Monday, February 15, 2010

Mac not so much?

A friend's latest article brought to the front a suspicion I've had for a while - the Apple glow is getting a bit low-voltage.

Not when I have to go through three extra steps to do one little thing on my PC. Not when Vista refuses to recognize that a file in a "recently opened" list has simply moved to another location not off the face of the earth. Nor when I have to restart, safe mode, safe mode with networking, remove battery, marinate, saute lightly with onions and press F(***)8. Certainly not when my Windows phone is putting me through a regimen of counter-intuitive antics when I just want to tell a bunch of people I have a new number.

But at other times, especially when reading comments on Wired or yet another cocky blog, I feel something which is not unlike the irritation of the first wife who knew the guy when he actually was rather cool, rather the mid-life-crisis git the new girl's on about.

I still would never get into a Mac vs PC argument - as far as I'm concerned Windows is a temple to mediocrity, pseudo creativity and committee decision-making, all the things I consider most hazardous to my health. But what the article threw up is a much more damning comparison - Mac vs Mac.

The original Apple lived up to itself. Take the designs. Technology dates really quickly, and Apple designs matched that. In fact, some of these designs were deranged, but they didn't care. This I think is was what was so cool about Apple, the Mac ethos that deserved cult status. They used to be "gloriously daft", to paraphrase Richard Hammond in a recent episode of Top Gear. He was talking about a Lamborghini Gallardo. You can buy a debugged, technically perfect, non-dating Lexus (for example) but that's not what it's about.

Apple seems to have gone Lexus, Steve Jobs has gone CEO. The 1984 spirit is lost in pseudo-creative contrivances and pricing just for the sake of it (at least that's what it looks like). There are no incomprehensible amorphous shapes. Nobody in Apple is creating a ridiculous mouse that evokes a belligerent designer saying "well, I like it and I'm not changing a thing, so you can just fuck off". The lowercase i replaced the uppercase one, and Apple is poorer for it.

I found the iPhone bulky, and awkwardly sized, as if it was launched too soon and driven by marketing rather than engineering. The iPad seems to be neither here nor there. It's an expensive Kindle with no design advantage. A netbook that won't play Flash. A very mobile laptop substitute that cannot do more than one thing at a time. Who is supposed to buy this to do what? It's daft in the worst way.

For a while now I've been half considering a netbook for the size advantage. I checked out several but thought I'd wait for the iPad. Though that didn't end well, I'm still staunch enough to wait some more, in case they bring out an alternative.

Finally, as with everything, it comes down to comfort level. I just really like working on a Mac. It makes me happy.


Gautam said...

With the Mac vs. Mac, I don’t think you’re going back far enough. I think you need to go back to the Apples that ad agencies used when you started work, and what PCs were like then.

Nobody in Apple was creating amorphous shapes or gloriously daft designs back then, but Macs were truly amazing machines. When you used them you went "THIS is what it's all about!" They were so many years ahead of PCs, which still used DOS, or at least when Windows was a threadbare DOS overlay.

Today though, that working difference is more subtle, so I don’t always understand the blanket “Get a Mac” Facebook solutions, with no regard to the person’s needs, budget or even personality. If you’re so smug (not you, blog writer!) tell me exactly what you’re so smug about, because I no longer believe there’s a very good answer.

Re: design and technology. I never looked at it like that… it’s brilliant sales thinking to have design that keeps pace with technology. But is it in the long term? Because that’s the kind of cynical marketing you’d expect from PC companies, not from Apple. Apple’s connection with planned obsolesence is giving it the same evil air the other camp reeks of.

Technology might date quickly, but most of us really really don’t need to upgrade a computer system every two years. Or even every five years. Give us a solid system and there’s no need to buy another until it actually physically can’t connect to things anymore.

I've got five years on my characterless Toshiba and I aim to get another five at least! (I can't believe that Apple has got to a point where I now sound smug when I say Toshiba... I loved Apple at one point... very sad.)

Gargoyle said...

Interesting. I didn’t think of it as planned obsolescence, it was merely the thought that Apple designers were as unfettered as Apple engineers.

I did remember the old Macs and how using one after using a PC was like getting religion, but I only dimly sensed the technological genius involved. So I took the design angle where I was on surer ground, knowledge-wise!

Gautam said...

Yeah iPods are quickly becoming the poster children for the two-year mark when modern gadgets die and make you buy the next model.

They're built with just enough quality to get them to two years. The non-cynical reasoning would be that that's the only way to get them light and small and relatively affordable. And that most people discard these gadgets at the two-year point anyway.

But then, you don't have much of a choice now!

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