Love/Hate Apple

Apple is a strange company. It’s got the most zealous fans (aka customers) that are willing to take any kind of abuse. They make great products but hardware isn’t always their strong hand.

I think a lot of us mac users, especially recent switchers, have a tangled love/hate relationship with Apple. I love the technology, love the products, hate the corporation, and of course I admire Steve Jobs. The distortion field around the company is even stronger than Google’s. It’s something that affects the media coverage as we all saw in the iPhone bonanza as well as the ongoing SEC investigations. It’s hard to realize for a moment that we’re talking about the same company and the same man: Steve Jobs.

Hardware sucks but is excellent at the same time. I’ve never owned a computer like the mac before. Complex but easy to use and intuitive. Yet stable, at least the software is. The hardware is another story. Buying a mac is really a luck of the draw. With first generation macs, like after the intel transition, you’re almost guaranteed to get screwed with various hardware failures and malfunctions including your mac erupting into flames or shutting down suddenly without warning.

The technology powering macs are based on open source projects such as FreeBSD. Yet here they also display a weird duality. Apple is actively involved in many open source communities for projects that are part of OS X but their policy towards open source varies greatly over time. In some cases like the mailbox format, they’ve switched their products from open formats to proprietary ones to the dismay of users. The Objective-C language, that much of the libraries and APIs are built upon is Apple’s very own computer language built on C.

Yet on the corporate side, not only are they under scrutiny for shady stock options, but Apple lawyers are known to be trigger happy, passing out cease and desist letters like tissue. Their attacks were so vicious that it almost encroached on free speech and the protection of anonymous sources.

From afar, Steve Jobs is charismatic and charming. The greatest salesman and world class designer with leadership skills to match. If Steve wasn’t the head of Apple I have no doubt that he would make a top class religious cult leader or a politician. His adoration by mac users is legendary, so is the fear he instills in those that work for him. He was the one that let Apple’s grip on the blossoming personal computer slip in competition with Wintel because he insisted on keeping Apple a closed platform. Yet he was also the one that single-handedly resurrected Apple from its grave.