Apple: From Computers to Consumer Electronics Company
Apple’s path from computer company to a consumer electronics company – and consumer services company – has been going on for a long time. As a long-time Apple user and an admirer of their products and much of their software, especially much of OS X, and a one-time stockholder, I’m actually quite disappointed by the “evolution of Apple” as it currently is going – at least regarding the OS and high-end tools. Oh sure, I do get it from a business point of view, from a shareholder value perspective, etc., but I’m just not thrilled with it from a selfish point of view.
Lots of people complain about “the Apple walled garden”, yet with some exceptions, I really like Apple’s integrated approach as it pertains to quality control and a uniform user experience. That many of these controls also add to Apple’s profitability is fine with me. That’s business, and I like the products.
However, as one who likes computers to feel like mature tools, I really don’t like the direction of Mac OS X at this time. I like OS X 10.6.x (Snow Leopard) very much. It’s stable on my machines (much better than Leopard, which was worse than Tiger for me), it looks grown-up and mostly works well with my software and peripherals. I don’t like Lion and find the UI absolutely atrocious in some areas (esp. the Address Book and iCal), as it looks like Romper Room to me and it’s tacky IMHO. Hopefully Apple will consider moving back to a mature and elegant user interface in Mountain Lion and beyond. The move to a uniform “iOS feel” across Apple products is the obvious direction, but it’s something I truly hate about Apple’s current path. For the consumer market it makes sense, but for people (like me) who like computers to feel like tools with detailed controls instead of a stroll through FAO Schwarz it’s not a great path. Don’t get me wrong, I love the integration, just not the “sameness” across tools used for different tasks.
This is all a very personal thing, and I’m sure that there are many who love the current path (or simply don’t care). For example, I’m one who loves the detailed controls available in Photoshop and hates the simplified UI of products like iPhoto. Even Adobe Lightroom is not for me because of the lack of precision. Apple really ticked off a lot pro users with their “update” to Final Cut Pro because of “dumbing it down” in many users’ eyes. Apple has moved away from supporting pro users on many fronts, such as color management (horrible support), discontinuation of their one display suitable for high-end image processing (the 30 inch cinema display), and a tower line with very limited RAM expansion capacity and long-due for an update (last updated August of 2010). Again, I get it, for business reasons. I just don’t like it.
Over time Apple had lost a lot of the enterprise world (or didn’t get it at all in many sectors) as IT managers stayed with the Windows platform. I’m always rooting for Apple to get more uptake in enterprise, but I can see why CIOs are hesitant to invest in Apple. Apple is making progress in this market, but talking with ranking engineers at large enterprises I can understand the resistance. One concern which I had not considered is Apple’s frequent OS updates which are not as backward compatible as needed. That doesn’t really affect me, so I overlooked it. My friend said that his team at a Fortune 100 company is using mostly Window XP still and that a change to Windows 7 will be very time consuming and costly. Enterprise needs stability, not new eye-candy. Still, thanks to the great success of the iPhone and iPad, Apple computers are working their way in to more enterprises and I like that.
Here’s an article that describes some real concerns with Mac OS X Lion in the enterprise environment. Most of what is described would be fairly easy to fix if Apple were to focus on such adjustments. The part about automatically reopening applications and windows which were open at shutdown would be an easy fix and is the source of much frustration even for the non-enterprise Mac community. There’s at least one lengthy thread in Apple’s support forums asking for this to be fixed. Apple just need to give the pro and business users a little love now and then, even though they’re “killing it” with iOS.
So there is my rant and personal lament regarding how I wish that Apple would find a way to continue to support not only the vision that is iOS, but also keep supporting those who use computers for more technical tasks, business needs, and professional production, and less so for social congregation. My whining is personal, but I also hear if from friends using OS X Lion and looking ahead to OS X “Mountain Lion”. Plus, Lion has stopped a couple of my friends from switching from Windows and that’s a shame. I’d love to see Apple develop the OS in a way that continues to innovate, yet retains the means for users to work more technically if they wish.