Apple is now Public Enemy No 1

With all of the patent suits Apple is currently filing against its tab and smartphone competitors, the title is more than justified. But the following is a personal rant that I believe exemplifies what is wrong with Apple. [Rant warning]

This may be a hypocritical title, considering that I am writing it on a MacBookPro, and I own an iPod touch and an iPad. Yet Apple products continue to produce the sort of anger that I used to reserve for Microsoft software. You know the kind, you love and hate your technology, you cannot live without it, but you know it’s wrong.

The smartphone market is now mature enough that it allows choice beyond the iPhone, with several Android handsets giving Apple a run for its money in both cost and hardware specifications. I am yet to hear a bad word about the Samsung Galaxy S-II, and I’m still very happy with my HTC Desire Z. Android offers a number of features that are quite simply forbidden in Apple-land: multitasking, connectivity, contextual menus, flexibility and configurability (is that a word?). On the other hand, my iPod gives me an indication of the iPhone world, and I do not like what I see.

Do not get me wrong, I purchased the MacBook because it is a beautiful machine, particularly for someone who lives the life on the road and requires a solid presentation laptop. However, Lion has managed to erase some of the love I had for my Mac, I don’t understand the Launchpad, and the attempt to make the device more app-friendly falls flat. Similarly, the changes to the touchpad’s gestures are truly infuriating. Why must Apple change a set of gestures that worked perfectly well? It is the mind-boggling arrogance, the imposition of a view of technology, what prompts me to believe that perhaps it is time to move on. However, I cannot see a true competitor in the laptop market, and the MacBook remains top dog, despite of Lion. Customers seem to share this view, next time you’re at a conference, look at the ratio of Macs vs PCs. I’d say we’re nearing 70-30% spread in some circles.

The iPad is perhaps what has convinced me that Apple is truly evil. It is a beautiful machine, fast, responsive, sleek. It just looks great, and works reasonably well. The problem with the iPad is that, being a large iPod, it has inherited the annoying assumptions built-in iOS which make me think that Apple employees have a low opinion of their users. See, the iPad works wonderfully if you are going to do only a few tasks, and the designers know that you will probably end up using it for email, social networking, and games. So if you try to do anything more clever with it, such as expecting to send and receive files, or to have easy access to the files you already have in it, then you encounter more problems. The iPad is perhaps the least helpful piece of technology I have ever owned. It foregoes any assumption that we had built of technology, it assumes that you will want to do things only one way, and it does not allow you to be inventive or imaginative. Files? Who needs files! We are being indoctrinated in the idea that you can use iTunes to transfer the stuff that you really need. You don’t need cables and connections. Cables are not cool.

This is why I think Amazon has a good chance of knocking out Apple from its pedestal at some point. I’m still waiting for that Android tablet that will make me give up on the iPad, and while I think that the Kindle Fire tablet will not be that device, it is getting close.

Apple reminds me of Henry Ford’s famous quip about the T model: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”.

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