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  • The Love It or Leave It Argument

    December 27th, 2012

    In yesterday's column, I discussed the need for a more powerful multitasking solution for iOS, with the option to be able to have multiple documents and apps available for instant tapping from one to the other and back. It was all about having a feature that would be closer in concept to the one in OS X and, in fact, Windows 7.

    Obviously, I don't believe that Apple wanted to exclude this feature. It is all about resources and power consumption, and Apple wants a great user experience. But I've gotten a very few emails from readers suggesting that, if I have problems with iOS because I cannot get multiple document and app capabilities, I should be considering moving to, say, Android, or to the Surface RT, which has a passable way of switching  between two open documents.

    In other words, I have to love everything Apple does or go elsewhere. This is the sort of questionable logic that troubles me, particularly because it would be impossible to find the 100% perfect OS. I'd be switching back and forth constantly as features and performance levels change, never being satisfied that I'd found the best tool for the job or for my leisure, what there is of it.

    Consider those articles from certain inflammatory commentators, many of which are looking for big hit counts rather than try to inform people, who proclaim their miraculous decisions to give up on one desktop or mobile computing platform, and embracing another. Only they soon find reason to become dissatisfied with their momentous decision, and thus they choose yet another platform or return to one they previously abandoned. Does any of that really make sense?

    I dare say that most people aren't really involved in platform wars or other inside baseball issues. When they want a smartphone or a tablet, they will buy one because they saw a tempting ad, or the sales person convinced them that one product or the other was best suited to their needs or budget. It's not a matter of Apple versus Samsung versus Windows Phone, or whatever. That other companies have more variety than Apple can be mighty confusing, but it may give customers the feeling they have choices.

    The other day, for example, while in casual conversation with someone at a medical office, I asked why they choose an Android phone, and, frankly, they didn't have a ready answer. Well, they needed a smartphone, and the price was right. Aren't they all pretty much the same anyway? This is the sort of statement I won't argue with. If that person is satisfied with their gadget, why should I complain?

    As a practical matter, I have used Apple products since the 1980s. Sometimes the situation got mighty troubling, particularly when I had to rip apart certain Mac minitowers in the old days just to upgrade RAM, while silently cursing the product designers for making such a foolish decision. I remember buying one Mac that wouldn't boot. I opened the case, and found the tiny onboard battery had slipped loose during shipment. I reinserted it, closed the case, and the startup process proceeded normally, but I had to endure frequent crashes until I discovered Apple had already released a Mac OS maintenance update to set things right.

    Those were the days when the conventional wisdom had it that Apple was ultimately doomed, and you should expect to hear of their demise any time now. Well, history shows they came real close, but Steve Jobs saved the day.

    Should I have gone to Windows, as many people did? Well, I did have a Windows PC on hand from time to time, but I didn't find Microsoft's solution any better. The interface was unfriendly, and performance and reliability was less predictable. I didn't appreciate the need for constant babysitting to keep it going. Apple's appliance mentality, though sometimes poorly executed, still ruled the day in the end.

    Sure, I have played with Android smartphones and tablets from time to time. It's not about the list of features, but the elegant user experience where Apple still excels. Yes, there are things Apple can and must do to make the iOS better. Yes, I wish Maps for iOS 6 was more reliable from the starting gate. But I am just as troubled with the way the tech media has given Google a pass for the obvious and enduring deficiencies of their mapping solution. No, Google Maps hasn't left me stranded in a national forest, but I have received confusing and convoluted directions for simple destinations on a regular basis. Apple Maps fouls up in different ways too, but it's not so obviously worse in key respects. That's going too far.

    This doesn't mean that Apple can't lose me as a customer, and certainly it seems they've done things that might have had that result over the years. For now, I'll stick with what I've got, but I'm not married to their solution, and will move on if something clearly better comes along.



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