The trouble with Apple

As you may have seen from other posts, I’m a big Apple fan.

I’ve admired them since the early days, but until relatively recently never owned any of their products. A bit too expensive and not mainstream enough to be in use where I worked.

That all changed with the iPod. Still expensive but luckily I received one as a gift. I liked the simplicity; the controls, the minimalism. Then, more recently and long overdue, I got myself an iPhone; even better. Finally I took the big step and plunged into OSX and a MacBook; rock ‘n roll!

It’s all about the little design things for me. The way it looks, feels. The buttons are just right, the precision machining (the sim drawer on the iPhone for example), nothing is superfluous; all form, fit and function.

You’ll be hard-pushed to persuade me against any of the Apple products I own,  other than with newer, better versions of them.

And therein lies my gripe about Apple…

But back to that gripe in a minute.

General criticism of Apple falls into two areas; price and, well, price.

Apple products are damned expensive by comparison to others vendors in the same sector, and deliberately so. They’ve developed a knack for creating demand from their great product design, courtesy of Johnathan Ive, with an appropriate level of function and then they’re premium-pricing it. An almost arrogant, “If you don’t like the price, don’t buy it”, if you like.

As the oft mis-quoted saying goes, “If you build it, they (sic) will come.”

I think it’s more like, “If you build it beautifully, they will lust after it. And then they will put their hand in their pocket and pay. Handsomely.”

I’ve been following the hype and speculation about the iPad.

I did laugh when I saw Steve Jobs proudly holding one an iPad at the launch; it did look like a mini-Steve holding up an iPhone.

I too want an iPad. Of course I do, it’s gorgeous. I have no idea what I would use it for, that I don’t already have covered by my iPhone and MacBook. But I know it will be great.

Apple have hit the spot again; they have created yet another product that invokes the tech equivalent of lust.

But I’m not going to get one. Not just yet.

The problem with Apple is their penchant for continual evolution and therefore rapid ‘obsolescence’. No sooner have you saved up your hard-earned dosh, rush down to the Apple Store™, or online equivalent, and get your hands on a gorgeous piece of Apple kit, than a new one comes out.

The changes are usually small and subtle. Maybe a slightly glossier finish, or a different trackpad, or more rounded corners. But you’re still left feeling like the shop-staff changed the display the moment you left the store. A feeling compounded by the fact you’ve paid a premium price to start with.

Perhaps obsolescence is a strong word for it. After all, your iPhone, MacBook, etc. are all still great, but there’s a better one out now. So people who pay the same money you did, now have something better than you. We don’t like that.

I got my ‘standard’, white 13 inch MacBook in May last year. And a thing of beauty it was, but there are other posts about that.

However, comparing it to the ‘standard’ 13 inch model available in November, only 6 months later, I see the following differences:

  • Glossier: The white finish is indeed glossier, it’s not my imagination.
  • Thinner: The lid is thinner, and the corners more rounded.
  • Trackpad: My dual touch with button is now multi-touch glass.
  • Power: Slim magnetic-plug & the wire is no longer at 90 degrees.

All of these are nice form and/or function improvements, they’re all the right thing to do. The galling part is that at least the latter two of those improvements were available at the time I purchased mine, but only on the MacBook Pro model.

It’s as if Apple are rewarding those who held off buying one with features they could have included first time round but were using as a differentiator between models. That’s good for the late(r)-adopters but, dammit, that’s no good to me.

Bizarrely, and as if to contradict my rant here a little, I found an instance where they seem to have gone the wrong way.

  • FireWire: No firewire port on the new MacBook.

Now that is a definite backwards step. I like my firewire drive, it’s quick. It gets its data and power from a single cable. The alternative on the new machine is to use 2x USB ports (one for power, one for data) and obviously lose the circa. 50% speed benefit.

That said, I’d probably swap that for the glass trackpad…

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