a rotten apple

Oh, the irony! It was 25 years ago that Apple showed THAT commercial on TV and got the world excited about the Macintosh computer. And I was one of those excited among the masses. Not that they were necessarily pulling me away from a competitor, mind you…I was a die-hard Apple IIe user who wished he was an Apple IIGS user. But that commercial was so full of promise, wasn’t it?

Yet today I found myself entirely annoyed with yet another example of the disease that plagues apple two and a half decades later: CDS (Controlling Dickhead Syndrome).

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Like so many things, Apple started out with good intentions where the Mac was concerned: Create a powerful, personal, desktop computer that was so easy to use that just about anybody could do it. And for years, it was infinitely easier to use than just about anything else (nevermind that it wasn’t actually all that powerful, the IIGS being, in many ways, a much better computer system for less money…but Apple had plans for the Mac and the IIGS became the kid living in the basement).

Over the years, Apple has generally stayed true to their, or rather Steve Jobs’, mantra of “simple”, but it seems that another priority has crept in, and that’s for Apple to be a bunch of controlling dickheads. Today’s offense wasn’t anything big: When iTunes told me there was an upgrade available, I said “Ok” and let it do its thing. But when it was done, I had an iTunes icon on my desktop as well as an icon for some dumb Bonjour printing thing.

It’s bad enough that Apple forces you to install Bonjour just to sync your iPod / iPhone WITH A CABLE, but to install some crappy, buggy piece of of unnecessary printing software? And place an icon for it on my desktop without asking me first? Hey, Apple, how’s about I come and redecorate your Cupertino digs? Ooops, sorry, I forgot…I’m not supposed to ask first. Not if I want to do things your way.

No, Apple’s mantra of “simple” may still be in effect, but so is their mantra of “greed”…because it’s greed that fuels many of the really awful, controlling dickhead moves they’ve made in recent years. And I’m not just talking about putting unwanted icons on peoples’ desktops.

What about sync issues related to the iPhone, as another example? It’s not technological prowess, or a desire to keep things simple, that prevents users from sync’ing Outlook data with multiple computers, but Apple’s greed, and their desire to be controlling dickheads. It’s really easy to sync a Windows Mobile device with two PCs, but the iPhone and iPod touch allow you to do this with only one…meanwhile, Apple’s showmen think it’s hilarious to refer to ActiveSync as ActiveStink (“Ooops!” they claimed).

Consider this: If you have 10 apps running on a Windows Mobile device that update information when you sync your device with your desktop (or desktops), they can each begin to update themselves as soon as the ActiveSync connection has been established…whether through USB, LAN or wirelessly. But Apple, since they must control the way we do things if we’re to have the privilege of using their products, doesn’t let this happen. If you have 10 apps on your iPhone that sync data, you have to sync them each manually, because Apple won’t let app developers piggyback the sync process that iTunes initiates.

Again, greed is the only reason for this. Apple doesn’t want you to listen to that song you paid 99 cents for on more than one computer, even if they’re both your computers. No, that’s not how THEY want you to enjoy music! So why should they bother allowing you to sync YOUR contacts or calendar anyplace you want? Obviously, their answer is that they shouldn’t.

Don’t even get me started on iTunes. At best, iTunes is a proprietary web browser (really Apple? REALLY?!) and XML viewer with some e-commerce functionality thrown in. Is there a single good reason why iTunes isn’t just a website that anybody can get to from anywhere they have web access? Oh, yeah…CONTROL. Control over what people do and how they do it. iTunes is clumsy, inconsistent, slow and buggy. But it’s what Apple dictates that we must use. Another piece of software forced on us by a bunch of controlling dickheads.

Yes, it seems that after two and a half decades, the company who promised to set “the rest of us” free has decided and determined that we shouldn’t be allowed to be free after all. They’ve decided that only they can decide how best these things…like enjoying music or keeping track of your schedule…should be done. I’m surprised that they decided to ditch DRM…oh, wait, no I’m not, because it wasn’t out of the goodness of their hearts or their mantra of “simple” that they (much later than most others) walked away from DRM, but out of greed: If they hadn’t, little places like, you know, Europe and Scandanavia might have disappeared as sources of iTunes revenue for Apple. Of course, they’re charging all of us to “upgrade” to those DRM-free versions, even though we already paid for the music…at the same price charged by many DRM-free music retailers.

Then there’s the App Store…for sure a fantastic addition to the iPhone platform, but one riddled with problems. Finding apps through the App Store is clumsy and tedious at best when you just want to browse. Apple controls what gets approved to appear in the App Store, but makes seriously questionable decisions about this: On the one hand, denying inclusion of apps that Apple thinks step on their toes (in other words, when somebody else finds a better way to do something that Apple does, often that app doesn’t make it), but on the other hand including stupid apps like those that cost $1k and do nothing except show you a picture. Again: Control and greed.

(yes, I know the app in question was pulled, but it got through initially and Apple simply declined to comment)

And of course, there’s no “try before you buy” in the App Store, either.

Let me go back to Apple’s Bonjour service itself…why is this necessary? Windows has plenty of networking protocols built in, and the iPods / iPhones connect through USB anyway…just about every mass-market USB device works like a charm under Windows, most not even needing any drivers to function at the most basic…and simple…level (remember, Apple, you guys LOVE simple!). But Apple forces their crappy, overhead-eating Bonjour on Windows users so they can control what you can and can’t do.

See, on a Mac, it’s easier for them, because Apple already controls both the hardware and the software…but under Windows, where people actually have a limitless amount of choice when it comes to hardware and software, Apple’s at a disadvantage. It’s a disadvantage…a general one…they rarely own up to. The MobileMe launch fiasco last year was one of the few times they did. The fact of the matter is that when Apple plays in the playground with the big kids, they’re out of their league. They stumble and falter like a new developer, overwhelmed with the reality of a world that uses hardware by a zillion different manufacturers and delivery channels, such as cellular networks, that they don’t have control over.

It’s only when they’re playing just in their little “world of Apple” sandbox that things approach the rosiness they’d have us all believe colors everything they do. And even then…with all of the control they exert over both the hardware and software of the Mac platform…even with that HUGE advantage, still they’ve never cracked even the 10% mark. Why is that?

Apple and its true believers would have you think that everybody else just doesn’t get it. Or that Microsoft is to blame (of course…they have more of an installed base than anybody, so surely they must be the evil empire, right?) But maybe it has nothing to do with which OS is better anymore, especially since major OS’s are so close in features and usability these days. Maybe it’s just that there aren’t all that many people willing to have Apple control that much of their computing and entertainment lives.

Again I come back to the irony of it…that the only people fully willing to let Apple control them are the die-hard fanboyz (and grrlz)…the ones who believe Apple can do no wrong. Yes, those people…that group of the population that 25 years ago was referred to as “the rest of us”, the ones Apple promised to set free…those are the people now sitting, bald and greyscale, on the pews watching the big screen, accepting everything that the face of Apple tells them. The very thing that Apple set out to get us away from is what they’ve created in their most loyal followers. Or disciples, as I’m sure Apple would prefer you call them.

I suppose it’s no surprise that Apple’s advertising and marketing so often include so many bright, shiny colors. After all, they need SOME way to distract people from the truth.