Things I hate about the Apple cult

By Jonny Evans

London, UK, April 8: It's a beautifully sunny day here in the UK capital. The shimmering sky is limpid, a radiant clear blue, happy birds are warbling nicely, teenagers are hanging on street corners trying to look like extras from The Wire, dogs are woofing happily, you can hear the city breathe. A good day. A good day to list a few things about my favorite computer company which drive me crazy -- AppleHolic's list of things I hate about Apple [AAPL].

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[ABOVE: View from a London window.]

Open or shut

Apple is shut. It thrives on speculation, has spawned a series of incredibly lucrative side-industries, is hideously ahead of its time with a philosophy we only ever get slight insights into. It drives me crazy.

Company PR's can't tell you anything, rumor runs wild because the company won't comment on them. This leaves Apple watchers surfing speculation, educated prediction and wish fulfillment while everyone who invested a few thousand dollars in the firm in 2000 is probably rich, rich, rich today.

Apple doesn't share the detail, it teases it out. It plays a cat and mouse game with the media to the extent that when competitors call the company 'controlling', we have to agree, because it is, but...annoyingly...

... it works...

The company's up-tight approach to everybody outside of Cupertino helps it punch above its weight (well, arguably only Exxon is above Apple's weight these days, reader J.M. points out). This is simply insufferable.

Premium products

I remember when I first began to read about Apple products. I didn't have much money but I'd buy all the magazines. I didn't know then that I'd been infected by the geek virus, but I had. I'd lust over these electronic appliances I couldn't ever afford to buy. I know I wasn't the only one doing this. There's so many potential Apple customers who have the lust but lack the lucre.

Across the years the company has always faced pressure to offer a sub-$500 Mac. For a brief period the Mac mini filled this gap -- Mac resellers I spoke with applauded when that thing first appeared because they finally had something they could sell into the price-conscious/value segment. These days the Mac mini costs from $699.

Put simply, I'm running out of ways to avoid agreeing that Macs are more expensive -- sure, you can talk about features and the included software bundles being far and away better than anything you'll get on Windows, but for potential users who can't afford the things that just makes it worse, because:

They'd love a Mac, get by on a borrowed Windows tower, and read the Mac magazines, full of longing and frustrated, unrequited, unrewarded curiosity and love. It must be a bit like being in love with someone you can never ever hope to have. Apple does this to people and it is unforgivable.

Fortunately, of course, for under $500 you can pick up an iPad.

Eating its young

Apple's WWDC Design Awards are the company's annual event at which it rewards the best developers and then quietly embraces and extends some of the ideas it comes across. Just ask Will Shipley how he felt about the iBooks interface.

I'm not unaware that there's nothing original under the sun, that we're only seven handshakes from the President (on average) and history will always repeat itself so long as humanity remains willfully ignorant of it, but so many buy into the Mac cult only to see their dreams diced and dashed on the rocks of embrace and extend.

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

I've lost track of the times I've heard now forgotten competitors roll out the argument that "We welcome Apple into [insert business segment] because its entry will widen the [repeat segment name] industry and help us reach more customers."

For example, given the choice would you choose an iPod touch, an iPhone 4(or iPhone 5), an iPad 2 or a Flip? Come back to that question next year.

It's just not fair.

White headphones

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I always replace my iHeadphones.

I resent the insistence on white because it turns my listening experience into the cable equivalent of a branded groceries bag. I really don't want to wear a bag on my head. 

If you use white headphones it is likely you are using an Apple product. This means you're advertising the company while also advertising your vulnerability. After all, every mugger knows that Apple products maintain value better than most devices when sold on eBay. No one wants a Zune.

When I see people on public transport with the white headphones plugged in I know this about them:

  1. They are probably using an Apple product.
  2. They don't care who knows it.

Really: If you use the white headphones you might as well stick an Apple logo on your face every morning.

It annoys me. (Perhaps I should lighten up.)

The beachball

Why can't I have a dozen open tabs in both my Safari and Firefox browsers, plus Mail, word processor, Preview, Photoshop, Twitter, iPhoto, Address Book, iChat and iTunes all running with multiple windows and all at the same time while streaming music via AirPort Express without my system hanging and that spinning beachball thing turning up once I finally find the Web page I've spent the day looking for that contains a little Flash ad I don't want to see?

Why does Activity Monitor show me that some of my applications slowly demand ever more system memory as they are used, while there is no ceiling to that use? I have to relaunch or restart. It annoys me.

(Perhaps I should lighten up.)

App Store censorship

I hate censorship.

I love the notion of a curated store in which you can reasonably believe all the Apps you might download are in good shape, but I don't see why that control should extend to content, political or otherwise.

I don't believe we should have to pay a price in the form of content censorship in exchange for application security. A better option is to segregate content into clearly defined areas with warnings and age verification. This leaves us free to make up our own minds. I like making up my own mind. I was born with one. It seems a shame to waste it.

As the debacle over the recent (and despicable) 'gay cure' App suggests, censors sometimes allow their own political preferences to influence their decisions. My inclination is to think this is why that App got allowed through. Censorship breeds censorship. Better to open the content floodgates, while continuing to vet apps to make sure they are safe. Censorship of public thought is one extension of Apple's controlling nature I just cannot support.

Cable costs

Apple earns billions of dollars, so why must you use an Apple A/V cable to pump media out of your iPod into another device? And why does this cable cost so much more than a standard A/V cable, even though it performs the same function. Why does Apple rewire the iPod's A/V connection so it looks like only Apple cables work?

What's wrong with supporting standard cable interconnects? Standards support. Get it?

With billions of dollars sitting pretty inside Apple's cash hoard, little annoyances like these makes the company seem mean. Meanness upsets me. I think meanness is negative. Negative people upset me.

iEverywhere

iEverything. On this I can only ask what you think Doug Stanhope might have to say about the iGeneration.

What do you hate about Apple? What do you love about Apple? Please lets have a respectful discussion in comments below. If you want to see things I've written about Apple which aren't critical, click this link. I'd also be ever so pleased if you began following me on Twitter so I can let you know when new reports get published here first on Computerworld.  

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