What I don’t Like About Apple

Note: Most of this post was written before the death of Steve Jobs, but his demise and the outpouring of admiration for him and Apple was the impetus for me finishing it.

I have had a few people recently ask me why I don’t use my Macbook any more. I have answered those queries when they came up, but I’d like to put a few more of my thoughts and beliefs out there for future reference.

I was (and still am) a Linux user before I used Apple. The spirit of openness, sharing, freedom to use, and freedom from cost of the Linux ecosystem has had a big effect on my technical usage and community participation. I hate licenses – not so much because they cost money (everyone has the right to make a living) - but because they are an artificially-imposed annoyance whenever I have deal with a licensed program. The groups I run and participate in are genrally free of cost and are open for anyone to attend and contribute to.

I don’t actually hate Apple. In fact, I love a lot of their products. I have an old G4 PowerMac, a Macbook Pro, and there are a few iPods scattered around the house. These are some of the nicest computers and devices I’ve ever used. They’re stable, powerful, easy to use, and beautifully designed. I feel a psychological urge to use these things – kind of like an addiction. However I currently don’t use them and won’t buy another Apple product because I feel like a hypocrite when I do.

There are currently two big issues holding me back from buying and supporting Apple:

Software Patents – Apple is very aggressive when it comes to defending their software patents. I have a big problem with software patents and I try not to support companies that are actively making the situation worse. I think their lawsuits un-competitive and a huge waste of money and court resources that should be spent on more useful endeavors.

The Walled Garden of iOS – If you want to develop for the iPhone or iPad, you have to buy an Apple computer. And then you have to pay Apple $99/yr for the privilege of letting people install your app, assuming Apple approves of it. This creates a large barrier to entry for anyone that wants to casually play around with mobile development, especially for the underprivileged. I cannot support this artificially expensive and closed development model when free, open alternatives like Android exist.

There are also a few little things that annoy me about Apple products. These don’t keep me from using Apple, but they do help to keep me on Linux:

  • Inflexible interface – Use your interface the Apple way or you will be annoyed.
  • Half-assed support of open source – (GTK, fink/macports/homebrew, Python)
  • Expensive – You have to pay for pretty much any little add-on or program for OSX. Things that are free for Windows or Linux are often for-pay on OSX (VMWare Fuse vs VMWare Player)

I think software patents and the associated lawsuits are stifling innovation and progress, especially for developers not backed by big companies with a patent war-chest. This is holding all of us back from experiencing better technology and the freedom to use it how we want to.

I also think that the artificially closed and expensive iOS platform is not good for education, especially with regards to the underprivileged. Unless you have money, you can’t play in the iOS walled garden. This is not how we create a level playing field.

So, until these issues are fixed, I’m going to try to fight my Apple urges.

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