On September 12, Apple hosted another extravagant, meticulously orchestrated “special event.” And just like the last several events, I found it utterly disappointing, self-aggrandizing, and wildly excessive (apparently no one at Apple considered it unnecessarily garish to release a phone easily read as “excess max”).
A brilliant business move in the 90s, Apple provided discounted desktop computers to schools across the U.S. Thousands of students across the country were early Mac adopters, having used some of the first widely available computers in existence.
The ubiquity of Apple computers in classrooms, combined with a brand association with creative pursuits, made Apple a great fit for me. I used gift money from my high school graduation to buy the “yosemite” Power Macintosh G3. At the University of Oregon in 1999, I was the only student on the fourth floor of my dorm hall that had a Mac. I knew only two other students that had Macs. And iPhones didn’t yet exist. Of course, everything would change in a few years.
The good old days. Apple’s Powermac G3 “Yosemite” tower.
The good years
I eagerly anticipated every update from Apple. Following that first G3, I owned a titanium PowerBook G4, a 2007 MacBook, a Mac mini, and two MacBook Pros (2010, 2015). Each one of these machines was an improvement on the one that came before.
Of course, I’ve also owned several iPhones. I’ve never been one to replace my iPhone every year; I’ve owned around 5 of them since 2007. Every iPhone I’ve owned has been an improvement on the last, but I haven’t purchased a new iPhone since 2016’s iPhone SE.
And then there’s the software. Apple’s move to OSX introduced a Unix-based operating system. Consequently, hackers and software engineers had a developer-friendly environment to work in, feeding innovation and flooding the market with Macs. Even now, macOS ships with software for developers, such as Ruby and Python.
All the while, Apple hardware and software became increasingly intuitive, elegant, inspiring, and fun to use.
I don’t know exactly what’s changed, but I do know:
- High-profile dev folks have publicly moved to Windows in recent years. See Dave Rupert and Rachel Andrew.
- Apple seems more interested in transforming your facial expressions into animals and augmented reality gaming than on fixing debilitating problems with their MacBook keyboards or building a phone that fits in your pocket (or a woman’s hand).
- We still need ports! And Macs don’t have ports anymore. I realize this is intentional, and the simplicity is aesthetically nice, but I still have devices that need to plug in, and I don’t want dozens of dongles. Gross.
- Again, the phones just keep getting bigger and bigger. I want my phone to be phone-sized.
(Get off my lawn!)
I’m not Apple’s target customer anymore
There has long been talk that declining sales of iPhones prompted Apple to sell increasingly expensive iPhones to compensate. If that’s the case, it means Apple’s product design and development strategy is propelled by profit, not innovation or usability. I’m not naive enough to think Apple’s product design has or should be revenue-agnostic, but we’re seeing more and more products that are geared toward specific customers to drive increasing revenue. I’m not that customer.
I’ve been waiting a year for the rumored update to the iPhone SE. The iPhone SE has been the best, most reliable phone I’ve ever owned. I absolutely love it.
When Apple failed to release an update to the iPhone SE in September, while simultaneously removing the SE from its lineup, I scoured the web to find another one while they’re still around. I want my headphone jack; I want a phone that fits easily in my pocket; I want a phone that’s designed to be looked at and not looked at, by which I mean, I want the phone to be unobtrusive when I’m not using it.
When it comes to the Mac, I’ve been tenaciously loyal to my 2015 MacBook Pro, convinced — for now at least — there will never be another like it. It still has ports! I use the SD card slot at least once a week, and the USB-A ports every other day. I do not want to track down a dongle every time I need to plug in a hard drive or card.
Despite the recent ad campaign, Apple seems to have largely abandoned Mac, and especially the creatives and developers who use them. Features like Touch Bar seem to interrupt our work more than benefit it (I’ve never actually used Touch Bar, but the reviews I’ve read have not been good). Since I work on a digital product, I want my tools to be predictable. I want to know the key I need is always there and will perform as expected.
With the introduction of the Windows Subsystem for Linux, beautifully designed Microsoft Surface laptops, and the overall flexibility that results from a prodigious number of hardware options, I’m considering a switch. I use a Windows 10 machine for work, and I don’t mind it.
Not that I’m thrilled with Microsoft. They spent the better part of a decade making shitty products, while resisting open-source development and productive collaboration in the form of web standards. I know they’ve changed course, but like many, I’m still bitter.
And then there’s the issue of privacy and security. Some have claimed that Apple’s most valuable product is its stance on privacy. While I’m sympathetic to this argument, we don’t really know what Apple is doing behind the scenes. I’m inclined to trust their statements regarding privacy. It makes sense that Apple is more protective of customer privacy because their business model doesn’t rely on harvesting user data (for now), but it’s still a matter of trust, not assurance.
I’m not sure I trust a trillion dollar company to make my privacy a long-term priority. Not if it means sacrificing some of that (again) trillion.
In fact, perhaps I’ll track down a Novena Heirloom laptop instead. It looks like a get off my lawn laptop, and it’s open source and extensible, albeit beefy.
It’s 2018; why is it this hard to find the right computing tool? I know I’m not the only one.