010 07:27 PM

    Henry Ford on Model T customers: “They can have any color they want, so long as it’s black.”

    Henry Ford, socialist. Not to mention that devil, Hobson.

  • “It’s very much like Socialism: the “Man in Cupertino” decides what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not

    Posted by Tanuki at April 30, 2010 07:27 PM

    Henry Ford on Model T customers: “They can have any color they want, so long as it’s black.”

    Henry Ford, socialist. Not to mention that devil, Hobson.

    Posted by PersonFromPorlock at May 1, 2010 07:40 PM”

    I think the significant difference was that, once Henry Ford sold you a car, it was your car to use as you saw fit.

    If Henry Ford had tried to sell cars on the basis that he retained the right to decide which petrol station you could use and where you could drive it, it would be a more comparable proposition.

  • Bruce Hoult

    “If Henry Ford had tried to sell cars on the basis that he retained the right to decide which petrol station you could use and where you could drive it, it would be a more comparable proposition.”

    But Apple doesn’t do that.

    Your phone is yours. You can do anything you want with it, use it on any carrier you like (every iPhone sold here in NZ is unlocked and will work on Vodafone, Telecom XT, or 2Degrees). If you want to tinker deep inside then you need some specialist tools which do cost money but not much (US$99). You can then put any app on it that you want, and you can get apps from others — you can compile them yourself, or at least codesign them yourself, or give your device ID to someone else and they codesign them for you.

    Apple has their own petrol stations which carry a range of accessories. They choose which accessories they carry in their own stores. But you don’t have to use Apple’s store — it’s just a bit more convenient to do so.

    Or you can jailbreak your own phone and then you don’t even need codesigning. Apple probably doesn’t particularly approve of jailbreaking but then they’ve never done anything to try to shut down the people doing it and telling others how to do it.

  • I tell you what is Socialism/totalitarianism – Nokia before the iPhone.

    Nokia’s customers were not ultimately the people who bought the phones, they were the mobile phone operators like Vodafone, Orange, and T-Mobile. Most of these are state owned or former state owned telcos, or companies that think like former state owned telcos. In any event, they had gained their market position largely through owning one of a small number of state granted licences to operate, rather than through such things as anticipating their customers needs and wishes, or good customer service.

    These companies would tell Nokia what features the phone was allowed to have and what applications it could run. Then they would offer a limited number of handsets to their customers, although the subsidy and handset model would mean that customer choice was influenced by what the network was willing to give you or wanted you to have as much as by price. Then, as you say, the operator and the manufacturer (Nokia) wanted almost all the revenues from any application they allowed on the phone to be given to them.

    This led to phones with few data applications, and those that did exist were generally expensive and terrible. Even as little as three or four years ago, people in the mobile industry were explaining that they were finding that customers “didn’t want to use data services, regardless of how hard we try to sell them”. (Of course, the one data service that customers used was SMS, but that one was provided almost by accident).

    Apple blew this completely open. Steve Jobs went to the telcos and said “We are producing a phone. Here is how it is going to work. Take it or leave it”, basically. Lots of people (see here, for instance) said the iPhone would fail, because Apple “didn’t understand” the mobile business, but of course that is not what happened.

    With anyone else, the operators would have told him to leave it, and some carriers (Verizon for instance) apparently did tell him to leave it, but enough said yes that the iPhone was launched, and the whole model of smartphones and applications changed completely. Apple deserves our thanks for that. You may not like Apple’s locked in App store model, but it has a good and free SDK, although a few applications are rejected the vast majority are accepted, Apple’s 30% cut of the price (out of which they pay hosting fees, credit card costs and various other sundry housekeeping expenses, so their profit is less than that) is not particularly excessive, and once you have bought an application there are no ticket clipping charges afterwards other than the cost of the data service.

    This is vastly better than what existed before the iPhone came along, and the ascendency of smart phones over the last couple of years is largely due to Apple. If you don’t want to use Apple, go and use one of the alternative smart phone platforms – Android, say. These are much better because of the existence of the iPhone too. Apple seems to believe that they are hugely offended that Google have the audacity to dare to compete with their products, and if they deserve criticism, this is where it should be made. (If they were involved in any way on the raid on the Gizmodo editor’s home, they deserve strong criticism for this, and the authorities deserve stronger criticism for this). Personally I will let them bluster about things like this, and I will no doubt keep buying their products.

  • Bruce Hoult:

    Your phone is yours. You can do anything you want with it

    I’m not convinced that’s true. In fact, I don’t think Apple ever really view the phone as being yours. The mindset seems to be that the phone is always theirs, to be used only in ways that they approve of at any given moment in time, with that control being exerted through a combination of technical obstructions, legal threats and for want of a better term, vandalism.

    In terms of technical obstructions, there are steps, such as obfuscating the iTunes database to impede the ability to connect devices to anything other than Apple software.

    In terms of legal threats, they have issued dubious DMCA takedown notices to people publishing information which may allow others to understand the database layout.

    In terms of the last point, they have “bricked” devices where the owner has modified them in a way not meeting with Apple’s approval.

    Or you can jailbreak your own phone and then you don’t even need codesigning. Apple probably doesn’t particularly approve of jailbreaking but then they’ve never done anything to try to shut down the people doing it and telling others how to do it.

    As per the previous comment, I don’t think that’s true. They’ve taken steps to both disable the phones of those doing it and attempt to silence those telling others how to open up their devices.

  • jdm

    This is probably hopelessly late, but I can’t help myself…

    Build quality, too. [...] Yes, PC brands with good build quality do exist, but it is another thing Apple does well.

    Piffle.

    There are a lot of things I like about Apple’s products – I particularly like their BSD-Unix variant – but of all the computers I’ve owned – going back to the 80s – the only one with h/w problems was a Mac (Mini). And because I believed all the hype about their quality, I had moved/put a lot of stuff, music especially on that damn thing. And just after that I started hearing from others I know about their issues with Apple products.

    Personally, nowadays, I just assume all computers suck and I back things up regularly and I run Linux with a Winblows laptop for those lame-ass products and sites that don’t do Linux. In my opinion, Apple’s products, for all their great features, cost too much when considering how well they work and how difficult they are to service.

    Maybe I’ll get around to recovering my Mini, but I’m still annoyed every time I see it.

  • jdm: Well, different people have different experiences. My present Macbook Pro (the late 1997 model, so about two and a half years old) has been much tougher than any other laptop I have owned – that includes an IBM (as it was) Thinkpad, and also machines from Dell and Sony. That said, thorough and complete backups are a good idea, regardless of whose hardware and software you are using. Time Machine on OS-X is a nice backup tool.

  • Daveon

    These companies would tell Nokia what features the phone was allowed to have and what applications it could run.

    Sorry Michael, that hasn’t really been the case for quite a while. I remember working on Vodafone specified handsets (R4 through to when they thankfully ditched it at R12) and having to sit through vodafone execs whinging about how Nokia pretty much ignored them.

    Nokia made a product people wanted and people bought them. All over the world. Including in countries where there isn’t a carrier subsidy model. I also recall a meeting with a team from Microsoft where they were demanding to know why feature X was in the standards and why they had to supply it when Nokia didn’t – the only response was a pithy comment by somebody that that was what happened when you had 40% market share.

    I was at an AT&T developer event just before CES and they didn’t mention the iPhone once. Their big thing was the creation of their own app store which will aggregate all the 3rd party services and then bill centrally.

    The main thing I took away from it was that they were extremely happy that Apple had changed the game but that now there alternatives (Android, BREW etc…) they would be happy to stop paying the Jobs tax.

  • Sorry Michael, that hasn’t really been the case for quite a while.

    Well, the practice of the manufacturer producing a “standard” version of a device, and then producing operator specific firmware that disables applications and features built into the phone was still pretty common when the iPhone arrived, and I still see it from time to time. This could be got around by the user flashing the phone with the standard firmware (probably voiding the warranty) or buying the phone in an unsubsidised market or channel, but there was still a pretty strong effort on the part of the operator to control the handset. Yes, their ability to do so was probably slowly eroding, but Apple pretty much finished the process.

    The main thing I took away from it was that they were extremely happy that Apple had changed the game but that now there alternatives (Android, BREW etc…) they would be happy to stop paying the Jobs tax.

    That seems pretty reasonable to me, yes. The rules are changed and there are plenty of options. This is good in a great many ways. The US market remains a little funny due to using technologies and frequencies not widely used in the rest of the world, so handsets remain more operator specific than elsewhere, there. That’s slowly improving too, I think, but it will remain an unusual market for a little while yet.

  • Natalia

    I agree with other comments saying they plug and play easy. I’ve never had a problem. Interesting comparison though I don’t really see it, Besides one is operating in the free market, the other is a life time gov. worker.

  • Ian

    It’s a fairly safe bet that anyone who has reached the top of any sizeable organisation is a b****rd – because if they weren’t then a more b****rdly b****rd would have kicked them out of the way long before they got there.

    The important question is not whether they’re a b****rd or not, it’s what they do with their power. Some people use their power constructively (e.g. Steve Jobs making fantastic products that just work), and others use it destructively (e.g. Kenneth Lay’s management of Enron or Gordon Brown’s rape of the British economy).

    I saw the light a year ago when I bought my first Mac. I can’t imagine going back to that complicated, unfriendly, cluttered, confusing, buggy and generally rubbish Microsoft Windows. And I’ll have to cut up my credit cards when the iPad comes out…

  • BFFB

    I use Linux and open source software where ever I can, it’s usually just as good as the stuff you pay for — so sod paying for it. And for stuff that doesn’t have native Linux support there’s WINE.

  • Paul Marks

    I know little of computer and other such (to put the matter mildly).

    But people who do tell me that Apple’s products are good – therefore on this point Brian is correct.

    As for Obama – he has never produced anything in his life (other than several books – all about saying how wonderful he is, even what in other people would be bad things are spun to prove he is wonderful), nor does he seem to have ever had an honest job in his whole life.

    So some people at Apple may support Obama – but he is nothing like them.

    They should also beware that.

    For example, the people at BP gave millions to the Obama campaign (far more than they have ever given to any other poltical campaign in history).

    That has not stopped the Obama people boasting (endlessly) how they have now got their “boot on the throat of BP”.

    That boot may go down on the throat of Apple next – it does not need an oil spill to go down.

    When those who make deals with the state (hopeing the government will use force to help them achieve their goals) are betrayed by the government they helped put in power, who do they appeal to?

    Who can help them? Or even wants to help them?

    If a foe of Obama and his Comrades was attacked he would have friends to help him.

    We might not be able to save this foe – but we would do what we could (regardless of the risk to ourselves).

    But if some corporate backer of Obama was attacked?

    Say the head of General Electric was betrayed by the Obama people (quite likely – after all they only tolerate such “useful idiots” as long as they are usefull) would I risk myself to try and save him?

    The only honest reply is “NO”. And I believe that most Obama foes are like me – we would be better Christians (or better Humanists) if we were prepared to risk ourselves to try and save someone who backed Obama, but we are not (in the main) prepared to do this.

  • Bruce Hoult

    Paul says:
    ‘In terms of the last point, they have “bricked” devices where the owner has modified them in a way not meeting with Apple’s approval.’

    I’ve got a fairly good reason to care about the answer to that, as I’ve got several Jailbroken Apple devices, and I am an iPhone developer as well, and I believe that you are factually incorrect on that.

    When a company provides an update for some software & hardware that they supplied on a consumer device, they have a reasonable expectation that they can assume that the software on the device is what they put there, and they they need to ensure their update is compatible with the standard software. It is quite unreasonable that they should be expected to obtain every 3rd party modification in existence, install it, and test that their update works with the 3rd party modification present.

    You would not expect Toyota, for example, to provide new firmware for the ECU in your car that was guaranteed to work no matter what hotrodding you had done on the car yourself.

    This does not imply that Toyota believe you do not own your own car.

  • Bruce Hoult: “I believe that you are factually incorrect on that.”

    I think you would be wrong to believe that.

    This latest car analogy is a nice attempt to legitimise Apple’s conduct, but like the previous one, it falls some way short of the reality.

    What Apple does is more akin to Toyota telling you where you can fill up your car, putting in a sensor to detect which filling stations you use, pushing out an “update” which disables any car which has been filled up at an unapproved filling station and then trying to excuse it by saying that they can’t be expected to support all filling stations.

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