Business Technology

What nobody is telling you about the new Macs

The entire industry has gone crazy about the “phenomenal” performance of the new Apple computers. As I predicted, under Tim Cook Apple is indeed changing. But not nearly enough. And don’t be fooled like all those tech “experts” who make money from click baiting you with the impressive titles about “PC killing performance”. When Cook first took over I famously wrote that I might buy an iPhone in a couple of future iterations. I stand corrected. Tim Cook disappointed me, he didn’t turn it into the best version of IBM. This is a company with no mission statement that simply doesn’t have any technological innovation of its own. Apple is not about technology, it is more of an American stock market game that moves the i-Goalposts as much as is needed to fool enough of the people.

So before you rush out to buy one of these new laptops everyone is raving about, let me tell you why you will regret it. Let’s look at a two year scenario. What could go wrong with this lovely new Apple laptop in the next two years?

  1. If anything isn’t working, well, you’re on your own. Apple users have been crying over faulty keyboards forever and the company didn’t even acknowledge them, let alone fix it for them. The “you are holding it wrong” mentality is still strong at Apple.
  2. Accessories – they have you by the balls! Even when Apple pretends to follow a standard, they twist it into something proprietary. Whether it is power, Bluetooth, storage, or even simple cables, they always find a way to make you pay more and restrict your choices. Apple can make even buying a webcam a difficult task while the rest of the planet simply plugs and plays.
  3. We know that the gimmicks might disappear. They put that bar on the top of the keyboard, made you pay extra for it, you showed it off to your friends the first day, and then what? Other companies will at least make an effort to support it a few years into the future, Apple takes pride in not giving a damn about you and how much you loved or hated something on their machines.
  4. We burn Pentiums to the ground. We have seen this exact scenario before. Apple had moved to IBM made processors. For a very short period they had a bit of an edge in performance. It wasn’t like for like if you also considered price, but it was close. Almost immediately however Pentiums took over. As the benchmark test showed Apple falling much behind even on Photoshop and other staples of the designer world Apple simply disregarded them. After years of pretending they finally switched to Intel. 95% of the planet works on PCS. That is where science develops everything, that is where serious businesses invest. It is simply a matter of time for the serious users to overtake any minor party trick Apple comes up with.
  5. It has got a bit easier to go IN their walled garden but remains almost impossible to get OUT of the Apple ecosystem. They are making money from services now, trying to reduce their dependency on iPhones. So YOU are the product. Buy those much cheaper Apple speakers, wow, they are a third of the original price, why? Because much like Amazon they just want to get you into their world of services. (I can export everything from twenty years of living with Google with one click and take them to any other IT system as they are openly accessible formats.)
  6. Apple has no friends. I watched the company enter the video business. They never innovated, simply bought other companies, used them to gain market share. They made a big fuss about entering the broadcast business, then suddenly gave up and left everyone high and dry with no support. Even Final Cut Pro languished unloved and unsupported. They don’t share with partners, they don’t invest in retail channels. That is how Apple rolls. It never includes your best interests.

Indeed Apple has written the book on “how to do something that really screws your customers and get away with it”. They stop supporting something you love all of a sudden with no explanation. It might be that they make no new drivers for your printer, it might be that they stop working completely with a peripheral company you had already bought everything from. When they switched to 64bit machines, yes, we all knew that sooner or later the industry was heading that way. But only a selfish idiot would force that on us. Even now millions of people rely on 32bit solutions thanks to the incredible backwards compatibility of Windows. When Steve Jobs announced he was killing Flash he was no prophet; he was a disgustingly selfish businessman trying to bully the planet through marketing gloss. I hate Flash as much as anyone, probably more, but it is still around for good reason and it outlasted Jobs. Acting selfishly is part of their charm according to their fans.

Well, if you like that sort of thing and have plenty time and money to waste, run along and buy a new MacBook. I warned you.


I miss those old IBM laptops

The keyboard was magic.    You didn’t realize quite how good it was until you fumbled around with anything else.  I can touch type in the dark almost unconsciously on one of those IBM keyboards.   Then again I didn’t have to because they had that cool little light built in the top which would light up your keyboard for just enough light to see in a dark airplane cabin or children’s bedroom.   IBM laptops were always under the specifications of other laptops in their price range.   They looked boring.   You didn’t ask for one so much as find it on your desk as the company IT guy seemed to love them for some boring IT reason…

Yet somehow they performed better.   And they always lasted longer. You wished they would fall apart so you could get something with a new CPU that looked better but they plod on.   In fact they hardly ever die!   That hidden partition for system recovery they have makes sure you can always bounce back and get a brand new system in an hour or so.

Maybe some other manufacturer has similar quality and attention to detail nowadays.   I haven’t bumped into it.   Macs are cool but not a work-horse like those IBM laptops, so much as a style or fun pony.  HP top end models are impressive in specs sometimes but the component quality varies enormously from model to model.   IBM laptops consistently included features which came out of serious research.   Sure, they often got their marketing wrong and some models were just plain silly.   But I very much doubt anyone, ever regretted the money they spent on any laptop IBM made.

This is not to say that quality is dead or to lament ages bygone as tech dinosaurs often do.   But for people like me that will always have at least one dual disk, RAID, SSD, as-many-core-processors-as-possible, massive graphic card and all the bells and whistles type laptop, it seems like there is a bit of a gap in the market.   Laptops are commodities which is great since they cost less but not so great when they don’t help us produce more.

So I watch my kids play on old IBM laptops and sing their praise retrospectively.  Machines ten and fifteen years old running amazingly well.   (I think we have to give some credit to Microsoft for the fact that Windows XP is still so widely supported.)   I love technology and enjoy trying out the latest and greatest.   I just miss those seriously scientific IBM engineers that gave us these gems and hope to find more of their spirit somewhere down the line.