Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Microsoft & Apple

Someone made a long comment to a post I made last November on Windows vs Mac. I looked over what I said and stand by my statements. I do want to make a few things clear.

I am not a big fan of Microsoft. They have plotted to take over the world (metaphorically) too many times. They have often gone out of their way to destroy competition. Back when Windows ran on DOS they put in some code to keep it from running on DRDOS. Later they bundled Windows 95 and DOS together as a single product in order to eliminate DRDOS as a competitor.

In fact, the whole launch of Windows 95 seemed designed to eliminate competition. The product was over a year late to market and companies stopped buying new software during that period. Microsoft which had deeper pockets survived but the competition did not.

More recently their Palladium proposal would have made them the gatekeepers of the world. This was a hardware/software encryption system that not only verified that you were running a trusted operating system, it could also act as DRM for nearly anything. You could even revoke access to a document after it had been distributed. Portions of that are embedded in the X-Box and Windows Vista.

I never cared much for Bill Gates or Steve Balmer, either.

I have spent used other operating systems when possible. During the days of Windows 3.1 I used IBM's OS2 Warp which was a nice multi-tasking operating system and ran Windows better than DOS. It was also a good game platform in the days when you have to have a separate boot disk for each game. It would detect the settings the game needed without user effort.

More recently I have used various versions of Linux.

But the Apple premium has always kept me from trying a Mac.

I pay attention to specs. Apple sells premium machines but they still charge a bit more than competitors for equivalent hardware. The extra charge is for the cool factor.

Apple has had some quality control issues, also. The Macbook air has cooling problems. The iconic iPod has had enough quality control problems that it got special mention in Wikipedia.

Then there is the control issue. Steve Jobs wants too much control and he refuses to license his software. Microsoft was recently fined for being too slow to release developer documentation. They are still ahead of Apple on this. Look at Fairplay, Apple's DRM. They refuse to license it to anyone. Suits are pending against Apple over this. They could well join Microsoft in being fined by the EU.

When the Apple II first came out it was as open as anything ever seen. The documentation included an assembly listing for the firmware - something now regarded as a state secret. By the time the original Macintosh was introduced Apple had become as closed as any company ever seen. Just hooking a 3rd party printer to your Mac violated the warranty. They have opened up a great deal on the Mac but closed down on the iPhone. Simple things like rearranging the icons or changing the wallpaper are not allowed.

Too often Apple's great innovations are the form factor rather than usability. If you don't agree with Steve Job's vision of how a workstation should look (or cost) then you are stuck since they control the hardware.

If you don't mind the Apple premium and you agree with Steve Jobs on everything then Apple is a great company. I know several people who are enthusiastic Apple users. In fact, my main hands-on experience with Apple has come from giving these people technical support.

But it is not for me. I would find it a constant source of irritation.

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