27 May 2009

Why I Don't Buy Apple Products

As grubby as Microsoft's monopolistic business practices are, I'm glad that it is they, rather than Apple, that hold the dominant market position on desktops and laptops. The way Apple uses its control over both the hardware and the software to exert an iron grip over its customers, using the law if necessary, sits very uneasily with me.

The prime example is the way the company has tried to keep total control of what software may and may not be run on an iPhone, using petty, draconian and contradictory rules. The latest casualty is an application which allows people to download books, which have entered the public domain, from Project Gutenberg [1]. Apple's justification for banning this application from iPhones is that some old books are a little bit rude. The fact that many of those books can be bought directly from Apple (or accessed through a web browser) makes me suspicious that this might have less to do with the morality of the content and more to do with protecting an income stream, by making it harder to get something for free rather than paying Apple for it. This comes hot on the heels of a similar issue with an application released by Nine Inch Nails, which was banned from the App Store because it allowed access to a song which contained some "foul language," a song which Apple is happy to sell through iTunes.

Apple's reputation is a perfect example of style over substance. When Microsoft behaves monopolistically or lobbies using FUD, it is, quite rightly, criticised, but when Apple adds ever greater levels of encryption to its iPods to limit what users can do with them, or threatens legal action when somebody tries to reverse engineer one of their products to make it work with other hardware, there is much less noise. When Apple has a dominant market position, such as with the iPod or iTunes, its conduct can be just as bad, if not worse, than Microsoft's, yet it suffers less because of its cuddlier branding.

The fact that the Government's Digital Britain Interim Report [2] held up the iPhone's locked-down, "you'll run what we say you can" approach as a model for others to follow should tell you all you need to know.

I'm a big fan of Free and Open Source Software and I switched from Windows to Ubuntu some time ago, because I didn't want to suffer Microsoft's attempts at vendor lock-in or the inability to know what the software is doing in the background, but Microsoft's flaws don't automatically make me view Apple as the lesser of two evils.

1. http://www.boingboing.net/2009/05/22/apple-says-no-projec.html
2. http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/broadcasting/5944.aspx


Ted T. said...

You are either completely disingenuous, stupid or totally lazy.

In fact, both Eucalyptus, the e-book reader you refer to without bothering to name and the NIN app. were approved in their original form and are now on the app. store. Far from being some money grubbing conspiracy on Apple's part, it was some overzealous underling whose decision was quickly overturned.

All it would have taken is for you to visit the iTunes Store or the app. vendors respective websites to find this out. That is why I am questioning your motives and/or intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Say what you will but Apple's attempt to control it sphere of influence is at least out in the open. The only way you will ever find out about the decisions denied to you by Microsoft is if they come out in court proceedings.

Let's see oh yeah "Vista Capable" jumps to mind without much effort. IE did you make an honest comparison between it in Netscape at the time and determine IE was the better browser or did you use it just because it was there?

Blad_Rnr said...

So Apple blocks TWO apps (that were refuted by the 1st commenter) and you find that appalling? Seriously. Why do you think there are over 30K apps in the App Store and over 1 billion downloads if Apple is so monopolistic? Over two apps? I for one am saddened they approved the NINs app. Do we really need foul language so we can further artistic expression? Apple should and has every right to ban whatever they see fit. I really believe you're just jealous that the iPhone/iPod Touch/App Store are so popular for many millions of people, but not for you. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

I don't always agree with Apple, but they are far from nefarious. Comparing them to Microsoft and giving Apple the thumbs down comparatively speaking is but ludicrous. I have been buying Apple products since 1989 and will continue to do so as long as they offer the best personal computing solution (or whatever category they choose to target). Microsoft doesn't get GUI at all. Linux tries to copy Microsoft. And Apple shines. For me, there is no substitution for Mac OS X—period; though I welcome a true contender if anyone ever rises to the occasion.

Paul Johnson said...

Everything in computing comes with a price. You are fond of free and open source software, but others would rather reallocate the time and expense that it would take them to learn and deal with compatibility problems between that software and the hardware to which it is connected. Microsoft sells to many hardware vendors, and leaves many compatibility and quality problems to the vicissitudes of its users. Apple charges more for controlling hardware and software interactions, but its product can do certain tasks more quickly and easily for most of its users. What is objectionable to me about Lockett's post is the moral tone it effects, as though the producers and consumers of these products were either unaware or deliberately perverse in their decisions.

Anonymous said...

Every store you shop at chooses what it will and will not sell in its store. It's just that their decisions aren't as highly publicized as those of Apple at the iTunes App Store.

Apple can certainly do better to clarify up front, and to make better decisions on the first go-around. But you need to grow up.

Anonymous said...

no, what is moronic is that MSFT , through every fault of their own, would NEVER EVEN HAVE AN APP STORE... because they are so short minded that they wouldn't even think of doing one....

and you are complaining about 2 apps out of the 30 thousand that MSFT NEVER was smart enough to figure out?

are totally stupid or something?

ya, thank god for MSFT, for that Browser that they never thought of, or that music player they never thought of, or that game player they never thought of, or that GUI that they never thought of, or the hundreds of other poor copies of crappy products that have cost in total every business in the US $100's of billions of dollars due to down time from viruses and worms....

ya, thank god for MSFT....

Mark Wadsworth said...

Paul, Apple may well be total Nazis or something, but the fact is, their computers work without crashing every fifteen minutes and take about two seconds to switch on. That's what you pay for.

Vista on the other hand was complete shite.

Paul Lockett said...

To respond in order:

Ted T, yes, the apps have both been subsequently approved by Apple after negative coverage. That doesn't alter the fact that Apple still retains control over what can be run on the platform. The fact that lobbying from users might make them change a decision doesn't make me any more likely to use one of their products.

Anonymous1, as I said, I'm not a fan of Microsoft's approach, so using them as a benchmark doesn't do much to sway me.

Blad_Rnr, it isn't the specifics of the Apps which were blocked which is the issue, it is the fact that the user is able to have his/her use of the product obstructed by the manufacturer at all which I find problematic.

Anonymous2, that's your opinion and it's one I disagree with.

Paul Johnson, yes I do think the producer's motives are questionable. You are of course free to find that objectionable if you wish.

Anonymous2, yes every shop chooses what it will and will not sell and by the same token, I can choose whether or not I wish to shop there and express my opinion about the shop. However, the comparison you make doesn't tell the whole story in this case. The iPhone operates like a car that will only accept fuel purchased at one service station. If that car existed and I bought one, I'd be forced to shop at one location for fuel for the life of the car. I wouldn't choose to buy that type of car.

Anonymous3, see Anonymous2.

Paul Lockett said...

MW, I tend to agree about Vista. I've never used it myself to any great extent, but I've just installed Ubuntu on some friends' laptop because they couldn't tolerate Vista's performance.

I think it's a pretty bad sign for Microsoft that their flagship product is less usable than Linux for an average user.

Kevin said...

Do you own/use any game console?

If yes, do you object to their control as well?

Paul Lockett said...

Kevin, that's an interesting question. I own a Wii and I don't like the control that Nintendo exerts over their system either; I believe that firmware upgrades on the system have erased home brew files when they have been saved.

I'm slightly less concerned when a device is intended purely as a games machine than when it is intended as a more general purpose device (especially when the games are delivered through disks, rather than over the net), although, if a less locked-down games machine were available with comparable functionality, I'd prefer it.