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The Apple “Enforced Computing” Report

More and more, I see nonsensical articles from alleged tech pundits catching fire online. These hacks make outrageous comments, somehow imagining they are being relevant, or at least controversial enough to attract attention. More often than not, they will regurgitate some myths about a company, often Apple Inc., and expand upon them as if they were true.

So there’s an article from a certain highly confused writer — and there will be no link here — in which he refers to Apple is delivering a “rabbit hold of enforced computing” in explaining why Microsoft isn’t betting the farm on Windows 8. He has succumbed to the illusion that Apple’s so-called walled garden restricts what people can do on their Macs, even though he seems to be confusing OS X with the iOS. Even then, he’s very much off base.

Sure, Apple curates the software you buy in the App Store. But that doesn’t mean that there are any significant restrictions that impact most of you. For the few who want to run a handful of apps that Apple wouldn’t allow, there’s always jailbreaking. In the scheme of things, I suppose it would be nice to have a back door to running unapproved apps, but since Apple continues to enrich the platform, I don’t feel that I’m somehow restricted. That the vast majority of iPhone and iPad users love their machines argues against the illusion that they are being forced to do things they don’t want to do, and not do things they want to do. Besides, having the apps examined before approval helps prevent malware from seeping through, and the apps at least have to meet a minimum threshold of usefulness.

Unfortunately, the alleged pundit in question doesn’t seem to understand the difference between desktop and mobile computing platforms (and maybe Microsoft doesn’t either). That’s the reason for confusing the structure of the iOS with OS X.

Yes, OS 10.8 will deliver a Gatekeeper feature, which can, in theory, limit the apps you run on a Mac. But there are three options, one of which allows you to run anything, just as you do now. And a context menu option lets you bypass even the most severe restriction, which is to limit yourself strictly to apps you get from the Mac App Store. Regardless, once an app launches the first time, there are no further impediments to using it on your Mac. More to the point, there are loads of third-party utilities that allow you to customize your Mac extensively, by making changes in the Unix core. Sure, some of those changes may cause you trouble, but those utilities usually have a restore feature to fix the damage. If you use Terminal directly, though, you are free to screw things up for yourself without Apple coming to your door to rescue (or take) your Mac. Enforced computing indeed!

In any case, the silly article in question goes on to discuss Microsoft’s unfortunate obsession with widgets and some extremely questionable desktop elements over the years, along with a few lame attempts to tamper with the traditional Windows desktop. One notorious example was Bob, which made you wonder how Microsoft could have been so foolish as to think it would ever catch on.

Now Apple has played with widgets too, in the form of Dashboard. It’s still part of OS X, but it stays out of the way unless called upon. You never have to deal with it otherwise, since it’s not in your face. By the way, I’m down to just three widgets, one of which, a utility to check running system processes, seems to have problems with the Mountain Lion prerelease.

Rather than give up on widgets, Microsoft has taken their obsession to the most extreme level possible, with the Metro layer of Windows 8, where you have widgets, or tiles, running rampant on your PC’s display. While I suppose Metro works well enough for people who don’t have lots of apps in Windows Phone, it is a poor choice for a personal computer operating system.

Now the blogger in question also admits to having concerns about the usefulness of Metro, but posits a solution, that some third party will offer a way to hide Metro and restore the traditional Windows desktop shortly after Windows 8 is released. What this means is that you will supposedly be able to enjoy “the faster boot times and higher reliability of the Windows 8 experience,” but you won’t have to contend with Metro.

So let’s see here: You will allegedly want to upgrade a PC to Windows 8 to boot the computer a little faster, or maybe shave a few seconds when you restore the computer from idle mode. Maybe Windows 8 will need fewer restarts. Is that it? Is that any reason to buy an OS with a poor user interface, and then pay a shareware developer to get rid of it?

I hate to use the term galactically stupid, but I really don’t understand the logic here. If Windows 8 isn’t a useful upgrade, my advice to Windows users is don’t upgrade! You shouldn’t depend on some third party hack to make it worthwhile.

All in all, I hate to predict failure. But Windows 8 is going to be a hard sell for Microsoft, especially for the enterprise. They need to have a Plan B, and that plan definitely should not involve a third-party Metro remover.