Apple The Biggest Threat To The Internet

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia put into words what I have been thinking for a while about Apple (This excerpt from Andrew Charlesworth’s piece on Wales’ speech at Bristol University on 13th Jan 2011):

“The debate is a highly overblown issue,” said Wales in a response to question about his personal view of net neutrality. “A lot of the things that people are afraid of are in reality a long way from happening. The real threat comes from the apps model.”

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Apple has a completely different model to their computer ecosystem to Microsoft Windows based manufacturers.  One of the reasons I dislike Apple computers is the fact that Apple lock down their PCs so that a user cannot add their own components like additional RAM, bigger hard drives, replacement graphics cards etc.

I can understand on the one hand why as a company you would do this. If you want to ensure that your customers get a highly controlled experience with your products, stop the end user from messing their system up. 50% of the calls I get where clients have problems with their Windows PCs are down to the end user fiddling with their PC trying to add some new piece of hardware or software and getting things wrong, eventually getting to the point where they know they can’t sort it out themselves.

On the other hand though, I would still as an end user myself, support an end user’s right to mess their system up if they want to. They paid for the PC, why shouldn’t they feel free to try and modify or customise their system to better meet their own requirements.

PCs running Windows or Linux embrace this concept, the word PC stands for “Personal Computer”, to me that means it is mine not the bloody manufacturer who supplied it to me. If I decide to mess it up, as long as I understand that if after doing that, fixing it again might cost me some money then that’s fine.

Apple just want to keep everything locked down so that A) you can’t mess their computers up and B) if you want to do anything to modify your Apple PC you probably can as long as you pay them for the privilege of making that change.

This is where I part company with Apple, this locking down of PCs so that you must pay them to do even the most basic of upgrades is just sharp practice as far as I am concerned, especially when their equipment costs more than the equivalent PC anyway. (before I get loads of complaints from Apple fanboys telling me that ain’t so, I am basing my experience here in the UK and there is no question that Apple Macs cost more on identical hardware compared to Windows PCs, admittedly it’s not as bad as it was a few years ago but there is still a premium paid for a Mac).

Going Forward

Now given this history of wanting to lock down their system for the reasons above, the next step in Apple’s World dominance was to create iTunes.

Good idea in theory when the Music Industry was busy running away from technology and trying to sue everyone in the World for playing music on their PCs.  OK I know a lot of people have illegally downloaded music from the internet and I DO NOT condone that, you should pay for your music so that the artist can make a living and put food on the table. But nowadays most people listen to music on their PC/Mac/Linux box and being in digital format is VERY convenient rather than messing about loading disks onto a turntable or CDs into a player or PC.

So prior to iTunes you could only get music in digital format from illegal sources like LimeWire and at one time illegal Napster. 

Once iTunes was invented it was a good idea, except that Steve Jobs decided to make it a closed system, i.e. if you want to use their service you initially could only play the downloaded music on an Apple iPod or similar device.  Also the tracks were Digital Rights Management (DRM) protected which meant you could only play the vast majority of them if you had a current active paid for account with Apple. As soon as you stopped paying them your fee, the tracks wouldn’t play any more so you didn’t own the tracks you were effectively renting them.

Nowadays you can use iTunes + which derestricts the downloads but I assume that is much more expensive.

The trouble is I suspect that most users are blissfully unaware of these restrictions and will get a shock when they want to play a track on a 6th device in their house and can’t, or want to close the service and find that previously paid for tracks now won’t play any more!?

App Store

Now we have the “App Store”, this means that Apple want you to buy all your applications from them as well.  With all the restrictions mentioned above.

So now you are expected to buy your PC from Apple, if you want to upgrade anything you must buy it from Apple.  If you want some music you must buy that from Apple. If you want applications you must buy them from Apple!

I have heard that Microsoft are thinking about doing this as part of Windows 8, so that you buy all your software through their “App Store” subject to the legal battle over the name “App Store” they are both fighting at the moment.

Why this is a Threat

This kind of thinking by Apple is why they pose the biggest threat to the internet that I and Jimmy Wales are concerned about. 

I clearly remember my first experience of being “online” through CompuServe and after the initial euphoria wore off (after about 2 days) I became dismayed at the fact that I was effectively corralled within CompuServe’s walls.  AOL were up to the same thing at the time, it was a mess. 

Finally the internet took off and it was a breath of fresh air.  Suddenly there were millions of sites some good some bad, but all independent and the basis of something that was unrestricted.

Now you could find that niche information on a subject that was dear to you and probably only a handful of other people in the World, but because it was easy and relatively cheap to put up a website, people did and suddenly the entire human knowledgebase was accessible from anywhere in the World.

So why would I want to be restricted back into that coral that is a single vendor like Apple!? OK, I take arguments like its a great experience, you are safe from viruses and other malicious elements, but can’t everyone see that being forced to only buy everything from Apple is a BAD thing!?

I am worried that in their desire to be “trendy” and “cool” Mac users are encouraging the rest of the computer using world to get sucked into this round cornered hype that is Apple where you pay through the nose and increasingly you are being  locked down to only see what Apple wants you to see.



VMware Cloud Goes Down

Yet more woes for Cloud suppliers, this time VMware it appears an initial outage was fixed and then whilst the company was trying to figure out a procedure of how to prevent the outage occurring again in the process of doing that someone triggered a bigger outage. I just spotted this in Network World:

VMware causes second outage while recovering from first

This all goes to show that cloud systems are just as likely to be affected by human error as stand alone IT systems, another reason that they should be approached with caution and not accepted as the answer to all your IT problems. 

The words “snake oil” come to mind!!