Posts Tagged ‘apple’
Steve Jobs has died just months after stepping down from his position as CEO and “iconic cult leader” of Apple. While some had suggested at the time that he was actually pulling a Bill Gates to concentrate on other activities and his health, it seemed fairly certain to me that his much-publicised battle with cancer was a losing one. I could never see Jobs stepping down as leader of Apple when the corporation is at the height of it’s power, it’s market cap briefly overtaking Exxon Mobile as the most valuable corporate entity in the world several weeks back and months after surpassing Microsoft as the world’s most valuable technology company. It just wasn’t his nature.
No, we (at least in the tech circles) all saw his gaunt appearance time after time and when the news came that he was stepping down as CEO of the company he founded together with Steve Wozniak in 1976, it was obvious that, this time, he would not be returning. I even at the time remember thinking “well, that’s it then”. I gave him six months after that but I along with almost everybody else should have known that Steve Jobs would have held on to the company that was so much a part of himself until the bitter end. Even in death, the world and myself once again underestimated his force of personality and will in the job that he gave so much of himself and his ethos of what technology should be. Not we, the people, as Open Source advocates, but we the consumers, the non-techies. I think this probably does afford him the title of “visionary” whether you agree with the control that he exerted over Apple and, in turn, over Apple’s customers or not. Not in the history of technological business has one man been so instrumental to the transition from a PC to a post-PC future, with the possible exception of Google. But then, the Google boys are really academics and although they never lacked a vision of what they want the Internet to be, they don’t really consider what the regular public wanted technology to be because to Google, the technology was the end-goal in and of itself. Google has a vision for the Internet and mobile computing that although laudable – is very different to actually putting the technology into the hands of regular people not just Internet people.
So, one of the greatest leaders of the post-PC future has gone, but not after completing his work and not after helping to birth the PC revolution. He had to wait out the crown for that one for the most part as computers as they stand, even with mice and graphical user interfaces were never going to gel with the general public in the way that devices built on that technology could. He must have watched with frank bewilderment as people flocked to the business-centric Microsoft/Intel, having to wait in understandable frustration as the technology caught up with him and Microsoft faded in strength and cohesion.
While Bill Gates will probably never be spoken about with such reverence, nobody could doubt he saw an opportunity to rule the current technological wave of the time and Apple never saw more than 10% market share with their own PC, the Apple Mac. God, how Jobs must have hated it. Nobody likes their child to have a favourite parent, after all – especially one that, while being a shrewd businessman for what was current available, never had the long-reach view or passion. Bill Gates was clever and lucky to boot, but Jobs was always the man with a mission and the fire in his eyes. It’s a pity that he had to wait 25 years to actualise what must have been obvious to him for years.
So, while one half of the modern personal computing world is now gone, it’s Steve Jobs that will be described as the “Edison” to Bill Gate’s “Rockefeller”. When the PC started to fade from consumer’s minds after such dominance in favour of slightly more “humanistic” technology, Gates saw the writing on the wall and quit while he could. He’d done what he set out to do – a PC on every desk, in every home, but Jobs’s time was just beginning and perhaps Gates no longer had the heart for it or shepherding his increasingly unwieldy money-machine into a new age which, deep down, I don’t think he ever really understood. It was all just product to him, nothing more. Give ‘em what they want, not what they need – the polar opposite to Jobs. Such a shame that Steve didn’t have longer to sit on the throne that Gates once occupied for so many years and one that he most probably saw as rightfully his.
Whatever you think of Steve Jobs, Apple or it’s products, it along with the next generation in Google or Facebook (or whatever comes after) have shown the way forward. That will be his legacy to us. You won, dude. But sadly only just in time.
Time will tell what Apple will achieve without him.
I’m always torn about Apple. On the one hand I like their hardware, especially the iPod which is far and away the best music player out there. On the other hand, Steve Jobs appears to have gone mad with power in the last decade or so and gone gang-busters to lock everyone into a walled garden. It’s the Apple way or the highway, buddy. I know why he’s doing it – for most people, a controlled computing environment free from viruses and malware would suit them just fine and lead to a safer Internet if nothing else. I mean let’s face it, most people don’t give a hoot about software freedom. But Apple’s strategy sometimes confuses me.
I was reading this article in the Guardian’s Tech section detailing John Naughton’s opinion that iTunes is out of date and needs to be rewritten. I can heartily agree – although not for exactly the same reasons. Mr Naughton appears to think that feature creep is the main problem with iTunes these days. The Ping social music network is the latest addition to iTunes version 10 although not one that I’ve used myself and it appears that it is this addition that is the main thing that has drawn the ire of many a blogger. Has iTunes got too many things in it now? It’s certainly puzzling for a company that prides itself on the user experience and the design of it’s products that iTunes seems to be such a confusing mess of functionality. Ping, the iTunes Store, a media player and god knows what else. This hasn’t really bothered me to any great extent however – it’s easy enough to get around after a fashion although I’m sure a case could be made for the poor layout.
No, my major complaint against iTunes is the fact that it is such a god-awful buggy pile of junk. Before I start getting hate-mail from indignant Apple users stating that the Mac version of iTunes is just fine, thank you….I don’t own a Mac so I couldn’t comment, although I plan to someday if only to experience UNIX with the shiny Apple joy. While Apple Macs are certainly selling more than they used to, the sheer number of iDevice users really dictates that most users of iTunes are Windows users. And iTunes under Windows is essentially a crime. Every time I get a new album to put on my iPod or think about downloading this week’s Linux Outlaws podcast, I eye my Windows 7 laptop with a vague feeling of dread, fully aware of the battle I’m about to engage in and already imagining the key combination that will bring up the Task Manager so I can kill the “Not Responding” iTunes process again and begin the whole tiring procedure for the fourth time in an hour.
While I’m aware that at least part of the blame can probably be laid at Windows feet in regards to application and process stability, surely not all of it can, right? It may make sense to Apple for people buying Apple’s products for the first time to recognise a superior experience on OSX than Windows, but that can’t be all of it because Apple still has a vested interest in Windows iTunes. They’ve sold so many iPhones and iPads that Mac and OSX, while gaining ground, are still a tiny percentage of the market compared to Microsoft’s juggernaut. Most people who use iTunes are still probably doing so on a vanilla Dell under Windows. Even if they’re not, I find it hard to believe that iTunes under OSX is such a different beast that many of the complaints of Windows iTunes suddenly no longer apply.
It’s puzzling that Apple hasn’t done anything about the iTunes situation because as many writers have noted, iTunes really is the keystone in the Apple Media Empire. As Mr Naughton notes above, there is actually very little you can do with an iDevice that doesn’t hinge on using iTunes to some degree whether it’s putting music on your device to actually making Apple money by using the iTunes Music and App Stores. Apple need iTunes to keep selling iPads and iPhones. A perfect time to announce an updated iTunes would have been their recent media event when the Ping social network was announced as the latest addition to iTunes 10. If Apple want to keep selling iDevices, iTunes is required – but Ping isn’t. So why is the experience such a dreadful one for the majority of users? Apple can’t be foolish enough to hope that once users realise that updating their 64GB iPad on Windows is such a painful experience, they’ll run out and buy a Mac to mitigate the bug-fest of Windows iTunes can they?
But then, software has never really been Apple’s focus. They are and always have been, a hardware company. iTunes is there to sell iPods, not the other way around. Perhaps we all got caught up with the fact that OSX is an excellent (albeit closed) operating system and expected that attention to detail to extend to iTunes. I don’t know. But I think Apple is making a grave error – if iTunes fails, all Apple’s devices fail because Apple has engineered it so that using them without this bulky, slow and buggy software colossus is pretty much impossible. Certainly if Apple wants to make money, people need the iTunes Store.
So Apple needs to step up and rewrite iTunes completely (and quickly) before the whole thing falls apart.
The only other possibility for this perceived apathy to their golden goose is that Apple has been quietly working to retire iTunes. You’ve only got to look at Google to see how that might be done – with a web application, HTML5 or otherwise. It always bothered me that there wasn’t an “itunes.com” where you’d login and do pretty much the same things that are currently done with the iTunes client.
The iTunes store makes sense as a web application in the same way Amazon does as a website – you wouldn’t use Amazon if you had to download a 90MB client to buy a book would you? Ping as a social networking tool doesn’t make much sense being locked into a fat client-side piece of software, not in the age of Facebook anyway. And a iTunes as a clean, standards-compliant web-app would wrap up the last bit of the market – those of us who want to use our iPods with something other than Windows or a Mac. Linux users, basically. Because iTunes sure doesn’t run well under WINE. Why would it, when it runs so badly natively? Granted, Linux users are probably not Apple’s main concern, being slightly more resentful of Apple’s all-encompassing computing eco-system but if they’ve got iPods and iPhones they’re still Apple customers, right? So even if an iTunes web-app meant that a small percentage of people would continue to use Linux rather than bite the bullet and go Mac, Apple would still be selling them an iDevice. Granted, a mechanism would be needed to actually transfer your iTunes Library to your device, but a client-installed “iTunes” browser plugin would take care of that, much like Google’s Voice/Video chat does today. If you offered a small plugin for Firefox, IE, Chrome and Safari, you’d still have more audience market share than a huge client for only Mac and Windows.
So what’s Apple’s problem? Are they simply biding their time to create a cleaner, redesigned iTunes client (web application or not) or do they simply not have the foresight or software talent to bring iTunes up to speed with the rest of their product line? For a piece of software that is so important to them, they don’t seem to be giving it a lot of love. And this could be a huge mistake for them in the future if they don’t act.
If I must use iTunes to use my iPod, I’d rather do it without having to see Windows Task Manager every ten minutes, please.
I was reading an article over at Wired this morning about how Google and Apple are gearing up for a fight to the death in the music space. The article mentions Google’s mobile operating system Android and about how it’s activating 200,000 units a day – very close to Apple’s iOS devices. Obviously Google wishes to replicate the success of iTunes on it’s Android devices, and why not? iTunes sells the lion’s share of music to those who don’t simply steal it and it’s actually easier to get legitimate music, movies and TV shows onto an iDevice than it is to steal it.
It’s as I was reading through this article about this on-going clash of the titans that I realised….Microsoft is dead. Aside from Windows 7, which was a good, but hardly exciting operating system upgrade, what exciting products has Microsoft got on the agenda? Anything that the general public would care about? Nope.
Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft will continue to rake in the money, much like IBM did after they were unseated by Microsoft, but I think their days of being an industry titan which fills everyone else with fear is over. Apple and Google are now the companies that fill others with dread – Apple in the mobile device and media space and Google for almost everything else. Even Sony and Nintendo should shiver about what the iPad and iPhone games industry means to their business.
When did that happen?
Microsoft dominated the industry for over twenty years, casting it’s threatening shadow over almost everybody. It wasn’t for nothing that Yahoo went to great pains to call itself a media company, not a software company. It didn’t want to attract the attention of Microsoft (not that it really helped them in the end). Everyone saw and understood the fate of Netscape, which was killed so ruthlessly in the early days of the web by a hungry and powerful Microsoft.
When did all this change? Microsoft were certainly still a force to be reckoned with in 2001 with the release of Windows XP, ironically the same year Apple quietly released a little device called the iPod. I would say it was around 2005 or so that several events highlighted the dismal fact that the jig was up.
The first was widespread adoption of always-on broadband. With super-fast Internet access and the rise of the browser as the “must have” app on everyone’s desktop, the desktop itself became less important. With that, the stranglehold of Windows lost enough of it’s grip to allow Google and “web 2.0″ mania to sweep in. With things like GMail and surrounding technologies, Google showed what you could actually do with web apps these days. And people paid attention. And once Windows was lessened, the genie couldn’t be put back. Ubuntu, OSX and open source advocated by web 2.0 startups seemed more attractive.
Then there was Apple, a “rise from the ashes” fable almost unheard of in the tech industry. Hoisted up by the success of the new iMacs and iPods and cementing further success with the UNIX-based OSX, Apple finally had all the pieces in place to eat Microsoft’s lunch. And for some reason, Microsoft let them. I guess Bill Gates saw the writing on the wall at this point and that’s why it’s Ballmer at the helm and not Gates. There’s only so much an old man can do, 50 billion in the bank or not. Perhaps he saw that.
So now you have a situation where Apple essentially controls the consumer technology industry. Not everyone realises this yet, but it’s there. The web is dominated by Google who are also having a fair bit of success with their mobile Linux-based Android platform that will no doubt hoover up all the manufacturers who aren’t Apple. And where is Microsoft? Nowhere. Nobody is scared of them any more. Oh, they may well keep making money as IBM did before them and they will no doubt keep flogging enterprise software….but Linux and open source will slowly eat away at this.
This leaves the XBox games division which is probably the only public awareness Microsoft have at this point and it’s not as though it’s making it’s investment back anytime soon – no matter how much success it’s perceived to have had. What a cruel irony for Microsoft that it has actually helped people to forgo Windows simply because consoles like it’s XBox offered a comparable experience to the DirectX/Windows PC. For a lot of people who eventually moved on to OSX or Linux, if you’re not using Windows for PC games anymore….what are you using it for? The web?
The games industry is a risky business and Microsoft only got where they are because Sony utterly dropped the ball. Dominating the Games industry is not where I’d want to be right now, what with Apple breathing down my neck. Just ask Sega. And make no mistake, Apple is going for this market. Apple never had much of relationship with games for most of it’s history, but you can bet they’re paying attention now. The iTunes App Store is chock full of games at prices that can’t really be beat. Sony and Nintendo should be as afraid as Microsoft. It’s a short hop from iPhones and iPad to iConsoles.
Windows and Office will limp on for another decade, as will Windows Phone 7….maybe. But in order to leverage the kind of money Microsoft still has at it’s disposal, you need to hire bright young talent. Who wants to work for Microsoft over places like Facebook, Google or Apple? Anyone? Once you’ve been seen as somewhere “uncool” to work, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that isn’t easy to break out from. If you can’t attract the bright young talent, you can’t create cool things. If you don’t create cool things, nobody wants to work for you. No, Microsoft’s days as a powerhouse of the industry are over. Can’t say that they’ll be missed.