I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of Apple products at all. Many consider me Apple unfriendly, and I won’t try to deny that. But as a long time technical type person, there are reasons. Mostly due to the proprietary nature of Apple products and their un-friendlyness to tweakers like me.
Back in the mid – to – late 70′s Sony tried to be the king of the Video Cassette Recorders (VCR’s) by using a proprietary format – Betamax – and wanted to charge all other VCR makers a fee to use video tape technology. A competing technology emerged called VHS and after lengthy battles in the marketplace and the courts, VHS won because it was a standard format with no ties to a single vendor. That means that the licensing fees to use the technology were not necessary, allowing the prices of VCR’s to drop dramatically as a result of the competition.
I am not a Sony fan for that reason.
IBM tried the same tactic with personal computers in the early 80′s. The IBM PC cost thousands of dollars and if you wanted to buy any hardware, you had to go to IBM and buy the more expensive components from them. As with VCR’s, an alternate technology arose with open and interchangeable hardware and software – and no proprietary licensing scheme. IBM fought this in the courts and lost, so they came out with their PS2 technology and managed to do all the legwork to protect their “invention”. PS2 was faster. So others combined to come up with a competing advance, built from the ground up. IBM eventually gave up trying to be the lone home computer manufacturer and prices dropped dramatically as a result of the competition.
I am not a fan of IBM for that reason.
And Apple went the same route. Everything had to be manufactured by Apple. No competition. The Apple I and Apple II and the Apple IIe became the Mac. But this worked for Apple, but only for a small percentage of the market. While Steve Jobs was content to carve out a niche marketplace of loyal followers, others hardware manufacturers were after the whole world. Linux, DOS, Windows, Desqview and other operating systems were perfectly happy with pretty much any hardware, and you could buy pieces and parts from just about anywhere.
Of course there is a down side and stability is the price we pay for openness in technology. To people like me, that’s an acceptable gamble. And many have the ability to make things work. I have gone in and tweaked and rewritten drivers to make products more stable on my platform. The result is, I can buy a modem, sound card and hard drive for half the price of and Apple modem.
While I didn’t realize it in the 70′s, I was an open market proponent even then, seeing the results in my wallet first hand. I even worked for a company called Anderson-Jacobsen that wanted to bring more affordable components to the marketplace through innovation and open markets, and make money and provide jobs in the process. While a fellow tech company Carterphone battled Ma Bell in the courts to force the phone company to allow equipment other than their own to connect to the phone network, AJ designed the first commercial “acoustic coupler” that allowed a dial-up user to place a call to a remote modem and place the telephone handset in an acoustic cradle to communicate. This eliminated any direct connection to the phone network which was not allowed until 1978. Carterphone won the case in 1968, but the courts allowed the phone company to require that you buy or lease an interface device from Ma Bell between 1968 and 1978. Finally, in 1978 the courts decided that any FCC approved device could connect directly to the public phone network, making way for faster modems and real innovation in computer communications.
I am not a fan of the phone companies for that reason.
But I will admit that there is a difference with Apple. And I have always been a fan and admirer of Steve Jobs and his fellow Apple co-founder Steve Wozniac. ‘Woz’ was the nuts and bolts guy, and Jobs the ideas man. (Ronald Wayne was also a founder, but his contributions were minimal.) It was always said that Jobs took a different approach to innovation. Rather than find a need and fill it, Jobs created devices that people didn’t truly need, but simply had to have. Sort of a “if you build it, they will come” attitude. This is a fairly risky approach. So, the stuff Jobs dreamed up simply must work without a lot of hassle. Otherwise, no matter how cool or useful, buyers would shun a problematic new device.
So, Apple’s business model of limited outside components and software is more out of necessity than the corporate greed and protectionist attitude I outlined with the other corporations above.
And as an IT professional for most of my adult life, I will admit that I have highly recommended Mac’s and iPhones for some people. Those who are comfortable with paying a bit more for the initial hardware, any potential add-ons and applications in exchange for very high reliability and stability are perfectly happy with Apple products, and would find themselves frustrated with “tweekable” tools. And that is perfectly understandable.
Some people are happy to have others dictate to them and control every aspect of their lives. Most of these people are called Liberals and have no issue with Apple’s hard line approach.
Others prefer to control their own destiny, and are willing to accept some issues in exchange for the freedom to make their own decisions. Most of these people are called Conservatives and are less willing to find Apple’s philosophy a friendly approach in their lives.
(You see how I worked politics into this non-political post – after all, this is a political blog!)
So, bottom line. Steve Jobs is a personal hero of mine. Apple, not so much. But they do get a bit of a pass from me. While their business model is repressive to consumer freedom, their motives are not market domination and obscene, undeserved financial gains.
Apple ‘Hater’ may be a bit strong after all. Suffice it to say I disagree with their methods, but agree that they are necessary for Apple.
Reportedly, Jobs has 4 years worth of new innovations he has bequeathed to Apple. I look forward to seeing these come about. Apple is not dead without Jobs, but the void created by Steven Job’s creative genius and imagination is irreplaceable. Neither Apple nor the world will be the same without him. Dreamers are a dime a dozen, but true visionaries are rare indeed. And Steve Jobs was the best of the best of visionaries.
God bless Steve and his family. We have all suffered an enormous loss.