Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why I don't own anything Apple sells.

I frequently get asked about apple products, so, I have decided to  put my thoughts down here, to maybe save some repetition.

My opinions are partly technical/practical, primarily moral/political. I will start with the technical/practical.

I am going to speak to apple products in two different classes. The first is the desktop experience, which I am including the Mac books as part of this class. The second class is the Phablet class (This includes the Phone and Tablet form factors.

First, to the desktop:
The desktop is going away. No, they aren't likely to completely disappear anytime soon, but the fact is, most people don't need a desktop PC any more. Most homes in the not to distant future... may no longer have a PC in them. Most people are primarily content consumers, they watch shows, look at web content, search for information, shop, use social media to connect with friends... The PC is not the best tool for these purposes anymore. They are being replaced by Game Consoles (Most of which now offer web browsing, movie viewing etc...), or special purpose media centers. For the rest of it you have the tablet devices. They are small, light, have long batter life... The are less work to maintain, and are becoming much lower cost to own and replace.

In many cases now, even small business owners can do without a PC. There are cloud based services which provide core business applications, accounting, customer management, supply chain... They are more accessible, less work to maintain, and just plain more convenient.

Given that, the first question you should ask yourself is "Do I really need a desktop system", Is there something else that would better meet my needs? If you are doing heavy software development, CAD, video processing, Or other work that requires big screens, big local disks, or ridiculous amounts of RAM or processing power, then you might still live in the desktop niche. In most of those cases, you are looking for a workstation class PC to do the Heavy lifting. Video is an exception. MACs do well in that space.

The other possible need is work. If you work for a company that live int he Microsoft Office space, you might - repeat MIGHT - need a desktop class system. (MS Office is available for MAC and PC, so either will do in this space, though generally PC is going to be lower cost, and provide fewer compatibility headaches). Microsoft Office is also moving into the cloud.

The MAC Desktop is a Niche device (owning less than 10% of the desktop Market), it lacks the power to server the High end workstation arena, and is quickly becoming irrelevant in the  lightweight Home system arena.

Now to the Phablets.

I must say, we all owe a small debt of gratitude to Mr. Jobs in this area. He took advantage of the rabid Apple culture - the sense of prestige - and pushed this from factor into mainstream. It has been on the fringe for decades, palm being one of the previous best of class in this space. But it never really took off until the iPhone. So, Thanks for that, Mr. Jobs.

Now this space is being contested by Microsoft. Microsoft is late to the party, but they have a way of coming back from way behind, so we will see. Android is the real star i n this space at this point, gobbling up Market share with a vengeance. Any one of the three is a good pick technically. Microsoft is rather weak on apps at this point, but I expect they will catch up soon. Android has the greatest variety of shapes, sizes and functionality, you can pick the device that best suits you. That is a plus for many. Apple has tight control of their environment from to to bottom- hardware operating system and app store. This may give them a little more stability, certainly a more consistent fit and feel. But you do lose some freedom in that walled garden, and you tend to pay a higher price for the prestige. That apple logo adds quite a few dollars, with no real world benefit (unless impressing your friends with you keen brand sense is important to you).

Now for the politics. This will apply to both Desktops and Phablets.

One of the big pitches you get from the apple crowd is that "It is more secure". Not true.

Every vendor throws this around. They are all convinced they are the most secure. They are all wrong.

I won't go into the deep dive on security. That would be another two or three posts. The short version is, every lock can be picked, with sufficient time and motivation. True you don't hear many reports of Mac viruses in the wild. They are out there, but with such a small target (less than 5% of the market), they can't do enough damage to make the news.

There really are fewer viruses for MACs. That is just good business sense on the part of the virus writing industry. Virus writing is a mature, legitimate (though illegal), profit driven  industry. In that world, profit involves hitting the highest number of possible targets, and ideally targets which are most likely to have financial information. That is the PC. 91% of Computers are PC's. PC's are heavily used by businesses. They are more likely to have financial data, and they are more likely to have access to servers with even more financial data.

(as an aside: There are a number of Own-to-own contests, where hackers are given a chance to break into a PC, Mac or Linux based system. The first to succeed gets to keep the system. For the past several year. MAC systems have been the first to fall in these contests.)

In the days of XP. it was fair to say that XP was less secure. Microsoft did a fairly awful job at security back in those days. Microsoft has fixed that. The two are quite comparable now in terms of general security. The real weak link in security now is not the box connected to the keyboard, but the person using the keyboard.

But that is a minor irritation. As is the general rabidness with which  Apple users spread the gospel of Apple. And both of these are common to every OS (though Apple certainly has raised it to an art. As I understand it this is simply an extension of the culture Jobs created in the company. He kept various teams in the company isolated from each other, and encourage combativeness between them. I don't care for that management strategy, but maybe that is just me).

The real kicker for me is the exploitative nature of the company.  Apple tends to sit on it's patents. It avoids licensing them for use by other companies. This means that only large corporations, with their own hefty patent portfolio's can make deals with apple. This hurts innovation (many really great innovations have initially taken wing in smaller companies). I don't care for this kind of stinginess.

Then there is China. Apple products are built at Foxconn and other Industrial Cities, which amount to very large slave labor camps. Steve Jobs Told President Obama that those tech jobs would never return to the US, because the US simply can't scale fast enough. He then regaled the president with a story of how engineering made a last minute change to the screen on the iPhone, they called the China facility, and in a matter of a few hours, in the middle of the night, the facility had roused a veritable army of workers from bed, given them some coffee and set them to work applying the change to iPhones. And this was a good thing in his mind!

Now, I don't disagree many Americans expect too much pay for too little work today. We could stand to work a little harder and demand a little less. But what Jobs is describing, that is slave labor! They live in a bunk at work, they are made to work whenever, for however many hours, and they get paid next to nothing! When workers started jumping out of second story windows in protest of the conditions, the factory put up nets to catch them! I cannot in good conscience support a company that exploits people in such a fashion.

There are of course reports about how people are coming in droves to work in these factories, that they have to post guards to keep people from trying to sneak in. And that would seem reasonable defense but for one thing. China is not capitalist. They are Socialist. Money does not move based on market demand. So here is how the scenario plays out. The Chinese government takes money which should be going to improve the farms. and spends in building factories. The farmers, who are left trying to farms with outdated, broken equipment, and insufficient funds to fed themselves, are left with no choice but to go to the factories, because a bowl of rice a day is better than nothing. Apple has great margins, great profits because they sell the iPhone for too much and manufacture it for too little.

This is of course my opinion. Others have their opinions, and they are entitled to them. But you asked, so I answered.

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