Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bad Apples

I gave it a day, but that's as good as I can do. I preface this with: I have nothing personally against Steve Jobs. As a person, he may have had plenty of positive qualities. The link I shared for his death is actually a great article that I agree with, those are his legacies, and they are at the core of what is wrong. As a businessman who had a profound impact of the world market, Steve Jobs has done humanity a great disservice.

To begin with, I do agree that sweeping generalizations do not work very well. The company, Apple, has not been entirely bad, or had no good products. In fact, Apple performs one great service to the market, which is providing products that are simple and relatively easy to use. The iPhones are sleek. An iPad looks like a lot of fun to play with. I even own an iPod, and my parents own an iMac.

I look to Apple when I am tired, when I am being lazy, or when I simply know my limits. I pressured my parents into buying an iMac before I left for Mongolia. Why? Because I couldn't be there to help them troubleshoot. The glossy characteristic of the operating system, and even the hardware itself, was a beautiful, enamel coating protecting the computer from my parents. Other computers do not give so little trust to their users, but Macs, they know that their users cannot be trusted. So Mac-users get big icons, simple docks, and even mice with only one button just so nothing gets too complicated. That is a wonderful thing! For users that have no urge to inform themselves better.

The same goes for my iPod. I wanted portable music, and I wanted it without having to do research. I admit it, and I picked up a device that I knew I could throw music on with nothing more than iTunes, and could put in a pocket while I exercised. Was the Zune better? Maybe not, maybe Creative Labs came out with something mind-blowing. I will never know because I admitted my limits, and admitted that I didn't want the best thing on the market, but the simplest.

The problem begins with people not admitting that. Whatever the reason, whether it's because everyone else has them, or they look cool, people begin to assume that these Apple products are the best things on the market and that they need them. Who actually needs an iPad? I believe there is someone at there that has found an iPad to be the best solution to some problem they've had, but for the majority, it's a novelty, a cool gadget. And that's great, I love gadgets, but the popularity of iPads does not make Steve Jobs an innovator, it makes him brilliant at marketing, and that's all.

Apple's obvious corporate strategy is consolidation and monopoly. Under the guise of making life easier, it consolidates your mp3 player with your mp3 store. It consolidates your phone with your music player. It consolidates your internet browser with your operating system. When Microsoft does this, it's a bad thing, and they get dismantled. Why can't we see that it can also lead to a bad situation when Apple does it too?

When iTunes came out, WinAmp, Sonique, Realplayer, and Windows Media Player all existed for music. Did iTunes, originally, do anything better than the competition? No, but it won out because of its integration with Apple products. I am not crying foul here, this is not a bad thing, it's simply the market working. However, it's not a good thing, either. We are now stuck with mp3 as the audio format of choice, instead of a lossless format, not necessarily because of any technical details, but because iTunes did not support flac and aac files.

It's the lack of personal research, encouraged by Apple, that is so problematic. Apple tells the consumer that it wants Apple products, and we as consumers have started to get confused and actually turn that message around and believe that we need Apple products. What we need is better understanding, more research, and more competition! As consumers, it is our duty to be informed, to push the market to create better and better products. When an iPhone comes out that boasts dual processors, say, "Nice job catching up, Apple," because my Photon has been performing well thanks to its two processors for months now. When you hear about using your iPad or iPhone as a credit card, feel free to sound snobby and inform them that the technology is called Near Field Communications and has been around for a while now. Do not feel guilty, because there are plenty of half-informed Apple users out there ready for you to be as uninformed as they are and take that tone with you.

Allow yourself guilty pleasures, I have my iPod with Ke$ha on it, I admit. But do not spend your whole life lounging on the sidelines, letting companies tell you what you want. That is Steve Jobs' real legacy, and it's a poor one indeed.

- John


  1. These comments are from a friend (R) on Facebook regarding this post, and I wanted to keep them from being lost in the newsfeed:

    Although your conception of evolution is amiss, I completely agree with you on this post. It's also really well written, as I would expect nothing less from you. What I would say, and this was what I intended from my original post about simplicity, is that moves towards aesthetic simplicity are to be admired, so long as no other utility is lost (which prevents simplicity for simpletons' sake). I'm a big subscriber of Occam's razor, and in the case of apple's general exterior designs, they usually meet the test of all things being equal choose the simpler design. On internal functions, things are clearly not equal and usually better with other operating systems (you mention this quite aptly).

    You do well highlighting Apple's rather undemocratic tendencies. Don't do any individual thinking, but listen to Big Brother, i.e., Steve Jobs. Which is highly ironic because Apple has almost become synonymous with creativity, individualism, hipsters, etc. Even their patronizing commercials try to market this.

    Steve Jobs probably shouldn't be hailed as a great inventor. He unabashedly stole most of his stuff. But he took these technologies and he sharpened them to works of beauty. The iphone is a damn sexy looking piece of art. He was a better artist.

    ‎"Picasso had a saying: 'Good artists copy, great artists steal.' We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas...I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, poets, artists, zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world."
    -Steve Jobs

  2. I appreciate the quote at the end, and the almost definitely intentional dig at how I feel about many quotes. That over-used Picasso quote embedded within a Steve Jobs quote really, really gets me ...

    - John

  3. Although I really admire Jobs, I feel the same exact way about Apple products. It is ludicrous how Apple products somehow induce independence. The fact is Apple can be a damn fascist when it comes to the software it allows for the iPhone (really? no flash allowed? really?)

    Here's a good article about hipsters protesting... nothing in particular, just protestin' dude

    One day, a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Adam Sarzen, a decade or so older than many of the protesters, came to Zuccotti Park seemingly just to shake his head. “Look at these kids, sitting here with their Apple computers,” he said. “Apple, one of the biggest monopolies in the world. It trades at $400 a share. Do they even know that?”

    In other news Ubuntu 11.10 comes out this month...

  4. lol, twitter should have screened their tweet's they used on the "memorial" they put up. Thought you of all people would appreciate this.

  5. @Bobby, I enjoyed the examination of the memorial quite a bit. I'm not for just beating a dead horse (or person), but you're right, the tweet got in there because of sheer laziness and bad design.

    @Terrence, I love the article. It's so good it seems like it has to be anecdotal, but apparently not.

    I was talking to R specifically about the protests, and I've been waiting to be forced to write a retraction about the absurdity of the OWS movement. When the rumor about the Marines coming down came out, I was poised over my keyboard trying to figure out how I would have to apologize.

    The problem is that we DO indeed have a problem in the States. Our economy, our debt, our politics, it's all abysmal. Protest is a valid way, within the framework of our system, to enact change. But it has to be thought out, coherent, or nothing can come about.

    Trying to shut down Wall Street is borderline revolution. It's so contrary to anything that could help WITHIN our current system, that it is close to trying to to bring down the entire system itself. If I'm not mistaken, that's a reasonable definition of revolution. The problem with abandoning our current system is not fear of the unknown, but that a real revolution requires blood.

    This lack of thought to begin with is an incredibly dangerous thing. Not thinking could lead to more than inconvenience, it could lead to a loss of life. Anyone who can lightly allow that is monstrous.