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

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 viraltus ( 1102365 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:07AM (#30889256)

    Mac users are bought by those that want to distinguish themselves from the rest in terms of money or social class, more in the lines of "I can afford an Mac and you are a poor blue collar bastard"

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

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> 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: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:Why surprised. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:21AM (#30889458)
    Of course CPUs aren't FOSS - they're hardware, not software.
  • Re:Useful? (Score:3, Informative)

    by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnu p . net> on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:28AM (#30889556) Homepage

    ... and Safari is a pretty thin wrapper around WebKit.

    OSS's "remotely useful" contributions just keep cropping up.

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:36AM (#30889670) Journal

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

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

  • Re:I'm off-duty (Score:5, Informative)

    by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:36AM (#30889680) Homepage

    Actually, there is some correlation between creativity and homosexuality; you'll find a larger percentage of gays in art school than studying any other discipline

    I took some art courses working on an undergrad Fine Arts program at 2 different colleges and I didn't see an unusually high number of gay students. I honestly don't know what you're talking about. I suspect you're peddling bullshit stereotypes you picked up from watching some lousy TV sitcoms.

  • 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.

  • by kill-1 ( 36256 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @10:41AM (#30889772)

    They obviously never visited this page [].

  • 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, Informative)

    by anethema ( 99553 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:35AM (#30890640) Homepage
    I take it you've never used a macbook. The trackpad is unlike pretty much any trackpad out there. It is a HUGE glass capacitive touch trackpad that has some very very nice gestures built in. Just touching two fingers to it and scrolling up/down/sideways is so nice. Quickly fling all apps out of the way to see the desktop with a 4-finger swipe upwards. Spread all the apps on the current desktop apart with expose with 4-fingers down.

    Browsing is nice too with 3-finger swipes sideways to go back and forth in the web history.

    You can pinch zoom in pictures, or just put two fingers down and rotate them.

    Also, no area is wasted for buttons, the whole pad presses down with a good tactile click.

    I've hated trackpads for a long time, but upon using this one, after learning all the gestures etc I could never go back to a nipple(what I had before) or god forbid the old style resistive single touch tiny trackpads of other laptops.
  • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:5, Informative)

    by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:03PM (#30891136)

    Luckily though, we were discussing MacBook Pros, not MacBooks. MacBook Pros do have IPS screens.

  • Re:I'm off-duty (Score:4, Informative)

    by CerebusUS ( 21051 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:13PM (#30891330)

    Yep, every [] single [] thing [] costs money.

    And there's absolutely no [] compatibility [] with any linux software at all.

    You're 100% correct.

  • Re:I'm off-duty (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:14PM (#30891334) Homepage Journal

    Wrong. Artistic people generally care a lot about technicalities, and guess what? Apple has exemplary colour management (not necessarily correct colours out of the box), which Linux just doesn't have. It's got a lot of fairly decent audio software that works well on Apple's limited range of laptops. Buying Windows is more of a risk (some times it works, some times it doesn't), and Linux is great if you have the time and knowledge to tailor-make your system to your needs. Some artists actually do that, most don't.

    Oh, and the Mac is something of a standard for graphical work. Some people feel it's easier to collaborate with others when they use the same system, just like some people think using Microsoft Office is absolutely necessary in the real world. It isn't, but it can save you from a lot of problems.

  • by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:16PM (#30891388) Journal

    mostly after a fair bit of arm-twisting.

    just observe how webkit, being khtml derived, ended up as a full fork and a separate project, largely thanks to apple basically making a big code dump when it was pointed out that they had modified LGPL licensed code, rather then produce a collection of patches showing the changes going back to the khtml version they started out with.

  • Re:I'm off-duty (Score:3, Informative)

    by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:23PM (#30891546) Homepage Journal

    This is just not true. Probably 3/4s of the software I run daily on my Mac is free. Much of what I paid for has free (but inferior) equivalents. Nearly every open source app works on Mac.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:53PM (#30892068)

    Dude, WTF are you talking about.

    - iPhoto isn't a mess, it's very easy to use actually, I can't even give any arguments for that because your argument doesn't give any either.
    - Compared to other DAWs Garageband does exactly what it should, give people with limited knowledge of audio engineering the possibility to use some of the most interesting aspects of professional DAWs like Logic or Ableton. It's actually very intuitive too, I use Logic myself and have used Ableton and ProTools, and Garageband beats them all by far at intuitiveness. Which is kind of logical considering it's a beginner's app.
    - iTunes isn't perfect, no, but it's still ten times better than WMP...
    - You don't make slideshows in iMovie, that's where Keynote is for... Only two weeks ago I edited and produced a little 'home made' movie for a presentation I had to make and there isn't more to it than just grabbing your frames and dropping them in the right order in the upper panel, then inserting some transitions from the right panel, and changing the color and that sort of thing by clicking on the buttons that say color and that sort of thing in the middle of the screen. If you can't figure that out than you definitely can't figure out Linux stuff.

    SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE: APPLE FANBOYS ARE ANNOYING, BUT SLASHDOT LINUX FANBOYS BASHING A COMPANY THAT'S NOT CATERING TO THEM IS ANNOYING^100... Apple products are great products for the average user, I'd even say the best available. They are actually as easy to use yet powerful as Apple claims. If you can't live with the fact that Apple isn't open then go jump in front of a train because you're not going to change it, and most people couldn't care less. You have Linux, they have OSX, everyone happy.

  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:55PM (#30892106) Journal
    Gem was first launched in 1985 [], whereas the Mac was launched in 1984 []. Apple actually sued Digital Research (and won) because it was such a blatant copy of the Mac's interface. Simon
  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:12PM (#30892410)

    I think it's funny. I bought a Mac Powerbook 5 years ago because it met the needs for what I wanted. It was lighter than anything comparable and did what i needed it for. I quickly grew to like it a lot. The main reason at the time? Sleep/hibernate actually worked reliably. That was it.

    I then experimented with some other features included with the OS such as photos and videos. I then noticed I spent no time dealing with the OS or application bizarreness, and realized I was starting to use it for everything I normally do in my personal life. I bought a MacBook Pro as it was comparable in price when spec'd out against a comparable Dell or Compaq. (Yes, it really was in fact $200 less for the same basic hardware - CPU/Hard Drive/RAM/Video/Screen Resolution)

    I then decided to look at how it would work out with development, and within a couple of days realized that it was far superior, primarily because of the reliability and speed. I'd reboot maybe once every 2-3 months, a darn sight better than my work windows machine, which I then replaced with Linux. The main issue with the linux box I found is I had to spend too much time dealing with OS/application issues. And thus the promotion of the MBP to my full work/development machine. I now spend 99% of my time dealing with what I need to spend time on vs dealing with OS/App issues or rebooting. (Bringing up an entire system that runs 4GB plus across multiple components takes a significant portion of your time if you have to reboot once a day a more often, which I found was the case with Windows.)

  • Bullocks, all three (Score:3, Informative)

    by SlashDread ( 38969 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:13PM (#30892426)

    The simple reason is that art centric programmes have always been the focus of Macs. Adobe Illustrator as flagship and many many more have originated there, and the Mac hardware has traditionally supported that better. Sure you can buy great Win/adobe stations ATM, but for a long time Mac was King of DTP and A/V.
    Most of its advantages have shrunken, but they havent gone completely away, and why would art people change?
    Well they do, but slowly.

  • Re:Err, what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dzfoo ( 772245 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:40PM (#30892854)

    No, the Mac OS X based on NeXTStep's technology, which is in itself based on the CMU Mach micro-kernel with a sprinkle of Berkley UNIX (BSD). It does contain parts of FreeBSD and NetBSD in its userland sub-systems, but to say that it is based on it is an exaggeration.

    But more to the point, the genius of Mac OS X is not in its discreet parts, but in the final product, which admittedly is a combination of various technologies, some of them FOSS. The high quality of these combinations, and the attention to detail in the interaction of each part and the user experience is what the article alludes to when it says that FOSS has failed to produce something of comparable quality.


  • Re:Incorrect premise (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @05:23PM (#30895972)

    With SnowLeopard, the trackpad can be used for writing Chinese text iPhone style. A very nice touch for those who need to input Chinese text.

  • by konohitowa ( 220547 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:57PM (#30897328) Journal

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

    OS X is derived in large part from NeXT, which precedes FOSS/Linux etc. by quite a few years. In its current state it certainly embraces a lot of open source and also contributes to open source. But to say that OS X was created by the open source movement is just utter bullshit.

  • Re:I'm off-duty (Score:2, Informative)

    by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @08:15PM (#30898336) Journal

    I hope you've never hit on a woman then, as they might not like it either.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.