Almer S. Tigelaar

A Little Bit of Everything

Apples and Oranges

People are often surprised that I do not own a single Apple branded product: how can someone that holds a degree in Human Media Interaction not have at least an iPod? Perhaps it is time for a brief explanation.

Did Apple invent the mouse? No, that would’ve been either Stanford, Xerox or Telefunken, depending on what you define as a mouse. But did Apple popularize the mouse? Yes, sir. And that is, and has remained, the strength of Apple throughout the years. Take something that is either obscure or that seems past its peak point and make it into something everyone wants to have. The grey laptop becomes the MacBook, the clunky walkman becomes the iPod, the drab PC becomes the iMac, the aging mobile phone becomes the iPhone, the failing tablet PC becomes the iPad: iWant!

Granted, Apple is good at making stuff that is easy and intuitive to use. They are willing to take risks with their designs which differentiates them from other major hardware manufacturers. They are also known for their decent hardware and software support. So far, so good, so what’s the catch?

An often cited reason for not buying Apple hardware is that it is overpriced. This is especially true for laptops. Go to any other manufacturer and you will get a machine with equivalent specifications for a third or half cheaper than Apple’s offerings. In this regard: I always find it puzzling that so many students buy Apple machines. To find the reason for this we have to dig a little deeper. Although the days that Apple was making products for the niche of graphic designers and artists are over, they continue to have this exclusive air and feel to them: buying an Apple is like joining a club or becoming part of a family. Apple is one of those companies that successfully sells not only a product, but primarily a feeling.

I have to admit that I too like nice looking things and prefer brand name products over nameless equivalents. Nevertheless, even though MacBooks look gorgeous: I don’t have one. I think that Apple’s reputation for developing new and innovative products is nowadays a large factor in propelling their newly launched products to the forefront more quickly than those of other companies. Let’s face it people: Apple doesn’t hold a patent on good design, intuitive interfaces, and solid hardware. There are other companies that put out good well-designed products too, but people are less willing to consider them, since it is ‘not Apple’.

Design and reputation apart, my real gripe with Apple is their highly proprietary nature. They control everything from the nitty gritty details of the hardware to the highest levels of software. The main advantage of this model is that they have complete control over the user experience, which allows them to create coherent well-integrated products. The downside is that this level of control makes their systems very inflexible and stifles innovation by others. My primary reason for not buying Apple products is that I do not want to end up trapped in their proprietary, closed, and highly controlled ecosystem. Perhaps it is time for Apple to open up. They’ve garnered a large enough following to be able to do this, and it would no doubt be appreciated by many users.

Would I ever buy an iPod, iPad, MacBook, or other Apple product? I am not very brand loyal when it comes to computer stuff. Whenever I make a buying decision I evaluate competing products in a particular category based on their merits. If an Intel processor offers more bang per buck than one from AMD, I’d buy the Intel one and vice verso. In Apple’s defense: if I would have to buy a tablet now then it would certainly be an iPad. However, this is not because it is Apple, but because it is presently the best and most feature complete product in that particular category. I think that is a legitimate reason to buy a piece of hardware.

My advice: dare to honestly compare products, don’t get trapped in fanboyism: don’t buy Apple because it’s Apple, don’t become like this:

Video hosted by YouTube, Copyright © The Onion

What do I think of the future of Apple now that Steve Jobs resigned as CEO? I think they will continue to do just fine. They have good bunch of professional people there, and there are and will continue to be, plenty of folks looking out specifically for their products. However, as in any industry, the niche of producing highly desired consumer products will undoubtedly be populated in the future by companies that we do not yet even know: the Oranges.

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