Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An Apple a day, keeps Steve Jobs rich.

(Warning; this is a very long, make Andy angry blog!)
For those who know me well; when I say Apple, what comes to mind? It is not that I necessarily dislike the company; in fact this post will probably contradict your feelings towards my “Mac point of view”. But before I start the good, let’s just get the bad out of the way so I can feel better about myself. The first and fore most distain for Apple does not have anything to do with its technology at all, it is its users. Now I know I am going to be rubbing some fur the wrong way with my family, but let me further explain. The average Mac user and I get along great. If you haven’t already guessed, I am a Windows man. It is the cult underground of Mac users that I can not stand.

You know the types, the people that like to sit and talk about how much better Mac is in comparison to pc. They will usually quote some statistic about the speed of a Mac’s processor in comparison; or how much more secure a Mac is, or maybe something along the lines of “My Mac never freezes” which I can honestly say is not true. BanAnna has experienced many melt downs, and do not even get me started about my iPod. I found this “stat” on one of many websites devoted to proving Mac is superior. (Note, this comparison is pretty old in comparison to the processor's of today, but ilustrates the point no less.)Of course this “performance” is almost unnoticeable unless you are doing some major photo rendering or other very demanding processor crunching. The average user browses, checks email, uses some form of word documenting software, watches movies, etc. None of these processes are demanding on computers resources now-a-days. Not to mention that the difference in speed mentioned above is in milliseconds. So why all the yelling militant Apple people, or “Genius” users? For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term; go to an Apple store for tech support, you will find the tech area is called, “The Genius Bar”… more on this latter. Experience has taught me that those who yell the loudest, not only get the squeaky wheel oiled, but they also have something to hide, or are compensating for something they feel inferior about. Ever heard of the old adage, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”? If this is such a superior product, wouldn’t the capitalist market we live in dictate this? Why can’t the superior product use its own accolades to defend its self, why the need to sit in your Mom’s basement blogging about how much better Mac is?... Ok that was a cheap shot. Still, I have always been surprised at how vocal these “power users” are. Maybe they are compassionate, and pc users could care less because they are disenchanted by using such a lack luster inferior product. Possible… I was IT and left because I got tired of it, maybe if I had spent more time with Mac, I would have enjoyed it more. I digress. It is this sub-culture of Mac users that makes me despise the product, and it is unfortunate that I have been influenced and tainted because of them. I find it a little ironic that it is because of their efforts to convince me, and the world that has left me turned off from Mac while leaving a bad taste in my mouth. The whole “I”mentality of the Mac “die hard” is a little pompous… ok they are just down right “I”arrogant. This is the other area of the culture I despise.

Look at the programming that is going on, all techs that work for Mac are geniuses, in accordance with the corporate design of their stores and online tech support. If you use iTunes, and yes I do too, you will notice the latest updated iTunes, version 8 point something, has a new music randomizer engine. Click a song, select genius and it creates a playlist that is catered to that particular genre. Though I am inclined to believe that it is built more around the year that particular song was released, instead of the songs sound, and type. But it is obvious why Apple has embarked down this road, Pandora has become very popular. Pandora is a music streaming website that builds playlists catered to your favorite type of music. You give it songs you like and it finds other songs that match it. There are over 128 different genres linked to each song, and it is very good at what it does. Plus you can hear music that you might never have heard before, and it is FREE. Check them out at www.Pandora.com.

So what is my point, do I hate Apple? Not at all. I admire their designs, I love my iPod; at least when it is not frozen. I have an iphone that kind of does what it is supposed to. But they keep releasing updates that fix some problems, and create others… sound familiar? Think Microsoft. I have found that as Apple has become more main stream, they are starting to feel the pains that Microsoft knows all to well. That really is the case with any large company that starts to appeal to the masses. The more people that use it, the more vulnerable it is to hackers. One thing that has helped and hurt Apple has been its proprietary hardware. Owning a pc is like owning a mutt. It is comprised of several different hardware devices designed by many different companies. Of course, these products have to be Windows ready, but it creates a problem when it comes to reliability and stability. You never know if the device is failing because its driver is not completely compatible with Windows, or if Windows software cannot manage the device properly. Hence the phrase, “plug and pray”. Apple has avoided this mess by making there own systems and contracting with hardware companies that have to go through certification to be used on a Mac. This also has hurt them at the same time. Mac hardware tends to be more expensive and you do not have the ability to shop for cheaper stuff, because the hardware is proprietary only to Apple. This particular topic has created intense debates with users and designers. By not giving the end user a choice, there is very little competition for the hardware designers to battle, or be motivated to design bigger and better hardware. This in turn means that there is no driving force behind the hardware manufactures to create new and more innovative products. Intel, whose chips are now used in Macs, comes out with a new and faster processor every couple of months, why? One theory is it creates a form of job security, when you buy a computer; it is out of date in about a month; therefore it drives the consumer to want to upgrade to the latest and greatest. The other reason is because they are competing for market share, one of their leading competitors is AMD; who also wants your business, so they are going to try and release a better chip to compete with Intel. Both of these companies’ chips, I might add, can be used in a PC.

Apple has done some great things over the years; I never believed I would ever switch from winamp to iTunes. Winamp was the software to have way back in the day for mp3 listening. It might be said that they were the direct reason iTunes is free, Winamp was free. Once I made the switch, I never looked back. I still today believe that iTunes, by far, is the best software for mp3s. Again, I love my iPod, I love the design of the PowerBooks, and for a company that was in danger of going under a very long time ago, they have created a foothold in the market that is not going anywhere… for now. Steve Jobs has lead the company to great success, and most of it has been built on the back of the iPod. I am embarrassed to admit that I have owned 8 iPods since its initial premier to Windows users. I owned the first generation, which actually was Windows specific. Would you believe there was a time when Apple only intended on making iPods for just Mac users? That would have been the end for the iPod. Over time I have sold old ones to buy the latest and greatest, one with more space, better designs, etc. Which leads me to the initial point of this article, or at least part of it? The iphone. This device has raised the bar in phone design. Their efforts obviously have paid off; I think almost one third of AT&T’s entire network is comprised of iphone users… under 2 year contracts of course. And with the popularity, comes the law suites. Supposedly there are some class action suits being filed, and as apple continues to release updates at an unprecedented rate, more problems emerge. This, in part, is due to popularity and third party applications, which expose them even more to hackers. And then the "ad on" fees, oh how I love those. It is almost enough to make one rethink owning a Blackberry. It’s these applications that bring me to my point, again. Apple released its own piece of ad on software for the iPhone that just impressed me beyond belief. Remote.

Remote is a piece of software that operates on the iphone wile connected to your home Wi-Fi. I need to back up a little. Itunes has a built in feature that allows you to share your music library over a local network. Basically it shares your music over your local home network, allowing any Mac or PC running iTunes to see your libraries, and there in play the music from the host computer. Not a bad idea for a home with multiple computers. But it gets better; they have also created a broadcast agent called Airtunes. Airtunes allows a user to broadcast what ever they are playing on their local machine to remote speakers. The idea is that you can have speakers anywhere in the house play what ever iTunes is playing on your computer. Neat idea eh? There is a catch, as there always is. You need a device to be able to receive this Wi-Fi broadcast, and then play it through your remote speakers. Enter Airport, or Airport Express. These devices are literally network hubs and routers with a couple of special features. They basically plug into the wall, and allow a computer to connect to the internet via LAN cable. But what sets them apart from any other network hub, is the capability to plug a mini jack into them for sound that can in turn plug into a stereo receiver that runs speakers. I also want to note that Airport or Airport Express also has a USB slot to plug in a remote printer.As you can see, the mini jack connection splits into a pair of RCA cables that plug into a stereo receiver. This allows Airtunes to broadcast the music that is playing on your computer to a set of remote speakers. That way you can listen to the music on your PC or Mac, and at the same time, play the same song in any room of the house. If you have more than one room with speakers, get another Express at 100 bucks a crack. You can essentially run as many of them as your router can handle. But wait, what if I am enjoying the music in my living room, while the computer that is running iTunes and broadcasting the signal is in another room of the house? What if I want to change the song, or even change the playlist? What if I am running multiple Airports and I want to turn off one room, or activate another? Enter the whole reason I decided to talk about Apple and some of their great innovations in the first place.

The iphone or an iPod touch can run a little piece of software you can download from Apple (for free) that is called Remote. It allows you to connect to your computer that is running iTunes and change the song, playlist, adjust the volume, or even turn off and on different rooms. Not to mention that this software requires no configuration, and as most avid Apple users will tell you, it just works. Carrying your phone allows you to carry a remote to your homes sound system. This little ad-on sold me when it comes to Apple and some of their very forward thinking, now if they would only just come up with a router that can run iTunes so you don’t have to leave a computer running at all times. So, to sum up a very long and somewhat unorganized post, I think Apple has a lot to offer… Am I sold on their operating platform, not really. But ultimately I feel that both companies can co-exist and both have likes and dislikes. Not to mention, I love Apples forward thinking, it defiantly keeps the market from becoming anything but stagnant. Co-existing might be understating what I am thinking, I think there is a place for both companies in such a vast techno world. I also want to add that I personally am running a couple Airports through out my own home; I have speakers in the bathroom… I have always longed to be able to listen to music in the shower. Can you find the speakers?What would I like to see, I would like to see Apple merge with Microsoft. I know what you are thinking, and you might be right. But the unforeseen giant is biding it’s time, and waiting for the moment to put both companies to shame. Google scares me, and for those of you who keep up on the news; if they have it their way, the industry will be reinvented making the Mac or PC obsolete.


Melanie said...

holy long post batman! well first, i should acknowledge that I am also a PC. (Cyber high five) But with the majority of my family (immediate and extended) being Apple users I have to be somewhat careful of what I say! Let's just say that I acknowledge the cool things about the Mac and do think I would go mental without my IPod but for the most part PC has served me well. I get sympathetic looks from the Apple people in my life whenever something goes wrong with my PC like, well, sweetie, that's what happens when you insist on working with an inferior computer...and I'm pretty sure the day I came home with a Mac, my family would weep with joy and prepare the fatted calf for me. Fun post!

Momma said...

lol-meli, maybe not the fatted calf-but a nice leg of lamb????

Andy Norman said...


Anonymous said...

ANDY!!! Where have you been hiding, I thought Ramadan was in October. I have missed your grrrr. As to the leg of lamb, if you read my post above, it is all about the Crow... Though you do sorta prove my point Melanie... :-) Just remember that an inferior product is subjective. Unless you own both types, you will always feel a little bias that the one you own is better than the other you don't own. :-)