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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Same-Old Apple Business Philosophy: iCrap

The other day, while watching television, I was treated to a newer Apple commercial promoting the iPad.  There was one glaring annoyance that I have not been able to stop from creeping into my anti-Apple thoughts.

Should we judge the quality of a product by the quality of add-on products?

Many of my friends, family and other acquaintances have been asking me "When are you getting an iPhone?"  Everyone seems to think that Apple has some sort of superior, amazing technology that someone like me, a software engineer, shouldn't be able to live without.  The reality of the matter is that Apple, principally via the iPhone, is dumbing things down so much that people think that it is because of Apple that they can now do all sorts of new and amazing things on their phone.


It has nothing to do whatsoever with Apple.  In fact, if people would get off the gimpy, lopsided Apple fad bandwagon they would see that it may have been the first, but no where near the best.  Sure, we could go around in circles on the Apple debate, but we wouldn't get anywhere because 99% of all iPhone consumers are not fans of even mildly technical subjects - much less the kind of technical knowledge that would be required to have an intelligent debate on the matter.

The fact is that people confuse the quality of an app with the quality of the device.  Sure, turn on your iPad or iPhone and you can do all sorts of cool and amazing things.  Thank software developers, not Apple.  You can get the same exact app for your Android device, with better performance and multi-tasking.  Of course the downside of all of this is that the general public is now having the ability to do new and complex things that before took more effort, patience and skill.

Now, as a software engineer, I shouldn't be against making user-friendly applications for end-users, but it is a paradox without any easy or apparent answers, much less a balanced compromise. Take for example MySpace.  Some would argue that MySpace gave the end-user the ability to totally customize their home page.  While that sort of customization may be handy as a feature, think about the end result: putting creative powers in incompetent hands.  How many people really know how to create a pleasing, aesthetic web page?  Not many; it's a skill that is learned.  But, if we give the general public absolute graphical power, we get a horrible mash of colors and animations and blinking text.  Why?  Because they can.  Just like Dr. Malcom said in Jurassic Park: "They were so preoccupied with whether they could, they never bothered to think about if they should."

Unfortunately, Apple has blinded their consumers to the mere existence of other smart phones.  Apple consumers will blindly choose an Apple device just because it has the Apple logo on it.  They see a commercial that portrays some massive touch screen and some neighborly mid-20s person doing something amazing and they just have to have it.  Would you like a better product?  No!  No!  Why not?

Because... it's not an iPhone.

Us software engineers and other good consumers of conscience have only one thing to look forward to: the day when Apple commits technological suicide - again.  Apple wasn't doing so bad a few decades ago, but they went so far proprietary that they almost ended up as a chapter in history.  The mindset of the Apple company is not to embrace application or open development standards.  They want everyone to adopt their ways.  Take Microsoft, for example.  While you can argue for hours over the actions and corporate ethics, look at what they have done for the development community.  You can get everything you need to build powerful, rich applications - free.  Want to build a website using traditional scripting and languages?  Want to build rich web applications using the latest (and greatest) software?  Want to design traditional applications?  Want to design web services?  Want to create your own database?  It doesn't matter because all of this is free.  And not just that, there is so much available to learn from: tutorials, videos, whitepapers, blogs, etc.

If Apple was smart, they would capitalize and learn to make friends of the development community.  Not ostracize them in exchange for a few minutes in the limelight.  But, they wont.  History will run its course, and Apple will once again go the way of the bell-bottom.  Almost gone for a few decades until some demented soul tries to resurrect it.

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