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Why Apple is so easy to hate

June 22, 2010

iPhone 4

The Apple iPhone 4 is just about upon us, but even if the masses haven’t all got the device in their hands, they all can read the reviews of such product. The reviews are in — and they are overwhelmingly positive.

Surely, the competition is defeated. Steve Jobs has conquered the world. His brainchild phone cleans up most of the grievances people had with it: lack of multitasking; preempts some grievances that were expected: poor battery life from multitasking; and the miracle device even seems capable of sidestepping issues that seem not to be Apple’s: the antenna construction decreases the amount of dropped calls on AT&T’s beleaguered network.

But does that mean that Apple has no enemies? Or that its enemies must be silenced?

No. And it should be easy to see why.

Apple A4 processorApple is so easy to hate because their policies are draconian. The company’s sterile, sleek, industrial facade, much like the iPhone 4’s, hides much more within. A powerful processor? Yes, certainly, whether the A4 or Steve Jobs’ (and his team’s) minds. A particular and demanding philosophy about how one should operate. Also present.

And here is where the troubles begin.

Apple has succeeded so well because Jobs can create a veil of mystery through perfect information control. When mortals dare to defy the gods — as did Gizmodo in leaking information about the iPhone 4 — the gods strike back with incredible fury — as did Apple in launching investigations with relevant police forces against Gizmodo professionals and in banning Gizmodo from the Apple Temple Ceremony of Revelation, the WWDC.

Adobe FlashAnd what is true of the macrocosm is true of the microcosm. Within the iPhone is the incredibly successful App Store, and behind the app store is the particular (and sometimes fickle) process of app approval. We have recently witnessed the colossal war between Apple and Adobe concerning Flash for the iPhone. To this day, not only is Flash not officially supported by any iOS device, but, the acrid tone of the discussion suggests that Apple and Adobe are at war out of which only one may survive. With HTML5, it seems that the days of Adobe’s Flash may be numbered.

How could someone support such a company, critics protest. How can one support a company that treats its developers so poorly? Within every step Apple makes is danger.

If all this were so, and that was it, then it would seem strange that Apple has any supporters at all. From the way people talk about it, no one could love Apple. And yet, people do. Even more importantly, Apple’s competitors must scramble around to catch up with Apple.

How frustrating it must be for the producers of Android phones like HTC or for Palm or for Nokia or for Microsoft. HTC releases the HTC Evo 4g, but Apple doesn’t play the exponential size game. Rather than release increasingly larger slab phones, it keeps the size and increases pixel density. It even has a clever and catchy name — Retina Display. That’s sure to stick on the tongues of the public and in the minds of the masses. But more importantly, how long will it take for competitors to react? (Motorola’s still reacting to the Evo 4g with the Droid X.) How much longer will it take to act rather than react?

Android fans rejoice for 8 megapixel cameras and 720p video recording. But Steve Jobs notes (as we’ve known with digital cameras for a while) that sheer megapixelage isn’t everything, and the iPhone 4 ends up with the better camera anyway.

webOS multitaskingAnd yet, Apple doesn’t end up with “better” always. Still, webOS and Android fans can proclaim that notifications are better in their respective OSes than in the iOS, and the multitasking truer.

And yet, the iPhone will gain more notoriety. Has more notoriety.

In truth, for whatever the deficiencies and excesses one finds within Apple or the iPhone, what makes these things even easier to hate is how successful they are.

Apple is so easy to hate not because they restrict the average user, but because the average user at best doesn’t care, but at worst appreciates being restricted. Or, more precisely, being guided by apps and processes that are intuitive out of the box (much like the new Apple FaceTime voice calling in contrast to other attempts, like the Evo’s Qik).

Apple is so easy to hate not because they restrict the average developer, but because the average developer at best doesn’t care, but at worst appreciates the benefits of that restriction. Or, more precisely, the benefits of consistent and high standards that ensure enjoyable user experience (one Engadget troll announces through his name: “Android looks hacked together” — such a criticism never would be made for Apple’s apps.)

Apple is so easy to hate because people chafe at the powerlessness of their ideologies over Steve’s: open isn’t necessarily preferred over close, and Apple can always open at its leisure; function isn’t necessarily preferred over form, and Apple still provides function at its leisure.

However, the battle will not end. What is good about this competition is not that Steve jobs has conquered the world, but that he hasn’t. Instead, the Androids and the webOSes and the Blackberries, the Windows Phones and the MeeGos will — even if from minority footholds as guerrilla and resistance partisans — spur forth innovation from necessity, for all to benefit.

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