Taking a bite out of Apple

2 years ago, I would have given my left testicle for a 17″ MacBook Pro, but I always exercised restraint and stayed a PC user. The cost of the hardware was always my excuse for not drinking the Apple juice. “I could buy 3 PCs for the price of one MacBook Pro” was my reasoning. I never did go Mac, and now I’m kind of happy with my decision to remain a PC user.

Jason Calacanis published a post to his email list and blog recently that got my attention and made me more aware of Apple’s busines practices and how they treat their customers. Jason has spent a considerable amount of money and exercised a lot of loyalty to Apple products over the past few years, but he’s no longer happy with showing his support to the brand, or the man behind it.

My big takeaways from Jason’s post are:

1. Apple sells expensive (but quality so you’d expect to pay more) hardware, whether it be iPods, computers or phones, and then makes it impossible (and even illegal) for their customers to have a choice in how they use that hardware.

2. Apple seems to have such a blind following of rabidly loyal customers that they can’t see their choice is being limited solely for the benefit of the company.

3. If another company employed the same ultra-rigid and anti-competitive business practices, they’d have government regulatory bodies leaning on them so hard they’d be finished, or at least be forced to submit and become more open.

4. (And this is my own personal observation) The most rabid Apple fans and devout evangilists remind me of a religious cult – touting Apple and their supreme leader, Steve Jobs, as being superior in every way, while ignoring Apple’s negative points and downtrodding all other products and the people who use them. They have an agenda.

All of the above for me are a huge turnoff.

A computer is a tool for me. That tool must perform a task for it to have value and as long as that task is done correctly and efficiently, whether the tool cost $500 or $3,500 it’s still accomplished the same thing. Just because the $3,500 would make you appear to look or feel better performing that task, does that add any real value?

Enough about price. I’m a tinkerer. I love modding stuff to suit my needs so I want to be able to flip my computer upside down, take a screwdriver and pop in extra RAM or a bigger hard drive without having to bring it in to some kid at a genius bar who’s going to take my old hardware. I want to have the freedom to install whatever software I like. Like, youknow, some obscure flavor of Linux.

I’d love to be able to buy OS X for a couple hundred bucks and install it on my Toshiba laptop. Problem is, I’m not allowed. I can buy the disc, but I’d have to buy an Apple computer to install the software on.

There are just too many things I’m not allowed to do with an Apple product. Why, then, would I go out and buy one?

I’ve spent the first part of this post being negative towards Apple products, so let’s look at some positives.

Apple products are design materpieces when it comes to look, feel and the image they portray. No doubt about that.

Apple has spent their entire existance refining, optimizing and streamlining both their hardware and software and how they co-exist and perform together. They’ve built an ‘Operating System’ that comes with a collection of productivity and entertainment software built for the hardware and OS, so it’s more stable, slicker, “it just works”.

Whereas Microsoft has built more of a ‘Platform’ than an Operating System – a platform that has to run 10’s of 1,000’s of applications and programs because of their open system, so there are disadvantages.

Am I a Microsoft fan? NO. I’m a Microsoft software user. There’s a big difference.

I’m a fan of hardware and software that’s more open and tinkerable.

When I was a kid I liked Lego more than jigsaw puzzles. I could do almost anything I wanted with Lego and it was a different experience every time. A jigsaw puzzle ends up being one thing once it’s built.

So now that I’ve straddled the fence while leaning towards the PC garden, I’d only buy an Apple laptop, or Mac mini, if I was buying it from a person who was replacing their’s with a PC because they’re crossing the floor to the more open side. So…

P.S. Jason, I’ll be in SFO in a few weeks if you wanna unload one of those Laptops for a good price ;-)