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  • The Apple Control Freak Report

    October 27th, 2010

    While firing up the troops during his surprise appearance at Apple’s quarterly conference call with financial analysts last week, CEO Steve Jobs was his outspoken best in trashing the competition.

    Or, at the very least, providing a sorely needed reality check.

    Sometimes, Jobs has to say absolutely nothing to push a few buttons. Take the quiet decision to deliver new Macs without Adobe Flash preloaded. You can’t imagine how many uninformed so-called tech scribes are bitching and moaning about how Apple is engaged in a vicious plot to kill Flash, or even Adobe for that matter.

    Now we all know there’s no love lost between Apple and Adobe over lots of issues, and Flash is only the tip of the iceberg. Apple is surely not pleased when Adobe builds Windows-only apps, or seems to pay only lip service to the best programming features of the Mac platform. With Flash, however, it’s very clear why Jobs has been so concerned about it, and has ordered the plugin barred from the iOS.

    And, no, my friends, not shipping Macs with Flash won’t suddenly make it impossible for you to retrieve Web content created with that plugin. You will simply have the option to download a copy, same as you do now in Windows Vista and Windows 7.

    But are we to assume that, because it’s Steve Ballmer and not Steve Jobs, that approach is all right there but not here? Oh, right, Jobs wants to kill Flash and this is just another nail in the coffin.

    Yes, I realize that Jobs, unlike most corporate executives, is trying to look at where technology is going five years from now, and is devising schemes to take us there. Far too many corporate executives are only concerned with this quarter and the next.

    So Jobs got rid of floppy discs beginning in 1998, and that was a good thing. He helped banish SCSI from Macs, and that was even better, as anyone who spent hours coping with a SCSI conflict can confirm.

    Wanting both the mobile and traditional OS platforms to share as much usability as possible is also a good thing. Microsoft tried to copy Windows and bring it over to their mobile systems, which didn’t work, because the system isn’t portable. Apple simply took the core OS, designed from the get-go to work on multiple platforms, and built a custom interface that was designed to operate correctly on a touch-based system. No stylus or physical keyboard required. Those efficiencies, in turn, can also help make the Mac OS less resource-hungry, faster and more trouble-free.

    All that is supposed to be bad, because Steve Jobs wants to kill Flash and mechanical hard drives and thus deprive Mac users of crashes, security leaks, lost data, and other misery. He wants personal computers to function like appliances, not complicated, temperamental machines that only the power user can master.

    We don’t want that, some say. We want openness, chaos, the ability to get down and dirty with our operating systems. A PC should be an old fashioned motor vehicle with a start-up crank, where you regularly need to pop the hood or get it up on a rack and figure out why the engine won’t start, or the car veers left when the steering wheel is straight.

    Is that what you really want?

    If so, you don’t need to buy an Apple product. There are loads of tech gadgets that you can hack to a fare-thee-well, and perhaps that’s best for some. Certainly you can spend literally tens of hours poking into the dreaded Windows Registry to figure out why even a Windows 7 PC might fail to boot.

    On the other hand, it sure does seem the public continues to warm towards Apple and its integrated approach to hardware and software, considering the record sales in the most recent quarter.

    Now look at another recent quarterly sales report, for example, which demonstrates that Verizon Wireless’s attempts to goose Android smartphone sales with two-for-one schemes isn’t working so well. Sales growth is stalling, while AT&T continues to report decent growth.

    Maybe that’s why the iPhone looking more and more attractive to Verizon. Certainly a fair amount of AT&T customers are fed up with poor service — at least in certain large cities — and are aching for a better network. This deal, should it come to pass as predicted widely in recent weeks, will mean millions of new postpaid customers for Verizon, and some people who avoided the iPhone and went to Android, might be happy to trade.

    Yes, Verizon Wireless would join other carriers in ceding control to Apple for the privilege of selling an iPhone. But when the dollars and cents are counted at the end of the year, this will be yet another terrific deal.

    And it won’t stop Apple from offering the iPhone to Sprint and T-Mobile customers as well. If you look at the way the availability of the iPad has expended to loads of third-party resellers, it’s clear the iPhone isn’t far behind.

    It’s also clear that Apple’s integrated approach may freak out some members of the media, but so long as customers aren’t complaining so much, Apple isn’t going to change. After all, Apple may not listen to customers when deciding what new gear to build, but they listen about features that don’t work properly, and sales slumps can even persuade the mercurial Steve Jobs that something might have to be fixed.



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