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The Totalitarian Regime of Apple

2008-08-10 10:31:28
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There's an article on CNET at entitled Apple boots $1,000 app from App Store. The gist of it is that Apple is being inconsistent and uncommunicative about removing programs from the store.

If you're not familiar with it, the App Store is where third party developers can sell their iPhone applications. The programs must first be approved by Apple and apple keeps 30% of the sale.

Obviously, they hold all the cards -- they own the hardware, the operating system, the development tools, and the distribution network. This is great from an old-school, IBM business model, but Apple doesn't sell to Lockheed Martin suits, Apple sells to the avant-guard, open source, artistic world.

Apple controls 70% of all digital music sold online and could control a quarter of all music sold in the world by 2012 (see In a creative world where content and copyright philosophies are changing, it's appalling to see so much of the world's creativity locked up in one box.

It's a weird psychological twist. Here's the anti-establishment community saying "We want to build new ways of living and doing business -- where's my iPhone?" I can guarantee you that there would be a mob with torches and a battering ram if anyone other than Apple tried to pull Apple's crap.

Microsoft created a great, open platform. I can buy programs straight from the company that wrote them and I can use my own music software (and organize my files the way I want). The Windows environment created the PC revolution by encouraging innovation, which is why Mac is still only 5% of the desktop market.

Hell, Apple's very success with the iPod is because they were able to develop an interface on Windows. Microsoft doesn't make a dime off music sales through iTunes on Windows -- I seriously doubt Apple would have allowed that to be reversed.

My point is this: Apple is evil. And like anything completely evil, it's seductive. But get past the clean lines, the pretty interface and the "At least it isn't Microsoft" and fight the totalitarian regime.

To get further input on this idea, I also posted the question to my Linked in account as follows:

Why do creative, anti-establishment thinkers choose Mac?
Apple runs a totalitarian monoculture. It's more like IBM than Google. Hell, Microsoft is more like Google than Apple is like Google. And yet, with the App Store showing how they will at a whim remove software (for which developers paid to develop) and the meglomaniac control of music via iTunes, they continue to prove to be an anti-creative, anti-free thinking, anti-open development platform.

So why do open source, social networkers choose to be duped by the Corporation?

Some of those answers are included below.

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Subject Matter Experts Talking Other Subject Matter
Oversimplifying how people work

Andy Foote: Re: The Totalitarian Regime of Apple
2008-08-10 18:36:52

So they run a tight ship, whatever it takes to make the next disruptive, must-have product. They've repeatedly had success on a massive scale in the personal computing world. They've turned music sales strategy on its head. They've designed for individuals and the masses and provided so many 'wow' moments - power to 'em.

Steve Pruneau: Re: The Totalitarian Regime of Apple
2008-08-10 18:37:14

First, the very essence of Apple is creative, so like attracts like (creative types).

Second, as for the anti-establishment part of your question, Apple has always been "the enemy of my enemy", taking on IBM (early PC wars), then Microsoft and now freeing us from years of $18 CDs by creating iTunes.

Also, for decades, corporate IT departments attempted to exert just as much control over employees as Microsoft did over the market in general. Corporate IT departments consistently embraced IBM and Microsoft technology even when it was more difficult to use. So anti-establishment employees came to really resent corporate IT departments. Macs made it possible for users not to need corporate IT, because Macs really were easier to use. I think this was more true in the late '80s, all of the '90s and early 2000s than it is today.

J. David Knepper: Re: The Totalitarian Regime of Apple
2008-08-10 18:37:56

Why does creative and anti-establishment have to necessarily be joined by a comma?

The creative that requires Apple tools to be creative is probably less creative than he thinks he is. He's just been taught that he has to use Apple in order not to be one of the minions in the "1984" spot for Mac.

He should realize that that campaign probably originated on an IBM Selectric. By using Apple, he becomes a tool of the establishment!

Jeff Ello: Re: The Totalitarian Regime of Apple
2008-08-10 18:41:48

What makes you think that Mac users are creative and/or anti-establishment?

Part of it is the Mac was first to provide a platform for creative work. My early days were spent as a staunch Mac user/promoter for that reason. But just like Linux isn't your grandfather Unix, Microsoft isn't the Microsoft of long ago, and Apple certainly isn't the platform of choice for application developers - creative applications included.

That doesn't mean the users who were initially attracted to Macs instantly leave... there is a mix of legitimate concern, plus pride, misinformation, self-delusion, and a great bit of negative press involved. I left Macs behind in the mid 90's because Apple lost leadership on providing a platform for all the tools I want/need. Microsoft has that leadership now.

Having said that, OS X isn't a bad OS, and neither is Linux. IMHO, argument about adoption of one or the other is dictated by the software developers. The OS's nowadays are fundamentally indistinct.

Software developers determine which OS is king... the OS producers should make a note of that.

The "ideologically" Mac users I know are neither particularly creative nor anti-establishment. They are just harder to argue with.

I should mention that early in my career I did desktop publishing. Nowadays I do 3d animation, video editing, motion graphics, etc. What I do is highly dependent on having the right software. So even if I used a Mac for everything possible, I still couldn't do everything I do. Most of my most useful creative apps are Windows only (and sometimes Windows/Linux).

Pasted Conversation: Re: The Totalitarian Regime of Apple
2008-08-10 18:47:42

On 8/10/08 6:19 PM, Geoff Feldman wrote:
If your assumption was correct then the world would be a very stagnant place. Creative, anti-establishment thinkers choose the Mac because they like Macs. Creative anti-establishment thinkers (such as me) choose the PC because they like the PC.

Other than Apple Corp hype, why do you think that there are more per capita choosing Mac over PC? Why do you think that those who did choose Mac's for some tasks don't also choose PC's for others. REALLY creative people choose the tools that they need for the task at hand.

Mac's are limited in software and hardware choices, they still are. I find Mac's actually quite limiting even as I do find them simple to use and therefore not encumbering for appropriately limited tasks.

I reject your premise and find it ironically influenced by Apples rather self serving marketing hype.

On 8/10/08 6:32 PM, Michael Bissell wrote:
You're absolutely right -- most professionals choose the right tool for the job, regardless of brand and I've made all the arguments you've made, and still been shouted down by Mac users.

My question is why do these people continue to promote Mac as some idealistic utopian technology when the company's culture is pretty much diametrically opposed to the beliefs of the brand evangelists?

I feel if I can reconcile this schizophrenic belief system, I might learn a bit more about brand management.

On 8/10/08 6:46 PM Geoff Feldman wrote:
Much more interesting question! Now I get it.

I think the Mac's appeal is actually its simplicity. By limiting partners, hardware and software Apple limits the problems and complexity that the PC does have.

I think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are actually working toward very different goals. Jobs is working to create an information appliance. He even talked about a science fiction device conceived by Vannevar Bush in the 1950's and called the "Memex". He is not ultimately making computers but "Memory extenders".

Bill Gates is committed to the notion that everyone is a computer programmer and can shape software to their unique needs. Gates is really making Lego blocks. The architecture promotion, market direction of the PC all go in this direction. Look at Excel. People are programming without even thinking they are.

I do believe peoples whose creativity is encumbered by the programming process do gravitate to the Mac provided it meets their needs. They don't need the choices of exotic hardware devices either. So, if the mac does it all and perhaps a bit more reliably then it is a better choice.

I also think that if one creates a matrix of typical office automation features and then the costs, the Mac is more expensive and provides little to show for the added cost other than better decor.

For those who do a lot of graphic production and are used to the Mac, the conversion to the PC can be expensive in terms of relearning common tasks. This is a valid point for these people.

If people want to participate in expensive decisions they should use objective metrics.

I also think the network technology is mature and it is possible to have a hybrid network with both devices. A little work needs to be done on sharing documents between the two machines but that is workable. A monoculture is not usually necessary.


Russell Wagner: Re: The Totalitarian Regime of Apple
2008-08-10 18:55:30

Because dope smoking, sandal wearing, smelly, STD carrying, brown rice eating hippie types are idiots -- for getting duped by corporations, that is.

I care about the PRODUCT, not the culture of the company that made it. As Werner von Braun once said, "I don't care which rich uncle pays for my rockets - Uncle Sam or Uncle Joe Stalin, as long as my rockets get built".

Personally, I am a platform atheist, so there...

Martin Killmann: Re: The Totalitarian Regime of Apple
2008-08-10 18:59:11

Well, at some time back in the 70ies Steve Jobs was a creative, anti-establishment thinker. Turns out the moment he runs a company he's a schoolbook authoritarian. So if you're the Steve Jobs generation and buy a Mac, it means you sold out but you still think you're a creative anti-establishment thinkers like you were back in the 70ies.

If you're my generation, born after John Lennon was shot, the term "anti-establishment" doesn't carry any meaning anyway. So I bought a Mac a few months ago. What does that say about me? Well, I spent some time comparing what was on the market and the Mac was a nice-looking, hassle-free machine for a price I could afford. So I bought it, and I still think it was a good choice. If they keep making good products my next laptop will be a Mac too.

People in my generation (at least the smarter ones) realized that buying a certain product does not save the world, and it does not say anything about you politically. You simply get something from a different factory in China. The best you can hope to do is avoid buying crap so companies that try to sell crap to you get washed off the market.

xolotl: Re: The Totalitarian Regime of Apple
2008-08-11 10:37:23

Following up on our twitter exchange...I find it surprising that you hold up Microsoft as the "open" alternative to Apple ;)

While it's true that Microsoft has generated a wider hardware ecosystem than Apple, the idea that Microsoft did this through "openness" misses the closely-held proprietary nature of all their work, as well as the monopolistic business tactics they use to control that ecosystem.

I think Apple generates a more-closely held hardware ecosystem primarily in order to ensure a better user-experience, not primarily for profit, or other nefarious motives.

Meanwhile, on the software side, the primary reason I use an Apple is exactly because it is more open than any Microsoft OS. Underneath the hood, Mac OS X is a Unix distribution (the ultimate lego kit), ready, willing and able to support the open source technology enviroment I need to do my (creative) work. I could use Linux or some other Unix distribution, but frankly, OS X leaves me more time to focus on my work and less time fussing with my computer. Apple and OS X are the best tools for my creative, open work. A lot of my highly-technical collaborators in the open source technology world seem to agree as now the majority of laptops visible at the conferences I attend are Macs.

And finally, since I like to consider my actions in as holistically as possible, I'd rather give my money to a company like Apple that comes closer to sharing my political views than one that completely mercenary in its political outlook (eg, every other major computer hardware manufacturer).

While I'm not in love with Apple's highly-controlled iTunes model for music or iPhone applications, I predict two things about it:

1) It will be an easier structure to compete with than Microsoft's OS monopoly.

2) Apple will be instrumental in defining a new digital rights management (DRM) structure that will be better than what we have now.

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