thinking is dangerous — it leads to ideas
thinking is dangerous — it leads to ideas
Member of the Board of the Polish Linux Users Group. Human rights in digital era hacktivist, Free Software advocate, privacy and anonimity evangelist; expert volunteer to the Panoptykon Foundation; co-organizer of SocHack social hackathons; charter member of the Warsaw Hackerspace; and Telecomix co-operator; biker, sailor.
Formerly President of the Board of the Polish Free and Open Source Software Foundation; CTO of BRAMA Mobile Technologies Laboratory on Warsaw University of Technology and a student at Philosophy Institute on Warsaw University.
The following is a rant. You have been warned.
Everyone that knows me is familiar with my hate-hate relationship with Apple. I have been an anti-Apple evangelist for a while now, but — to be honest — it used to be a challenge. I mean, one has to admit their products had a look and feel that was on par with what (too) many clients expected for the money.
While I was opposed to them on philosophical grounds (for some reason or other, I loathe walled gardens), making a case against buying Apple to a non-freesoftie was not an easy endaevour (try explaining what a walled garden is to a random person on the street, see how that goes).
So what could I do? If somebody likes to be closed in an overpriced corporate-controlled bubble, and only being able to do with their (the corporation's, not the user's — the user is not the owner, as it would turn out) device what the corporation expressly allows for, it's their own sovereign choice. A bad one, but hey, what do I care.
Heck, even technical people had some arguments to go Apple that were hard to argue against on pure technical grounds.
Well, that's a thing of the past.
Ah yes, officially the main Apple selling point ("officially", as the real main Apple selling point is and for a long time has been, well, fashion). Apple's failure in this regard is the more funny, the harder Apple afficionados argue that there's no problem and that there's absolutely no change in the quality of Apple products.
Well, dang. At this point I can argue both ways, and actually win either way!
On one side of the table, I don't remember Apple releasing a product that has both annoying hardware and crippling software issues. I mean, never have I seen or heard about an iPhone that automagically adds a violet flare to pictures; has ugly problems with bodypainting; and at the same time offers an "upgrade" of an important app that is so bad, even an Apple-hater like myself has to admit it's not even funny anymore.
Of course, out of those three, the body painting problem is the biggie for Apple: can you imagine how hard it is to impress fellow hipsters in a Starbucks with a device that is shedding enamel? It's like trying to impress downtown girls with a rusty VW Golf. It's not gonna work, regardless of how overpriced it was.
On the other hand, I must admit that Apple's real (vs. perceived) quality didn't really deteriorate that much. Remember the AntennaGate? Or the Hot Macs problem? Or the MacBook WiFi fail? Yeah, see, at this point talking about quality problems in Apple offerings is a bit like flogging a dead horse.
Just a bit. The horse, you see, would have never been as condescending as Apple.
Ah yes, the stellar Apple customer care. Or, as Steve Jobs himself (currently violently spinning in his grave after hearing all the good news about iPhone5) put it, "You're Holding It Wrong."
Is there a problem with the antenna? Oh, and did Apple get clear warnings from their own engineer that such a problem will arise with such a design? Yeah, well, "you're holding it wrong" (why yes, it is being held "wrong" also in Apple ads, but hush, peasant!).
Or maybe there is a response expected from Apple with regard to the nice violet flare added automagically (BTW, Instagram folks are surely not amused) to pictures taken with the newest iPhone? Guess what! "You're pointing it wrong".
Ah, but when the bodypaint problem came about, Apple surely must have admitted a mistake, right? Nope. "That's normal." Well, obviously "everybody knows" that coated aluminum shows these symptoms. Maybe this is why nobody else uses it in their design?.. Especially in gadgets that are supposedly "made with a level of precision you'd expect from a finely crafted watch"...
And what about The Amazing iOS6 Maps? Hey, at least Tim Cook had the guts to apologise. Kinda. "You get unusable maps because we want to give you the best experience". Erm. Yeah, makes sense! Thanks, Tim! This is really appreciated especially in the light of the fact that this mess is a result of a purely political decision ("we will now stop using Google Maps") that completely ignored users' needs and only focused on Apple's hate towards Android and Google.
Oh, and guess what — "shiny" new iPhone introduces a completely new connector, so unless you buy the adapter (for a mere $29.99), all your accessories will now be useless. Normally it would be called "extortion", but for Apple that's just business as usual — their several different, incompatible video adaptors are a constant cause for lulz anywhere a Mac owner tries to connect to a beamer...
Apparently, though, Apple seems to be painfully aware of its own decline, and instead of fighting their competition via regular market mechanisms — oh, you know, being cheaper or better (or both) — they decided to try to stiffle competition with court orders.
How deluded and hipocritical must a company be to shout "Free Market! Globalization!" when somebody tries to hold them responsible for what the FoxConn workers have to go through, but cry "no fair" when this free market and globalization comes back and bites them in the arse in their own playground? Oh, right, it's a corporation. Carry on.
Of course Apple claims that competition "stole" some imaginary property from them — but I have a very hard time understanding what's so increadibly inventive in rounded corners, rubber-band scrolling, slide to unlock or any of the other things Apple "borrowed" from other companies.
Of course all sides can play this game and Motorola decided to call Apple on it. While I do not support the idea of software patents, with this I prepare myself some pop-corn; this is going to be entertaining!
But that's where it gets really funny — turns out Apple (to use their language) "stole intellectual property" of Swiss Railways. That's right. They most definitely copied the design, and while "rounded corners", one might argue, is a very general idea and maybe, just maybe, should not be patentable, the whole design of a clock is something more complex and license-worthy (maybe not of a patent, but that's another story).
Just to add some more spice to the whole charade, a Chinese phone brand apparently patented the iPhone5 design in China. I am waiting impatiently for Apple's response! Will they decry design patents? Will they just agree to pay the royalties? Or maybe Tim will find some even more lulz-worthy solutions? Only time will tell!
However, all laughing aside, this causes real problems for the rest of us. And I am not talking only about Apple's frivolous attacks on any logo built on apple (the fruit) image, although this alone is a growing problem (although here also Apple's karma is a bitch).
It causes problems, as it stiffles innovation. Even if somebody finds a new great way of designing a smartphone they have to design around Apple's absurd patents on obvious things.
The bottom line? We get fewer new smartphone designs, because big companies prefer to stick to what has already been tested in courts to hold against Apples litigation. Litigation that will also start happening as soon as third party companies start innovating around the new connector, as it is considered by Apple their own imaginary property, and guarded heavily so that Apple alone can reap the benefits off of their gullible yet apparently quite wealthy userbase.
I, for one, am not amused.
But wait, there's more! Apple managed to stiffle innovation also on the software front! With their opaque and secret app-vetting process that lets in countless fart apps (this is not that surprising, providing that the man running the App Store sells several fart apps of his own) yet doesn't allow for a web browser app (that would be immensely more useful than all the fart apps combined), with them rejecting an app that informs of real-life drone attacks yet having no problem whatsoever with brutal games — they only allow for a very limited sort of apps to reach the users. And the developers can only guess if their idea is to liking of the App Store overlords.
Up to a point I really couldn't care less about what Apple customers let Apple do to themselves. It's their money, their data, their lives. If somebody wants to act dumb, I can't really stop them, can I?
At some point in time, though, Apple decided it's a good idea to bully everybody everywhere, directly and indirectly, and try to coerce, extort, stiffle and litigate in all directions possible. This directly threatens my freedom to choose hardware and software that I use. And I shall not sit back and let them do that.
Apple would not be able to do all this if people stopped buying their crap. So you, my dear Apple customer, are the enabler. You personally enable them to not only rob you of your own money, but to rob others of their choices.
And hence I shall from now on consider you, dear Apple customer, to be personally partially responsible for all evil Apple does. No buts. No ifs. You own an Apple device — you enable and support all of the above.
If you don't, stop buying Apple. The sooner, the better — for you and for the rest of us.