Monday, August 29, 2011

Apple cult really makes me shudder

WHY is it, a friend of mine once pondered, that Microsoft is "evil" and Apple is "lovely" when the guy who started Microsoft was now doing his utmost to eradicate malaria, and the guy who started Apple was still in charge of an enormous, all-pervasive company that does its utmost to screw you six times before breakfast?

It was a good question, and the answer isn't just "because people are morons".

On Thursday, Steve Jobs, the company's chief executive and co-founder, announced he was standing down for health reasons. If only this were just a business story. But Jobs was not just the man at the top of Apple - he also embodied it. Neatly bearded, usually in a black poloneck, with no visible buttons, he even looks like the sort of thing you'd buy in one of his shops. Jobs's resignation made the market value of Apple fall by $US16 billion ($15bn), but it will also have made people cry. I'm going to try to explain why without sneering, although it's not going to be easy. I don't hate Apple. I actually quite like Apple. But I hate people who love Apple. Because this is not what love is for.

Look. Apple isn't an unusually nice company. It just isn't. It's an entirely conventional, ruthlessly capitalist company that has identified itself so closely with its beloved products that people pretend not to notice. There were stories the other month about a rash of fake Apple shops in China. Remember that? Terrible, said everybody. But stop. Wait. Think a moment. What the hell is a fake shop? Think about the overnight queues outside every real Apple Store whenever a new iThing comes out. Think about the way all those people could stop queueing if they'd just go next door to PC World. It makes me want to weep. I'd love to know what Douglas Adams would have made of Apple if he were alive today. He was an Apple devotee, but that was in the days before all this "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" nonsense. Adams was at his most withering on cults. He could never have been in one.

Petty gripes, maybe, but once you've bought your Apple product, in your Apple store, you
have to go to the Apple App Store or Apple's iTunes to make purchases that Apple has approved, from which Apple then takes a cut.

Think about the fuss people made about the prospect of Rupert Murdoch owning all of BSkyB because of the control this would - theoretically, potentially - have given him over the content reaching people's homes.

Apple's control over content is already of a far, far greater magnitude than that ever could have been. And yet people love Steve Jobs. Even people who read The Guardian. Especially them, in fact. Why? It's not just blind hypocrisy, although that does come into it. It's also about the bond between people and products, and the products and him. The triumph of the things that Jobs has sold - by which I don't just mean the hardware, but all of it - is that they do exactly what most people want them to do, excellently. And nothing else.

For a town without corners, Apple would build a car without a steering wheel. Microsoft wouldn't have the balls. Microsoft, of course, hardly ever builds anything. Its products run on things built by other people. The closed system of Apple - the exact thing I was moaning about above - is also precisely why everything works so damn well. Your Mac might not be able to do as much as your PC, but it very rarely has to stop and think about it for a minute and a half.

The iPad, which does even less, barely thinks at all. Reduce the choice, reduce the rage. Microsoft always reckoned the rage was your problem. Apple knew better.

Apple Inc has thrived in exactly the same way. It is what it sells. You take your executives out of suits because suits cause rage. You build nice shops because nasty shops cause rage, too.

All companies have ugly innards, but Apple's - the bits that squabble, and make design mistakes, and have embarrassing links to Chinese sweatshops, and are rich, rich, hahaha, rich - are hidden behind a shiny exterior. It has worked, formidably, but it won't for ever. With or without Jobs, the company has hit a wall.

The first problem is the key product. Brilliant, yes, but starting to look a bit dated. You'll be bristling at that, you Apple freaks, but you know I'm right. Technology changes quickly, and the iPhone looks much like it did five years ago. Smartphone technology may plateau, but as the (admittedly chaotic) rival Android platform has already shown, it's not going to plateau here. But what to do? Make fundamental changes, and you alienate 100 million iPhone users. Don't, and you end up like Nokia. The second problem is that the whole image just doesn't work at the top. Under Jobs, Apple always thrived on the basis of what it wasn't. The internet crawls with Steve Jobs quotes that only make sense as the underdog. "Why join the navy when you can be a pirate?" he once said.

Bill Gates's problem, he also said, was that the Microsoft founder had never "dropped acid or spent time on an ashram". As the pin-up of self-loathing salarymen who want the chicks in Starbucks to think they might be writing a novel, that sort of thing probably goes down pretty well. But as the head of the biggest technology company in the world? Less so.

"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me" is another fine Jobs quote, also in reference to Gates. "Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful," he continues, "that's what matters to me."

This was a comment made before Gates started pouring his money into vaccinations, obviously. Still, there's something about it that goes right to the heart of why the Apple cult makes me shudder.
These are phones and computers we're talking about. Trinkets and things. Is it right that our wonder should be so lightly spent?

Well, maybe. And maybe, in a world where information saves lives just as much as vaccinations do, inventing something like the iPhone is, indeed, doing something wonderful in every sense. But buying one isn't. I'm not sure for how much longer Apple will get away with blurring the two.

Article in the The Australian August 27, 2011

St Mary's students: (and others who want to revise this part of the syllabus)

Test 3 - It is time to replace the home computer and as the chosen family expert you have to put together a two page document comparing the Microsoft and Apple platforms.

Points to consider are;
1. Hardware choices and costs
2. Software choices and costs
3. Ease of use - what can you do and how can you do it
4. Support and training
5. Upgades and peripheral items
6. Other problems and issues.

The report is to be emailed to Mr B. by  Monday 5 September

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Fonts to consider

50 Fresh and Beautiful Fonts From 2011

As you are now in the design stage of task 2 this site will help you to find the perfect font

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Google Wallet

In the semester 1 exam the production section proses a way of paying for purchases via a mobile phone. This is now a reality.