It’s official! Apple now sucks. This is coming from the perspective of a software engineer with 15 years of experience. I have been a geek since I was a kid, and have used technology from many vendors over the years. Apple once made great products, but I think they have peaked and are in decline. I believe in their rush to become the consumer technology juggernaut, quality has been pushed to the wayside. Indeed, many an Apple geek will agree, they are no longer concerned about power users. They want to sell consumer electronics by focusing on design and marketing, more than software quality. By quality, I am referring to the software. Their hardware is still some of the best you can find, and a good value.
First I bought an iPod. Even though it needed to be constantly tethered to my PC to accomplish tasks as simple as deleting the on-the-go playlist, I liked the build quality and innovative click wheel. From there, I bought a Mac Pro, lured by the many Java EE developers who moved to the Unix environment of OS X. Indeed, if most Java EE applications are deployed on Unix or Linux, the POSIX environment of Mac OS X did make for smoother transitions to production.
I can’t say it was love at first use. I ordered way more computer than I needed, but that was because I was used to Windows. Windows is a resource hog. A Mac with equivalent hardware is faster than a PC. Now this gap has narrowed, but it is still true. I am not the only one who has noticed this. Popular mechanics wrote about this, and updated it. OS X performs better than Windows… but the gap has narrowed.
As someone who has used Windows for about 20 years, and Mac OS X for about 3 years, I can’t say one is better than the other. They’re different. Mac OS X has a very slick user interface, but is it necessary? The only reason I would recommend a Mac is if you need a POSIX environment for work and want a consumer OS too. This can also be accomplished by dual booting to Windows or Ubuntu. Maybe you like the simplicity of the iLife software suite, where you can make music, edit photos, and make movies with simple, consumer-oriented software. If so, maybe the Mac is a better choice. In terms of professional audio-visual creation, both platforms work well. There are Grammy winning audio engineers, like Elliot Scheiner, who use Windows in their studio, not a Mac.
Many audio engineers are dedicated to the Mac platform. I used to record music on a Windows PC, and it got the job done. It looks like Grammy winning audio engineers and producers can also get professional results with Windows systems. Indeed, Microsoft had a 64-bit operating system before Apple.
If you watch the documentary Objectified (about industrial design), you will see designers using Windows systems. Yes, even on a documentary that seems almost like an Apple commercial. Indeed, Apple’s hardware is where they shine. It is beautiful, robust, and state of the art. There are people who buy a Mac, wipe out OS X, and install Windows. They know it is great hardware, and if you want a well-built Windows PC, they cost as much as a Mac. Windows gives people the option to buy a $200 computer which can get the job done. In many ways, this is more “democratic” than Apple, regardless of the notion that they are the leaders in democratic design. I even think if Apple gave people the option to have Windows pre-installed on a Mac, they would sell like hotcakes.
This is why I bought my Mac Pro. Macs aren’t really more expensive than Windows PCs. If you look at the specs, in detail, and try to find an equivalent Windows system, they cost about as much. I looked at DELL desktops that had quad-core processors, 1066 mhz bus speed (bus speed is very important!!!), fast hard drives, etc. They cost a few hundred bucks less than a Mac Pro, but came in the same old plastic box. When you open it up, it has wires all over the place like C3-PO’s belly. For a few hundred bucks more, I got something built like a tank. I accidentally kicked my Mac Pro with bare feet, and it didn’t move the system, but ripped off my toenail instead. Open up a Mac Pro, and it truly is a thing of beauty. You can install a hard drive in 2 minutes. You just screw on the railings and plug it in like a cartridge. You don’t even need to take off the case — it has a removable side panel. The Mac Pro is dead quiet — you cannot hear the fan. It is almost too well designed. When I first got it, I couldn’t figure out how to eject the “super drive” (uh, Apple, it’s an optical drive) because there were no buttons on it. The drive and the empty slot look the same! Then I saw the eject button on the keyboard. Great, because you used to have to drag the optical drive icon to the trash to eject (makes no sense, poor usability).
Jon Ive and Bob Mansfield are the true geniuses at Apple. It really is the hardware that sets them apart. No one else could make an iPod, iPhone, iMac, Mac Pro, or iPad. Volunteers can jail break iOS and offer innovations that Apple didn’t think of. Apple software is not that impressive. The one saving grace is that it used to be more stable than Windows, but that has changed recently. Apple has become worse, and Microsoft has become better. In my opinion, there is no excuse for sloppy software from Apple. They have finite systems to test. That’s supposed to be the advantage of making both the hardware and software. Their testers should not have any surprises. Apple software also narrows down use cases. They limit how you can interact with the software. Compared to Windows, you can only do things a few ways on a Mac. They *should* have much better quality than the Microsoft Windows camp, but this is no longer true. Apple used to be like Honda, but now they are like Toyota. In their quest to be number one, they have made quality a lesser priority. That’s why you pay extra for Apple products — quality. The hardware is still top-notch, but the software… IT JUST SUCKS!
Windows and Mac OS X can do pretty much the same thing, even producing music in high-end studios. Macs come with more software pre-installed and ready to go. You get what you pay for. Windows allows people, who don’t want GarageBand, iMovie, or iPhoto, to just get a system and install what they want. Indeed, there are many Windows systems that ship with Microsoft Office and other software pre-installed. It’s a matter of choice. For the Java or Ruby developer, Mac OS X is better than Windows, but so is Linux. Linux is free too. If you want to develop iOS apps, Xcode only works on Macs, but Apcelerator, Rhomobile and other app generators work on PCs.
There are not many differences between a Mac and a PC right now. They both run on Intel processors (though with Windows you can run on AMD). You can install Windows on a Mac. There are some hacks to install OS X on basic Intel based systems. Microsoft Office works on both. They have converged, so it is more a matter of personal preference and taste. I think, if you can afford it, it is best to get both. That way, you don’t look like an idiot if you have to use a Mac at work, and you have never touched one before… It does take about a week to get used to using a Mac. I hated it, but now I think features like Mission Control offer much more agility when operating a computer. The gestures introduced in Lion make using a Mac even easier. I have to admit, though, the pointer can often get a bit jerky with some applications, and I have a very powerful Mac.
Indeed, in some ways Windows is superior to the Mac. I admit it — I have some degree of Windows 7 envy. In my next article, I will write about the iPad fad, how I fell for it, and my buyer’s remorse.
Over the course of this blog, I will post the truth about Apple products. I feel technology has succumbed to punditry. The debate is too polemical. There are too many fanboys each distorting the facts, making it difficult for consumers to make a decision. I would like to disclose that most of my technology is from Apple. I have a 2009 quad-core Mac Pro, an iPhone 4, an iPad 2, an Apple TV 2, and an Airport Extreme wi-fi router. In addition, I have an old DELL laptop running CentOS (Linux) as well as an Asus netbook (remember that fad?) running Ubuntu for netbooks.
My main contention in this blog is that Apple quality is slipping and others are catching up. Some are surpassing Apple.
I wrote this article back when iOS 5 launched, along with an upgrade to Apple TV that was quite buggy. AirPlay would continually crash. I was very upset, and rightfully so. I had invested about $800 in Apple products so I could cut the cord. For a few months, this dream became a dystopia.
Apple fixed all of these issues by the time iOS 6 was released. Since this article was written, Apple’s quality has improved. The Apple ecosystem of products work well together, with minimal defects. Their products are not perfect, but I think they’re better than the alternatives. Apple seems to be establishing itself as the high-end of the tech market, while keeping prices surprisingly competitive. They do this by creating a limited number of products, so as to benefit from economies of scale. Basically, if you have fewer models and mass produce them, the overall cost decreases. This is why they don’t have 20 models of iPhones, all with different sizes.
I’m still keeping my eye on Apple. This site is quite candid about flaws in their products, but in a productive way. The rest of the blogosphere is taking a big dump on Apple, offering no solutions. Since this first post, I have changed course and decided to create a site that is useful and helpful, and not just another Apple-bashing site. OK, there will be some Apple-bashing along with Apple-praising and plenty of useful tips and how-to articles.