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The Apple Paradox, Closed Culture & Free-Thinking Fans 945

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the don't-question-jesus dept.
waderoush writes "The secrecy surrounding the expected Apple tablet computer is only the latest example of the company's famously closed and controlling culture. Yet millions of designers, musicians, and other creative professionals love their Apple products, and the Apple brand is almost synonymous with free-thinking creativity. How can a company whose philosophy of information sharing is so at odds with that of most of its customers be so successful? This Xconomy essay explores three possible explanations. 1) Closed innovation, overseen by a guiding genius like Steve Jobs, may be the only way to build such coherent, compelling products. 2) Apple's hardware turns out to be more 'open' than the company intended — Jobs originally wanted to keep third-party apps off the iPhone, for example. 3) Related to #1: customers are pragmatic about quality, and the open source and free software movements haven't produced anything remotely as useful as Mac OS X and the iPhone."
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The Apple Paradox, Closed Culture & Free-Thinking Fans

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:06AM (#30889250)

    This is probably the first time in history a cult has been described as "free-thinking"......

    • Re:Free-thinking? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DinZy (513280) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:15AM (#30889336)

      I agree. This is absurd. I take it the blurb was written by a cult member.

    • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:26AM (#30890488) Homepage

      "Think Different" was an order, not a suggestion.

      • by Lendrick (314723) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:02PM (#30893942) Homepage Journal

        So at the office where I work, we used to have these meetings with my whole department (mostly a bunch of programmers and such). I noticed that pretty much everyone in the meeting except me had a mac laptop (I have a dell running Fedora). Anyway, one day I grabbed a sticky note and drew an apple logo on it with a marker, and underneath it wrote "Think different.", then put the sticky note over the Dell logo on my laptop. Anyway, about half way through the meeting, someone finally noticed, and asked me why I had the apple logo stickied to my laptop, and I replied:

        "Because I wanted to think different, like everyone else."

  • Incorrect premise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:08AM (#30889266)
    I would argue that most Apple fanboys (the real hardcore ones anyway) only THINK they're "free-thinking." They're original and free-thinking in the same way that hippies thought they were original and free-thinking in the 60's--by acting, dressing, and thinking like every other hippie. Real free-thinkers don't start out with an set ideology, and they certainly don't have a cult leader or product line that they worship.
    • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:11AM (#30889314) Homepage Journal

      Further the notion that "the Apple brand is almost synonymous with free-thinking creativity" is about a decade out of date.

      I spend most of my days in various professional recording studios video production houses and you see a lot fewer Macs than you used to.

      • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:17AM (#30889386) Homepage

        I spend most of my days in various professional recording studios video production houses and you see a lot fewer Macs than you used to.

        Funny, all the IT professionals and programmers I meet seem to be using MacBooks these days.

        • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:31AM (#30889614)

          I spend most of my days in various professional recording studios video production houses and you see a lot fewer Macs than you used to.

          Funny, all the IT professionals and programmers I meet seem to be using MacBooks these days.

          Which is entirely irrelevant. I'm an "IT Professional and programmer" and I carry a Thinkpad. Why? Because it's the best option for me, in order to best accomplish the tasks I set myself. Look, nobody is arguing that Apple's products have a lot going for them, so there's no need for you to defend them. What is being discussed is whether or not individuals who are part of a cult-like self-reinforcing hivemind can be considered "freethinking". Personally, I don't think so. If you're someone who rationally evaluated his or her computing requirements, looking at all the options, and then settled on a Mac as the best answer, well, bully for you. Like I said, Apple makes nice stuff. If, on the other hand, you simply bought a Mac because, in your view, there can be no other option, well ... as a child your parents must have given you mental blocks for Christmas. There is a world of computing beyond Apple Computer's current product line.

          • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Interesting)

            by hitmark (640295) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:38AM (#30889724) Journal

            the response i get when i say i would favor thinkpads over macbooks, is that the thinkpads have boring design.

            at that point i start to wonder how much of the macbook craze is about sitting at some "starbucks" with a macbook on the table, looking like a up and coming artist working on the next bestseller book or song...

            • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Informative)

              by beelsebob (529313) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:57AM (#30890036)

              I have some better reasons than that to prefer a MacBook:

              1. Sturdier – since a) apple introduced their unibody aluminium cases and b) lenovo started making IBM's designs into utter crud
              2. An excellent track pad, not a track nipple
              3. Really good quality IPS screens
              4. MagSafe power connectors
              5. A really good quality keyboard - with backlighting

              Just being prettier is pretty secondary to all of those.

              • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:4, Interesting)

                by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:39AM (#30890712)

                Sturdier - since a) apple introduced their unibody aluminium cases and b) lenovo started making IBM's designs into utter crud

                That's at least partially true -- Apple's notebooks are quite solidly constructed. However, I never had an IBM-era ThinkPad fail on me, including the one I toted around for ten years for notetaking and word processing long after I'd replaced it with a more recent model for work. As far as I can tell so far, most of the new Lenovo ThinkPads are also pretty good, though there are occasionally exceptions, which is true of all manufacturers.

                An excellent track pad, not a track nipple

                Every ThinkPad I've had has both, and I prefer the nipple and disable the trackpad. I don't care to waste my time making repeated motions on a trackpad to achieve what I can in a single gesture with the trackpoint.

                Really good quality IPS screens

                Granted. Screen quality varies pretty widely across ThinkPad models, though I've never had any complaints with mine.

                MagSafe power connectors

                Whatever. Never had any problems with the connectors on any brand of laptop I've owned.

                A really good quality keyboard - with backlighting

                Backlighting? That's not a feature, it's a bug. I learned to type thirty years ago. I don't hunt and peck in broad daylight, much less in a darkened corner of the local Starbucks.

                If you like Apple's products, good for you. They are not, however, the only manufacturers of decent hardware, and tastes differ. The Apple style that Apple fans like repels me, personally, and no doubt they dislike the appearance of my preferred machines. Big deal. We probably own different cars and different brands of shoes. There are people who affect a stance of superiority over that bullshit, too.

          • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:55AM (#30889998)

            cult-like self-reinforcing hivemind can be considered "freethinking".

            So because someone appreciates a product produced by that hive mind ... they also must be of the hive mind? What a retarded statement.

            It is possible to appreciate the work of someone/some company that doesn't think exactly like you, at least for us normal people.

          • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:57AM (#30890032)

            What is being discussed is whether or not individuals who are part of a cult-like self-reinforcing hivemind can be considered "freethinking".

            The exact same thing can be said for Linux fans, Windows fans, or any other clique.

            I heard something this morning about the "hidden brain" on NPR's Morning Edition, and the author was explaining how the choices we make may not entirely come from our "rational" conscious mind. I know I'm butchering this up so go find a podcast, but your "hidden brain" is rather dumb and makes its choices by what is sees as prevalent in the environment around them.

            So this could be:

            "I like Windows - because everybody around me uses windows." or
            "I think Apple Users are gay, because I observe that 1) the "creative artists" in popular culture appear to be gay, and 2) I see Apple is creative with their designs therefore they must be gay too." or
            "I like Apple because I observe a lot of Windows machines crash and have viruses" or
            "I like linux because I observe a lot of nerds uses it and I want to be a nerd too."

            Anyway, it's just a theory...

            I like Apples myself and I'm not gay and I don't think all my scientist colleagues which use Macs are either... not that there is anything wrong with being gay (Sienfield Reference).

            Use what you are happy with, everything else is an illusion.

            • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Interesting)

              by lawpoop (604919) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:39AM (#30890710) Homepage Journal
              I just got done hearing a report from a young guy who suffered amnesia in India. He was a Fullbright scholar studying for a year, but when he came to, he had no idea where he was or what he was doing, or even who he was. He got taken into drug rehab because people thought he was a heroin user. He bought into this storyline because he had absolutely no basis for challenging it. He finally called his parents and started apologizing profusely for being a bad son. "We just talked to you on Tuesday".

              He said that the only clues he had as to who he was were how other people treated him, so he totally went with it. There seems to be a mental need to conform to your surroundings and other people's expectations of you.

              I think this was the last story on This American Life. Yay for NPR! :)
        • by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:46AM (#30889858)

          At least by the convention in question. "Apple is the choice of creative types" is juxtaposed against the "PCs are for techies and nerds" stereotype.

      • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ducomputergeek (595742) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:49AM (#30889918)

        The lack of Intel processors the first half of last decade went a long way towards that. Programs like Lightwave and Maya began optimizing their rendering engines for x86. By 2005 there was a stark difference rendering times on PPC and Intel machines with Intel beating the crap out of the PPC. Plus some of the larger shops began supporting Maya on Linux. Especially for their render farms.

        That being said, I dealt with those on the small to medium side of the house almost all went Mac primarily for the software. I know a of shops that used dedicated NLA devices for editing in the 1990's and then went to Final Cut Pro. I know many more who switched from Premiere on the PC to FCP on mac because Premiere 6 was highly unstable on a lot of Windows boxes compared to FCP 3. Then Apple acquired Shake and made sure that Shake + a PowerMac/MacPro cost the same as Shake for Linux. And then dropped the price to $500 for OSX three months after I paid $3k for the software....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I would argue that most Apple fanboys (the real hardcore ones anyway) only THINK they're "free-thinking." They're original and free-thinking in the same way that hippies thought they were original and free-thinking in the 60's--by acting, dressing, and thinking like every other hippie. Real free-thinkers don't start out with an set ideology, and they certainly don't have a cult leader or product line that they worship.

      They are more "West Side Story" than West Side. They are like the Dolce and Gabbana "Punk" t-shirt that costs 120.00 and says "Wash on gentle".

    • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:19AM (#30889410) Journal

      Real free-thinkers don't start out with an set ideology, and they certainly don't have a cult leader or product line that they worship.

      From the summary:

      the Apple brand is almost synonymous with free-thinking creativity.

      I think what the article was trying to say is that it's as close to 'free-thinking' as one can get when describing a company or product line. You are painfully correct in that this is a ridiculous use of words but if you think back to Apple's marketing past and present, I think you'd agree that the company sought to enter the market by appealing to people who need something to feel different. And they did and that's why it's 'almost synonymous' and not equivalent. I almost appreciate the fact that they use 'free-thinking' because that title is almost always self appointed ... whether it be to imply that everyone else is 'jailed' but you or the simple fact that no one but yourself can truly know what you are thinking so to describe how you think, only you are the de facto expert.

      The funny thing is that every music studio (of five) that I've been in hinge on Mac hardware and Mac software. It's hilariously uniform. Sometimes they even have the same model of Mac with the same (ProTools) hardware and software setup. The 'free-thinking' and creativity comes from what the people do with it and not the fact that they are going against the grain in a hardware and software manner.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hitmark (640295)

        so apple is the computing equivalent of hottopic?

      • by sonnejw0 (1114901) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:42AM (#30889802)
        Mac OSX GETS OUT OF MY WAY, WINDOWS KEEPS PROMPTING ME USELESSLY. OSX thus gives me more time for creative effort instead of technical troubleshooting.

        Apple's history of "just works" allows people more time for creative effort. BECAUSE it is closed, there is not as much complication to have to figure out. There's no registry, no need for scripting, and if something crashes it tends to recover on its own. THAT'S why "creative" types use it, because it allows me to REMOVE one more OBSTACLE to my workflow.
        I'm not a "creative" in the typical sense, I'm a neuroscientist. Every time my Windows XP system crashes on me, or my network didn't initiate correctly, that's wasted time, effort, and it means I need to learn a new skill set to correct the problem.

        The few times my OSX machine crash on me, it self recovers. OSX GETS OUT OF MY WAY, where as Windows and Linux KEEP PROMPTING ME WITH USELESS STUFF! The fact that fewer exploits target OSX is also a great benefit, and I don't have a billion choices for which hardware to buy so it's easier for me to choose the "best" one available to me. I don't want to spend a month figuring out if the Acer, Panasonic, or Dell is going to be the most ergonomic for my uses. With Apple, it's not even a question, because it's irrelevant insofar as I do not have a choice.

        Also, by being an "outsider", there is less push to conformity. I don't know anyone else that uses a Mac, so I'm not being told which software is the "best" or how I should organize my workflow, thus allowing me to make my own decisions about what's important. This is critical in Science, and has been shown to be important in Sociology studies of how Science gets work done. "The Neuroscience of Screwing Up [wired.com]"
        • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk&gmail,com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:40AM (#30890724)

          I see your capslock key is acting up though. You might want to have Apple take a look at that for you.

        • by Totenglocke (1291680) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:21PM (#30892592)

          Every time my Windows XP system crashes on me, or my network didn't initiate correctly, that's wasted time, effort, and it means I need to learn a new skill set to correct the problem.

          As long as you're not using some cheapo hardware, if you have XP crashing more than once a year, you're obviously doing something you shouldn't. That is not Window's fault that you can't figure out how to properly use a computer. It's like a guy at work the other day trying to blame Outlook / Exchange because he couldn't figure out how to make an archive properly.

          The few times my OSX machine crash on me, it self recovers.

          Really? When I've had OS X crash on me, it's always been a "the system is so screwed up that you have to hold the power button to turn it off" situation.

          OSX GETS OUT OF MY WAY, where as Windows and Linux KEEP PROMPTING ME WITH USELESS STUFF!

          With Windows at least, you can turn that off. You claim to be a neuroscientist but you can't take 5 seconds to find out how to turn off UAC?

          The fact that fewer exploits target OSX is also a great benefit, and I don't have a billion choices for which hardware to buy so it's easier for me to choose the "best" one available to me.

          So in other words, you walk in and say "I want a computer" and you let the salesman tell you what you should buy, instead of you making an informed decision and actually finding out what would work best for you and at the best price.

          I don't want to spend a month figuring out if the Acer, Panasonic, or Dell is going to be the most ergonomic for my uses. With Apple, it's not even a question, because it's irrelevant insofar as I do not have a choice.

          If it takes you more than an afternoon to find out what the best system is, you're doing something horribly wrong, and I think you're beyond help if you spend a whole month looking for the best system.

          Also, by being an "outsider", there is less push to conformity. I don't know anyone else that uses a Mac, so I'm not being told which software is the "best" or how I should organize my workflow, thus allowing me to make my own decisions about what's important.

          First off, every Macolyte I know all uses pretty much the same software - partly because there's not nearly as much available (fact of life). Secondly, why do you consider it a BAD thing that people are making suggestions as to how you can perform task X faster or get the software for free?

          Just a note for everyone else, I use all OS's and they all have ups and downs. I have nothing against OS X, but I find this particular persons reasons for using Mac's to be pretty bogus.

          • Bahahahaaaa!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by garote (682822) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:00PM (#30894738) Homepage

            That is not Window's fault that you can't figure out how to properly use a computer. It's like a guy at work the other day trying to blame Outlook / Exchange because he couldn't figure out how to make an archive properly.

            Yes. That's exactly what it's like. Blaming the computer because the computer is hard to use. If you think computers need to be hard to use, then it is YOU with the elitism problem, not Mac users.

            The few times my OSX machine crash on me, it self recovers.

            Really? When I've had OS X crash on me, it's always been a "the system is so screwed up that you have to hold the power button to turn it off" situation.

            Anecdotal evidence cannot invalidate other anecdotal evidence. Quit wasting time.

            OSX GETS OUT OF MY WAY, where as Windows and Linux KEEP PROMPTING ME WITH USELESS STUFF!

            With Windows at least, you can turn that off. You claim to be a neuroscientist but you can't take 5 seconds to find out how to turn off UAC?

            Again, the answer is Yes. And I claim to be an audio engineer, and I can't be bothered to take thirty damned minutes to figure out how to use the proprietary network driver's stilted crap UI to turn on 802.11, enter a WPA key, set my service order, and turn on DHCP. AFTER I've used the built in Windows Network UI to connect to a wireless network and had it mysteriously fail, twice, because the network driver stubbed out Windows' own API for the hardware when it was installed at the OEM.

            You know what it takes to join a new wireless network in OS X? ONE SINGLE DAMNED CLICK, on a menu whose icon LOOKS LIKE AN ANTENNA, then a password if necessary. THAT'S IT.

            Stuff like this makes a REAL difference. Take your haughty incredulity and shove it up your ass.

            If it takes you more than an afternoon to find out what the best system is, you're doing something horribly wrong, and I think you're beyond help if you spend a whole month looking for the best system.

            O RLY? As an avid bicyclist, I can tell you, that if it takes you LESS than an afternoon to purchase a new bicycle, then YOU are doing something horribly wrong; because if the decision is that easy for you, you obviously don't know enough about how to properly fit a bicycle.

            Be careful with your analogies.

            Just a note for everyone else, I use all OS's and they all have ups and downs. I have nothing against OS X, but I find this particular persons reasons for using Mac's to be pretty bogus.

            What constitutes "use" to you? Did you install 10.5 on a hackintosh for an afternoon and diddle around in TextEdit, before declaring yourself an expert on all things OS X?

            Did you know that in bash, the default shell for OS X, you can hit "ctrl-A" to move to the beginning of a long command line?
            Did you know that EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE OS X UI, even including text boxes in Safari, you can hit "ctrl-A" for the exact same behavior?

            No, you didn't.

            As I said before, stuff like this makes a real difference.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:29AM (#30889586)

      I'd argue that the "free-thinking" aspect comes from Apple's somewhat paradoxical "white box" branding.

      Let's start with design. Their products are as faceless and devoid of nonfunctional design features as possible with the exception of the Apple logo (so you have a disk drive, but not one shaped like an alien's face) and consequently the product design is rather decoupled from the user. An Alienware laptop projects a certain image, and consequently Alienware laptop users are going to disproportionately be adolescent male gamers, regardless of the hardware's usefulness as a workstation for making scientific visualisations. An Apple laptop, by virtue of being a big featureless slab of whatever it's made out of, could be used by anyone.

      Similarly the OS, hardware and so on are heavily abstracted to make it easier for the user to get on with what they're doing. It's basically a box which does some computer stuff, and if all goes well you don't need an awareness that you're using eighty yottabytes of hyper-RAM and a BMX derivative OS. All that stuff is thrown to the background in much the same way that the case design is made as bare as possible. As a result, things like hacking the OS etc. don't really enter your mind. There are apps, you run them, you get things done... ideally the software ecosystem is such that you never have to tinker around and realise that you're using a platform that's locked down.

      Now, this also goes into their corporate image, and this is where it gets really tricky. Their corporate image is the products. You are to think about the processes which went into them as little as possible. This is part of why they crack down on leaks so much. Ideally, they want you to think of the product alone. So naturally, the fact that it's probably made in some poorly-paid factory in China doesn't enter your mind. That's maybe not as true with a Microsoft-carrying machine, where you think of the Microsoft corporate entity and so on.

      Essentially, the stink of corporate is less obvious in Apple's products because they put a big fat cloaking device on the corporation. That means that self-described free thinkers, who are likely to be anti-establishment, and thus anti-corporate, and thus repelled by something with an MS logo, go with them by default.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      One must also somewhat define what "free-thinking" means in this context. Consider:

      1. Apple keeps their development process very secretive, so that they can release a product to much fanfare. (As compared to FOSS, where the entire process is usually open to scrutiny.) If you think about creative people like artists and musicians, many of them follow this exact same pattern: they toil in secrecy, not divulging any details of what they're working on, so that they can release a piece and shock/awe/inspire p
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:50AM (#30889926)

      by acting, dressing, and thinking like every other hippie.

      You clearly were not paying attention; they dressed in a similar STYLE, but there was wide variation. They WERE free-thinking and individualistic compared to the people who went into work wearing the same color shirts (usually white), ties, hats, shoes, slacks, jackets. Streets of major cities at rush hour at the time were a sea of men dressed the same.

      Also: anyone who claims Apple has an inside culture of creativity and free thinking is full of shit. A few idea people bring ideas to the top, and everyone else is told exactly how to implement things, with strict parameters. It's one reason a friend of mine left- he spent several years working on Apple's flagship software components and hardware, but had no say in anything. Now he makes less money but at a smaller company, where he also felt his input would matter.

      Another culture shift at Apple: remember when there were credits? No more. Apple now refuses to recognize to the public the contributions its employees make, except for 2-3 top-level people. Jobs, Ive, etc.

      Both the top-down ideas and refusal to recognize employee work are cashing in short-term profits for long-term stability. I wouldn't invest in Apple long-term if you paid me to; the day Steve Jobs or Ive retire, get hit by a bus, or just drop dead- Apple stock will crumble because everyone is under the perception (correctly) that they are the driving force.

      When your brand is as much your top level executives as your products, you have a big problem down the road.

  • Free-thinking? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:08AM (#30889272)

    Most of the "free-thinkers" who buy Apple products are just hipsters who think it's cool to be different, not people with genuinely "free-thinking" or radical minds.

  • "customers are pragmatic about quality, and the open source and free software movements haven't produced anything remotely as useful as Mac OS X and the iPhone."

    No.. they just created what runs on the them, that's all..
    Meh.

    • by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:26AM (#30889532)

      For those who still don't get it after that slightly cryptic jab, the linked article is bullshit because most of what isn't GUI polish in OS X, including WebKit and BSD, is open source.

      So the open source and free software movements created Mac OS X, which also runs the iPhone.

      That said, the Apple ecosystem is marketed as if it was embraced by freedom lovers, this doesn't actually reflect the user base.

    • by stiggle (649614) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:27AM (#30889540)

      You have to wonder which KoolAid fountain they were drinking from when they wrote that line....

      The core components of Mac OSX & the iPhone OS are taken from open source.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Penguinisto (415985)

      No.. they just created what runs on the them, that's all..
      Meh.

      Err, not entirely... OSX came primarily out of NeXTStep [lowendmac.com].

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:41AM (#30889768) Homepage Journal

      "haven't produced anything remotely as useful as Mac OS X and the iPhone."
      I have to disagree with this one as well.
      Linux is on more systems than OS/X everything from Supercomputers to Wifi routers to cell phones. More of the Internet is powered by Linux Apache, MySQL, PHP, Python, and Perl.
      Firefox is on how many system? OpenSSH? and let's not forget that OS/X is built on BSD.
      FOSS has not built any desktop systems as useful as OS/X. Android vs iPhone is still an on going battle but I would put them as equally as useful of not as polished.
      OS/X is a great desktop and Linux really could learn from same as the iPhone. Since both OS/X and the iPhone have been built using FOSS as their foundation I would say that it goes both ways.

  • FOSS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by littlefoo (704485) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:12AM (#30889316)

    "the open source and free software movements haven't produced anything remotely as useful as ... the iPhone"

    I'm not sure whether this is due to the difficulty getting make and gcc to construct things out of plastic, metal and semi-conductors - or a lack of configure options...

    If *only* there were a freely available OS to us on phones that wasn't from Apple - hmmm

    • Re:FOSS (Score:5, Informative)

      by pydev (1683904) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:19AM (#30889412)

      If *only* there were a freely available OS to us on phones that wasn't from Apple - hmmm

      Most of Apple's iPhone and desktop OS is FOSS anyway: the Mach kernel, BSD libraries, the gcc compiler and runtime, and tons more.

      • Re:FOSS (Score:4, Funny)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:41AM (#30889776)

        If *only* there were a freely available OS to us on phones that wasn't from Apple - hmmm

        Most of Apple's iPhone and desktop OS is FOSS anyway: the Mach kernel, BSD libraries, the gcc compiler and runtime, and tons more.

        True, but the GUI layer isn't, and that's what is most important from a typical user's perspective. Apple will defend that "intellectual property" to the death.

  • Nice Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:13AM (#30889326)

    the open source and free software movements haven't produced anything remotely as useful as Mac OS X and the iPhone

    Many users of Android, Linux, and many other open source products might have some serious disagreements with that statement.

    • Some of which. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrYak (748999)

      Linux, and many other open source products

      Among which the *BSD family of unices, which forms the basis of Mac OS X.
      It even looks like the open source movement has produced a viable set of unix implementations for a long time before an (almost-on-the-brink-of-extinction) Apple decide to borrow it, slap a nice interface on it and call it "Mac OS X" to replace the ageing (not-even-true-multitasking) shit it had before.

      In fact, I still wait to see OS X on anything but Macs and iPhone. Whereas open source, although often unnoticed, tends to show up disc

  • Fourth option... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theascended (1228810) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:14AM (#30889328)
    Apple products are trendy and artisans aren't the social outcasts and special snow flakes they think they are.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:14AM (#30889332)
    Seriously though, my college aged daughter says the PC we sent off to school with is not good enough. She _needs_ an Mac. When asked why she can't say specifically why a Mac would be a better choice other than "everyone" has one. It's the way the product has been marketed - as a tool for the elite or more discriminating user. Translation, status symbol.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Drethon (1445051)
      So as soon as she makes enough money working to afford the difference between an affordable PC and that Mac she can buy one.
    • by kklein (900361) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:37AM (#30889700)

      Translation, status symbol.

      Maybe yes and maybe no. I'm a university professor and the increase in Apple logos I'm seeing facing me in class is going through the roof. I think it's over half in most classes now.

      I've seen group projects get screwed up because although the Mac, which is the underdog, has had to learn to be super-compatible with everything else, the same can't be said of Windows. So you may be hearing the result of the network effects of everyone having Macs and her use of a different OS being a stumbling block to working together easily. I most certainly have seen that.

      Don't chalk everything up to marketing. I switched to the Mac about 2 years ago, after 10 years of dismissing it as a pain in the ass. But since they've been on Intel, the amount of stuff you can do (easily) on them has really gone up. You can boot damn near any OS, and there is phenomenal virtual machine software so you don't even need to. Yes, this is only because Apple won't support their OS being used on off-the-shelf hardware, but I think a lot of people are just making the pragmatic decision that they don't really care.

      I'm not saying you should buy the girl another new computer--we're all pretty susceptible to trends when we're freshmen in college and trying desperately to fit in--but that there might be more to it.

  • AAPL reality check (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:15AM (#30889352) Homepage Journal
    The difference between Apple and say Microsoft, has been that Apple is more like a smooth Vegas hooker taking your money and Microsoft has been more like a crackhead in Atlantic City using a lead pipe.

    Apple, as a publicly traded company, only has one obligation: to make a profit for shareholders. That means doing things like closing off Darwin for developers and totally locking down the App Store to only provide apps friendly to Apple, then they will do it and from a business perspective rightfully so. Of course I'm still gonna break my iPhone because I don't care about five apps on the App Store that make my iphone a flashlight. I need tethering and even more useful apps like blacklisting SMS messages and phone numbers that call me who I don't care for.

    Apple does and gets away with a lot of things that /.'ers get their panties in a wad about when other companies do it. Proprietary formats anyone? Remember how when Microsoft does it it's bad? Apple = good, Microsoft = bad. It's not that simple and it's naive to think it is.

    That being said, I only use Apple products. Apple makes products that work. That's all I ever wanted from my computer and cell phone. They do it, I'm fine with their business and Steve Jobs deserves all the zillions he's worth. Actually making products that work and listening to your customers forgives a LOT.
  • by pydev (1683904) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:16AM (#30889362)

    and the Apple brand is almost synonymous with free-thinking creativity

    Yes, just like cigarettes make you healthy and slim, alcohol makes you attractive to the opposite sex, junk food makes you popular, and Nikes turn you into a long distance runner, weight lifter, and all-around bad-boy. Branding is great, isn't it? Of course, it has nothing to do with reality.

    Repeat after me, Mac users: "we're all different".

    Related to #1: customers are pragmatic about quality, and the open source and free software movements haven't produced anything remotely as useful as Mac OS X and the iPhone.

    Funny, I think Apple has never produced anything remotely as useful as the open source software movement, in particular given that probably the majority of the code Apple ships with OS X is derived from other people's open source projects to begin with.

  • It's number 3 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Medieval_Gnome (250212) <medgnoNO@SPAMmedievalgnome.org> on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:17AM (#30889382) Homepage

    From my perspective, getting an Apple laptop is the easiest way to get a nice, portable laptop which runs a Unix system (which, with MacPorts, I can get all the unixy goodness) AND to make sure that the hardware is guaranteed to work. I don't need to worry about whether the new kernel broke support for ndiswrapper, I don't need to worry about the regressions in hardware support that have hit my Linuxy friends, and I have a GUI that gets as close as I've seen to the DWIM pattern.

    And I have a scriptable GUI. Say what you will about its syntax, AppleScript allows some wonderful scripting possibilities. And you can call out to a shell script, so it's also powerful :)

  • by mikael_j (106439) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:18AM (#30889406)

    My personal opinion is that the main reason a lot of creative (both "artsy" types and developers) like Apple's products is because the user interface and the physical products are designed to, as they say, Just work. This includes staying out of your way and letting you get to work but also to not pull the "Microsoft approach" to user friendliness by renaming things to make them "easier". There's a reason the market for customization of the look and feel of OS X is a lot smaller than the market for similar products for Windows.

    Of course, there are several reasons why this works for Apple, a couple of these are partially because they have full control over the hardware and operating system which allows for tight integration and coupled with this are the development tools and the user interface guidelines. Another influence which I think is major is that third party developers know that Apple's customers generally expect software to behave in a certain way, something which isn't true to the same extent with Windows and other *nix systems. An example of this would be drag and drop, if a Windows application fails to handle drag and drop properly most people just dismiss the error message, restart the app and think nothing of it, after all, drag and drop is generally hit or miss with Windows apps, if an app for OS X failed to handle drag and drop properly most likely users would complain and consider it a screwup on the developer's part.

    So part of the reason is the centralized control from Apple and part of the reason is that users have come to expect little to no user interface issues which forces Apple to make good development tools and developers to put in extra effort to make sure things work.

    /Mikael

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kklein (900361)

      One of the reasons I abandoned Windows was that I was sick of icons and names and places changing with every new release. I hadn't used a Mac in 10 years when I first started looking at them again (2 years ago), but in about 5 minutes I was back to feeling comfortable with it. So little has changed that you don't need to think about the OS at all. Things are where they are supposed to be, and they basically don't move.

      The other approach I appreciate is that OSX doesn't ask for a pat on the head every time

  • Option 4 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aitala (111068) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:18AM (#30889408) Homepage

    4) Slashdot readers and contributors are on the geeky, bleeding edge and do not represent 90% of the population, most of whom could not care less about 'openness'.

    Eric

  • Apple sells hardware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dwheeler (321049) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:20AM (#30889436) Homepage Journal
    Apple is primarily a *hardware* company - it sells Macs and iPhones, which are physical devices. Yes, it has to write software to make that hardware useful, but the software is intentionally not sold separately... you can only get the software by getting the hardware. So comparing Apple to software organizations misses the point... they're not really doing the same thing. Also, there's a lot of OSS inside the Mac (e.g., much of FreeBSD), so even if you look at the software, it's not either/or.

    The statement "haven't produced anything remotely as useful" is also nonsense. Let's see, how about the Internet, including TCP/IP and DNS? Web servers? As far as end-user products, Android phones (including Droid) and the XO are certainly useful. OSS has produced lots of useful things.

  • wrong assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:20AM (#30889444) Homepage Journal

    How can a company whose philosophy of information sharing is so at odds with that of most of its customers be so successful?

    Really? The first thing you should always question is your assumptions. Does Apple have a "philosophy of information sharing" and if so, what is it?

    The company is secretive about upcoming, not-yet-available products. Which is not information that customers require in their day-to-day work anyways. As a user or as a developer, it is information about the current, existing products that you need most. And as both I've always found that to be readily available whenever I needed it.

    So how does a philosophy of "not talking (much) about unreleased ideas" merge with the mindset of a designer, artist, programmer or any other kind of creative person? Quite well. A lot of creative people don't talk (much) about their work-in-progress, either, until it's finished. Programmers are about the only kind who feel that putting a half-finished thing out for the public is the thing to do.

  • by slim (1652) <john@ha[ ]up.net ['rtn' in gap]> on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:21AM (#30889454) Homepage

    From TFA:

    The programs people are inspired to write for the Mac OS X operating system are routinely more elegant and useful and less annoying than their Windows counterparts.

    Quite the claim! Yet there are no examples.

    I own a Mac. I've not installed much extra software on it. But what I have installed appears very similar to its Windows equivalent.

    So can anyone give an example of what he's talking about?

    I guess iLife should be showcase software for Mac.
      - iPhoto is a confusing mess compared to Picasa
      - GarageBand has some pretty neat amp simulation software in it. But the UI is the opposite of intuitive.
      - iTunes is clumsy and inconsistent. I've been using it for over 5 years on Windows and Mac, and it still throws me curveballs.
      - I once put together a slideshow in iMovie. I still don't know what was going on.
      - iDVD is pretty easy to use. But that's because it's basically a wizard.

  • by m.ducharme (1082683) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:31AM (#30889610)

    Somebody has conflated the kind of "free-thinking creativity" of artists, designers, etc. with the kind of free-thinking of the open software movement. "free thinking" to an artist means the freedom to create her own vision without interference by anyone else, not freedom to collaborate on or elaborate someone else's vision. This artist's "free-thinking" often looks more like the Jobs method of top-down control than like the open-source movement's wide-distribution collaboration philosophy. Which isn't to say that artists never collaborate, of course.

  • by Datamonstar (845886) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:36AM (#30889668)
    in Century of The Self. [youtube.com] This is an amazing documentary that makes me question the motives of everyone trying to sell me something. I only started watching it two days ago and Apple was one of the first companies on my mind and now here's a news article practically about the same thing.
  • by NtroP (649992) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:42AM (#30889790)

    I'm as much a fan of open-source as the next guy and I've contributed to some projects and asked for features, etc. However, I find that the whole "designed by committee" that *many* open source apps have reduces the overall quality. Those OSS apps that truly shine generally have either a strong leader or a single author. You know the old saying, which is true, as well as witty; that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.

    As far as openness goes, Apple doesn't announce vaporware like most other companies do. This means when they announce something, they are going to sell it. Usually their products have taken old ideas and looked at them from a different angle opting for being very good at a few things rather than poor and many things. Let's face it, Cmdr Tacos' famous assessment of the original iPod is a classic example of how "the masses" would design a similar product. If Apple would release an "alpha" product to "test the waters" like so many other companies do, the iPod (and iPhone, for that matter) would have died at birth or would be so hideously deformed that it would be unrecognizable.

  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:44AM (#30889818)

    How can a company whose philosophy of information sharing is so at odds with that of most of its customers be so successful?

    Just seems like a non sequitur to me. Or it illustrates the fact that people who gravitate to the Mac are interested in a tool they can use and, say, Linux users are interested in a toy (and I mean that in a good way- I love me my toys) they can fiddle with. Windows users (those who choose it when they don't have to for some reason), well, who can understand them? ;-)

    Does a an artist care about the inner workings of the companies that makes paints and brushes?

  • by Jay Maynard (54798) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:53AM (#30889972) Homepage

    I'm a long-time Linux user and even occasional contributor, and most of the development work I do for Hercules [hercules-390.org] is on Linux. My primary desktop and laptop run OS X, though, for one simple reason: they're tools, not toys. I need them to just work when I sit down in front of them to get things done. I find I spend far too much time getting a Linux desktop to that point.

    I tell people I'm a Mac user because I'm a Unix geek. OS X, unlike Linux, is a system you can give to your computer-illiterate inlaws and have it be solid and reliable, and not have to spend hours on the phone playing tech support. Being Unix-based, it's far more secure and stable than Windows, too.

    So what if it's closed source? It just works, and that matters to me far more.

  • by hey! (33014) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:06AM (#30890172) Homepage Journal

    As engineers, we ought to know that sometimes we want things that are contradictory. We'd like this airplane to be strong, but it also must be light. You can't have unlimited quantities of both.

    The same goes with creativity. We say we want originality, but that's not really what we are looking for most of the time. What we want is something derivative enough to be certain to work but original enough to be an improvement. Any idiot can be "original". Just take whatever is being done and do it a different way. The problem is that most different ways aren't better.

    That's why "creativity" can't be treated as a "core organizational value". It's not something you can pursue in any meaningful way. What really distinguishes "creative" organizations is that they have greater insight into their problem domains.

    Apple's most admired products each embody an insight about what the users they are after want to do. The iPod was not the first portable digital music player, nor has it ever been the best going by specs. The user interfaces on the iPods have been well designed and have featured innovations like multi-touch, but the killer feature isn't a feature at all. It's how the iPod, iTunes and iTunes store work together to make managing your media convenient.

    That said, nobody can be all things to all people. I hate the iTunes search interface to the iTunes store, because I don't use it the way Apple's target users do. I don't watch TV and don't care about being part of popular culture. I'm more interested in finding oddball, eccentric stuff. If Google ever opened a music store, that'd be for me; YouTube is more what I'm looking for. The iTunes store wants to steer me to the latest episode of whatever TV show is the rage, and discourages me from finding what I want.

    But it doesn't matter because catering to the oddball whims of very eccentric people isn't the business model for iTunes.

  • by Damn The Torpedoes (1279448) <wraymund@berklee.net> on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:06PM (#30892292)

    I've always been into computers, and was a die-hard Windows fan until the Intel macs were released. I made the switch, and haven't looked back; HOWEVER, I didn't make the switch "to be cool (as was discussed above)," nor did I make it because windows = bad, apple = good. IMHO, they're both computer industry giants whose main interest is (ding!) PROFITS.

    That being said, I'm in the "Free-thinking" business; music is what I do, it's who I am. I choose Mac, NOT because of it's affiliation with the "young, hip, etc." crowd, but because when it comes down to it, Macs are simply more stable than Windows. The MAJORITY of creative software - audio, in my case, but artwork and video as well - is run on macs. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of great software selections on PC; however, when I walk into a studio (and this also goes for film/photo editing) chances are 9/10 times the main computer will be a mac, typically running Pro Tools (which also runs on windows). The reasoning behind this lies in the fact that Pro Tools, and pretty much every major Digital Audio Workshop (DAW) runs incredibly stable on the Mac. Pro Tools doesn't even support Windows 7 yet! The thousands of high quality plug-ins out there for purchase? They all run incredibly stable on a mac, too. Why? Because Mac has become the "creative" industry standard, an attribute largely due to its stability in the first place.

    As a music professional, I take great care to make sure my data stays uncorrupted. I back up EVERYTHING multiple times, JUST in case my computer crashes/gets wiped, etc. My computer IS my office. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without one (unless I have an analog studio - anyone want to invest $30,000?). I don't need the cost-effectiveness of a PC, I need the guaranteed stability that comes with buying a mac.

    On a different note: Apple's do-it-yourself recording, filming and photo editing software is big business. It remains powerful enough to produce professional art, while remaining cheap enough for practically anyone (college hipster kids included) to purchase. Tie that into a couple generations of internet users who drown themselves in media, and what do you get? A few million you-tube directors who all want macs, because it's what the professionals use, and there's a chance in hell their parents might actually buy it for them.

  • by hazydave (96747) on Monday January 25, 2010 @02:30PM (#30893560)

    Apple users embrace the "free-thinking" mantra because that's the image Apple's served up. In short, they were told that using a Mac makes them free-thinking. And no, I'm certain the irony is not lost of those of us who abhor Apple's general policies, which are nothing of the kind.

    Apple found themselves, entering the early 1990s, as the lone major computer platform other than Windows, and they had arguably better graphics and a few pretty good music applications, which were struggling to actually function on the PC/Windows until well into the Windows 95 era (UNIX-like OSs didn't do audio well at all... you needed a DSP subsystem, as on the SGIs and the NeXT machines, to do audio at all in the very non-realtimey, who-cares-about-interrupt-latency versions of UNIX/Linux at the time).

    So they used this as a sales pitch. The PC equals Windows, it's from IBM, and it's used in business... thus, its only uses are business-related. They weren't selling Macs to computer experts who knew this to be false, and certainly not those of us who actually did the PC work as well, then better than the Mac on media content creation of all sorts. They're selling to users who are fairly clueless about PCs.

    Apple always had very good marketing, and both that, and their message, continue today. They were selling a slightly more capable 8-bit machine, back in the early 80s, versus Commodore and Atari machines at 1/5th the price (they had slots... that's the "more capable" part). The Mac came in, with hardware so oversimplified it was actually kind of creepy (the "Ready" pin on the SCSI controller drover /DTACK on the 68000, for any bitheads in the crowd) and cheap, but got huge margins. Today, a Mac is exactly a PC in a fancy case without a battery door... there's nothing different about an Apple PC, and yet they still get 2x-3x the cash. That pays for a ton of brainwashing.

    And it's also something like human nature. As some may know, I was a senior hardware designer at Commodore on several high-end models of the Amiga computer. There was a time when the Amiga was the best (only) personal computer for color graphics or video work. Like, the mid-to-late 1980s. Today I do my video stuff on a PC running Windows 7 and Sony Vegas, with 8GB of RAM, a Quad-core CPU, and Terabytes of storage. But I still hear from people talking about how the Amiga IS better (not was, but IS).

    When you join an exclusive club, you immediately embrace all the positive memes associated with club membership, and you employ these to justify your decision. This isn't restricted to computers, it's found in Video software (Vegas vs. Avid vs. Premiere vs. FCP, etc), cars (Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge), still cameras (Canon vs. Nikon), videocameras (Sony vs. Canon vs. Panasonic vs. JVC), soft drinks (Coke vs. Pepsi... sorry, Rock Star rules here, folks), etc. And sure, the cultier that club's culture becomes, the more the users grab hold of it.

    Apple is one of the few remaining exclusive clubs in computing, and they're perhaps the cultiest and most exclusive there is in just about any discipline. Ok, Amiga fans could have given them a run for their money back in the early 1990s, but not since... the Mac hardcores have expended to embrace the iPhone. The iPhone has delivered new converts to the alter of Mac. There's a persistent meme that "Windows is hard", bug ridden, full of viruses, and of course, MacOS is impervious to any and all problems, the only way to do media content in computing, and so simple your cat can use it without reading a manual. Apple works very hard to keep these memes alive, in the general population to an extent, too, not just among the Apple Faithful.

    Another factor, among those in a successful cult, is that they reinforce one another and don't pay much attention to the outside world. You can stay blissfully within your world of Apple -- magazines, web sites, etc. and never hear more than frightening stories about the world outside. This is also something that Apple cultivates...they were among t

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