I can't hold it in any longer. I'm experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance here with some of my recent choices regarding technology. Back in the day, I was a hardcore dedicated DOS guy. Between running my own BBS (it was called The Laughing Dog. I need to dig up some of my ANSI/ASCII art one of these days) playing Doom over 2400 baud modem and watching demoscene intros, I couldn't imagine using a Mac. I ridiculed the PowerMacs we had at my high school -- they simply felt sluggish and limited to me.
When OS X was first introduced, however, Mac was going through a huge renaissance. I was intrigued, and was slowly introduced to the world of Apple through a co-worker. A year later, I pulled the trigger on an iBook G3, and for many years, I could easily have been labeled a "fanboy." Yes, the annoying kind that recommended Apple to hapless, frustrated Windows XP and Vista users, stating that "you should just get a Mac, X thing would be so much easier, blah blah blah." Several iPods and and upgraded MacBook later, I found myself spending the big bucks on the first iPhone after a brief stint with a Treo 650 (running Palm OS before that went all to hell) and a Samsung BlackJack with Windows Mobile (ugh.)
The iPhone and iOS in general completely changed the way I viewed mobile technology. Saying it was a game changer was an understatement of colossal proportions. It really did feel magical -- there was simply nothing else even remotely like it on the market, limitations aside. I could safely say that it was WAY better than the alternatives. I happily upgraded to an iPhone 3G after saying I wouldn't. I was overjoyed with the speed and finesse of the iPhone 4, with a to-die-for Retina Display.
I eagerly waited in line to buy the first iPad, which once again completely changed my perspective on what a computer can be, and I now cannot imagine living without multiple tablets in my home. I even wrote a short piece chronicling this journey, and I stick to mostly everything I said then. (Exception being that I am more productive on a PC now, more just because of usage time.)
Things for me are completely different now. It started with the release of Windows 7 -- an OS I have never had problems with. It's fast, stable, and simply just great, and vastly superior for gaming. I stopped telling people to just "get a Mac," and instead offered up some quick tips to keep Windows running smoothly. (Mac needs maintenance too.) I grew bored with iPhone (and its usually terrible call quality). I longed for something to tweak, something to hack, something to overclock, leading me to purchase my first Android phone. The advent of Steam as a integrated gaming platform and the rise of indie games into the mainstream spurned me on to build a new gaming PC with Windows 7.
Now, I do most of my work on my Windows PC or laptop, and some work on my Mac Mini, but not as much. I no longer have an iPhone and am sporting a Galaxy Note instead, which I view to be far superior as a tool. I use my Nexus 7 tablet for almost everything except for games, given that the library for iPad is so massive and I have so much invested there.
This move to the "other side" has gradually introduced a love of "openness" in me, producing questions like this:
- Why can't I sideload an app on my iPad?
- Why is it so damn hard to use an equalizer with any audio app on my iPad?
- Why is my Mac Mini trying to look like a tablet OS?
- Why did iTunes screw up all my ID3 tags so they only work in iTunes but aren't recognized anywhere else?
- Why won't Home Sharing communicate with uPnP or DLNA devices instead of only iDevices and iTunes clients?
- Why can't I easily overclock or tweak my iPhone?
- Why does Apple fight "jailbreakers?"
The list goes on and on, but I don't want this to be a rant. (I mean we all DO know why they do these things.)
Using Apple products used to feel like something special -- things were changing and evolving rapidly, the product was vastly superior in so many ways, and it didn't feel like Apple was the big evil or anything like that. Now, it seems that perhaps they have become a victim of their own success in every way but profitability. iOS is largely stagnant. The new iPad and iPad Mini are hardly innovative; the Mini is a reaction to the popularity of smaller Android tablets (as well as technologically outdated with a lower resolution display and old processor) and the "new new" iPad is yet another incremental upgrade.
However, they don't dare change the mobile platform. It would be like butchering just the udders from a glorious, glowing, massive, beautiful cash cow whose milk was cast of the purest liquid cocaine-laced gold. While teens and hipsters are busily suckling away at that precious teat, geeks like me crave something with a bit more substance and flexibility.
Every decision they make seems to focus on the following:
- Dumbing things down as much as possible.
- Encouraging interoperability with other Apple devices only.
- Locking things down as much as possible to ensure a consistent, worry-free experience. (Examples: no side loading of apps, no overclocking or underclocking, no jailbreaking, limited interaction between apps on iOS, and so on)
- Making sure your experience is exactly the one they want you to have.
- Leveraging #'s 1-4 to make as much money as possible.
I think that Andrew Nusca said it best:"An accessible Apple is a pleasant Apple but a more tedious one."
Apple will still be part of my technology life for the time being -- I still enjoy my Mac Mini and iPad 2 -- but rather than the star of the show, it's more of an extra at this point. I'm curious to see if others feel the same way, and why.