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The Apple way and the future of the Macintosh

Who is looking for my article "WHY MAC?" or "WINDOWS ODER MACINTOSH?", should instead read here about what i have to say 17 years later.

Von Thü Hürlimann · September 2012 · There may well have past 5 or 6 years since I deleted that article from my homepage, but copies can still be found out there. Not really surprising, considering that it was online and constantly updated during over 10 years.

For me as a die-hard Macintosh user since 1987 and former Art Director of Macworld and Computerworld magazines, it began with a speed and price comparison between Apple and Windows computers. Written 1995, in a time when Apple was steadely close to termination and most computer users were laughing about Apples market share and position, I wanted to get word out there and explain what really makes the Mac superior. And frankly, I also wanted to express my feelings about something great, about being a part of a minority of geeks who fight against a soulless dominant enemy – who fight on the good side.

2000 was an exciting year. Experiencing the move from antique Mac OS 9 over to Mac OS X was really a big step into a new world. Later I moved along from one iMac to another. I felt understood as a customer and satisfied by the new products coming out year after year.

But around 2008 that feeling got a bump. Nothing serious considering everything else was still okay. The thing was, as a designer I need a matte screen. And Apple stopped selling those. Well, why should it listen to only my needs? But the other thing was, and still is, that most designers worldwide want and need those, because glossy screens are just not suitable for serious graphics design work. I could still get a Mac Pro and plug it to a third party display. But for design-aware people like me, going away from the sleek, modern look of the all-in-one iMacs really was a loss.

Around that time, Apple had its success with the iPhone. iTunes got turned into a nightmare of a "do it all do nothing right"-software. QuickTime and iMovie and later FinalCut too got screwed into shadows of themselfes. All this together with many other small bad experiences extended my previous feeling-bump into a whole new feeling about Apple: Disappointment.

In 2011 Mac OS X 10.7 called "Lion" was published. The Apple homepage and specially the forum got a design change, together with the start of the App Store. Now try go into the forum, go to a category and do your search. The results come from all over the forum, resulting in many, including me, posting questions in the wrong categories. Not to mention the niveau of posts content has fallen dramatically in the past few years. For most questions you get annoying "why can't you google it" answers or condescending comments - at least that's not Apples fault, just proof that Apple users are not of the same material anymore. All too often when you need to get back to the forum, you have to login again. And you can not just copy/paste your password into the login field, you have to type it – so take your time or say adios to hacker proof passwords. And after you did it, you get to the forum start page and have to search your way back to the topic you wanted to post in to. Even free phpBB does all this a lot better than Apples selected, high payed developers.

This was not the Apple I knew anymore. The Apple who always surprised by having its interfaces done with thoughts ahead of you, who offered an easy to reach solution for all your needs – well, not necessarely far-fetched needs, just find what you're looking for or export a non propietary file format (talking iMovie and even FinalCut here, folks). Now the Apple interfaces got it backwards. Suddenly we have to get a manual at our hands again or get input from the community – and nevertheless end up without solution.

The App Store, iTunes and the iTunes Store do the same. It feels like the stone age of the computer era all over again. You can not categorize your search. Try to do a search only within free apps or for a specific version of hardware like the iPhone 3G or try a search for a title only within classical music. This is just not possible. Apple has decided that you do not need that possibility. This is not reduction of functionality in favour for easy of use. It is quiet the contrary. Try to get a software in the App store that works with an older Mac OS – and I do not mean software from before App Store times, no, I mean software I bought in the App Store some months before, downloaded and used it on my Mac OS X 10.6. If I make a complete new installation on one of my other Macs using 10.6, I can not go back to the store and download again or buy iPhoto for it again. All they offer there is the newest version, which requires of course the newest version of Mac OS X. I am forced to use a copy from my other Mac. And that was not so simple, because after moving the app, it did not start, missing the face recognition framework. So I needed to find and install those in the right place in library. iPhoto does work now, but often quits unexpected, so it seems it's still missing something. Would this be a single incident, its not a biggie, but unfortunately it is symptomatic for what we get from Cupertino now.

Something similar goes on with the hardware too. It is nothing new to Mac users how Apple tries to close up its hardware, making it difficult to change components inside. Computers like the laptops, the iMacs and MacMinis were always built very compact and it was logical and acceptable they offer few or nothing that can be enhanced. But at least you were able to change the battery, upgrade RAM or harddisk or replace a damaged screen or CD drive. You already had to go through some pretty difficult steps involving special screws and tools in order to get those apart, but it was possible. You would not think much about changing the battery of an iPod. But many would wish it to be possible with an iPhone or iPad. Now we even have a new laptop, the Retina display Macbook, who can not be opened and the battery can not be changed anymore.

Furthermore, Apple not only tries to dominate content markets, for music, movies, books, magazines and software, it also dominates its customers and developers by deciding about what is suitable for us and what not. For years application developers critisize how Apple holds them in the dark about how much time it needs to get a product into the App Store, from weeks to months, everything is possible, even that the product never appears. And there are not just technical reasons for a product to get censured or banned from the store. A bit of nudity in its content can be a reason, while plenty of violent content seems not to be a problem and even malware and infected apps have been available for download. War is good, love is bad? It seems, Steve Jobs got it all wrong in the 60's.

All this took my new Apple feeling again to a new level. And it confirms my suspicion about where Apple is going or better said, wants us Mac users to go: Into a world as closed and controlled as we know it from the iPhone and the iPad. Where only can be installed, run and done what Apple wants us to. The fight has been lost, our own cause turned into evil.

So what is my recommendation for you? Well, If you can, go over, or start, with GNU/Linux. Do not get dependent on any of the propietary systems.

Unfortunately for me as a designer, I can not move away from the Mac any time soon. I have so many files I still need to be able to use with software that can not be replaced by anything running on GNU/Linux. But after all my experience with Apple and Adobe (which leads its customers into the same kind of controlled future by the way), I have sworn I will hold on to the OS (10.6.8) and software I have for quiet some time now and not go along with any new updates. Because the good news for designers is: Maybe except for HTML5, there is nothing new on the horizon you will really need in the near future.


Update September 2013

The next logical step for me was to not buy Apples products anymore. So I started working with a Hackintosh, and I wrote about my experience here.

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