Earth calling Tim Cook…

There’s a scene in Monty Python’s ‘The Life of Brian’ in which a character asks ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’  This is then followed by a host of other characters giving many useful things that the Romans HAVE provided for the people of Palestine.

I was reminded of this sketch when I encountered this article about Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook in which he comments that there isn’t a single thing that a Netbook does well.  Time, I have some bad news for you, sunshine; there are lots of things that Netbooks do well – however, they’re probably things that Tim Cook doesn’t do.  In the last week or so:

  • I used the Netbook to test an ADSL connection at the point of entry of the phone-line to the house.
  • When out and about I used it to write a blog article whilst waiting for an appointment.
  • Hooked it up to my amateur radio gear to decode some weather fax images.
  • Downloaded some code from an SVN repository, made a quick fix and uploaded it again.

In other words, stuff I couldn’t use my Blackberry for, and stuff that I needed a real keyboard for – whilst the Crackberry is great, I don’t fancy writing 500 words of blog post or trying to debug code on it.

But it’s real, genuine work being done, and not stuff I could do on a keyboard-less, USBless iPad.  Sorry Tim – here on Planet reality we’re not all managers and critics and reviewers and surfers.  Some of us actually do real work on the move, which at the moment (and probably will do for some time to come) requires a real keyboard and a piece of kit that I can actually install software on – not a closed garden that looks good but is at the same time too big to put in my pocket and too small to act as a sensible paperweight.

I love teh concept of the Pad – but this sort of arrogance from Apple – following on from their recent attacks on development toolkits and the serious limitations in connectivity of the iPad – really makes me wonder whether the bods at Cupertino ever spend time in the real world watching how people use technology.

Apple – why 2014 could be like 1984

Back in 1984, Apple had Ridley Scott direct a very imaginative advert to launch the Macintosh computer.  It ran twice – once on a small TV station late at night to get it in the running for some awards, and the second time at half time in the Superbowl American Football game on 22nd January 1984.  And it never ran again.  The message from Apple was that their new machine would shatter the conformity that people like IBM (and by extension Microosft) were putting on the computer market, by making computing available to the masses.

The advertisement ends with the line:

 “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984″. ”

The problem was that the Macintosh was so expensive that few people could afford it.  It was a pain in the rear to write software for – so relatively few folks wrote software for it, especially as the market was small compared to that offered by the PC.  As it turned out, 1984 wasn’t at all like 1984, but no thanks to the Macintosh which even today, in all it’s forms, occupies only 10% of the computer operating system market space, even if you include iPhones.

From day one, there was always something ‘control freak’ about Macintosh, all of it’s successors, the iPhone and now the iPad.  As I mentioned above, the original Macintoshes were not easy to write software for, and Apple didn’t make life easy for developers.  the situation persists today; to write software for an iPhone, iPod or iPad, you have to run the emulator kit on a Macintosh of some sort.  Let’s do a quick comparison – if I want to develop an application for my Blackberry, I download teh tools from the Blackberry website and get it running on my PC running Windows.  For free.  If I want to write an application for an iPod or iPhone….I first of all have to join the Developer Program at $100 a year.   Then I can download the SDK.  To run the SDK I need a machine running Mac OSX.  Oh look…only Mac’s can legally run Mac OSX…very much a closed garden.

Early Macintoshes came with no network connection; obviously this is no longer the case but it should have given us the hint that Macs were not really designed to talk with the rest of the world.  Fortunately for Apple, some of the people involved saw sense and gradually the more open Macintosh that people use today in it’s numerous forms came in to being.  And gadgets like iPhone, iPod and iPad emerged in to the market, able to interact with the Internet and other media.

But let’s look at what this actually means.  First of all, aaccess to applications and media for these latter machines is very much controlled by Apple in terms of:

  • Control of the means of production – make sure non-Macintosh / Apple users cannot easily develop applications.
  • Control of the means of distribution – iTunes store, various recent high profile cases of applications being banned from the iTunes store makes it difficult to get applications in to the world.
  • Control of the means of communication – these devices lack the ability to easily handle ‘standard’ add ons such as USB or cheap memory cards, like SD.  iPhones have also frequently been tethered to particular telephone companies. 
  • The fact that  iPad comes without Flash, for example, suggests that Apple are adopting a policy of attempting to control content that is usable on their kit.

Let’s ignore the stupidities around making devices reliant on rechargeable batteries in which the battery can only be changed by returning it to the manufacturer. 

The natural progression for Apple would be to continue growing as a media and services company, rather than as a hardware house.  By an iPad, and rely on Apple for much of your available content and software.  And Apple can also ensure that you don’t leave the ‘walled garden’ of Apple acceptable content by making sure that the inbuilt iPad browser doesn’t handle some common media formats like Flash.  How will they fund all this?  Easy – you’ll pay.  Apple have already stated that they are rolling out an advertising model for iPad / iPod / iPhone applications in which the application provider would be able to get 60% of advertisng revenue generated via their application – the other 40% going…well….you know where.

Control of content, hardware and communication.  2014 could very much be like 1984 if Apple gets it’s way.