Saturday, January 19, 2008

Apple: why I am still a fan but no longer a fanboy

There are times when I wonder whether Steve Jobs' leadership is really a good thing, long-term, for Apple. The MacBook Air happens to be my latest cause for bafflement.

Hey, it's not a bad computer, per se. It's very light and elegant, and certainly will look good when you whip it out in a cafe or on an airplane. And the idea of focusing almost exclusively on wireless networking is not a bad one, though I don't really want to be forced onto wireless (attention TJ Maxx shoppers). But I have never seen Apple ship something like this -- a total slap to 24 years worth of Apple power users. It's the underpowered junkheap in a nice case that the Mac development team went behind Steve's back to avoid shipping back in 1984.

Why am I paying $100 extra for the privilege of a DVD drive? Where is my FireWire connector so I can edit video? (And don't tell me to switch to AVCHD -- iMovie 8 is awful, group-of-pictures codecs are evil, and I don't have a venue for HD productions anyway.) And please, do not tell me that maybe the MacBook Air just isn't for me. Apple may have a tremendous amount of cachet, but they're still a niche player, and they don't have room in their product grid to create something that delivers new features but caters only to a certain section of their market.

Apple produces great hardware and great software. I've always thought that, even as the quality has slipped some in recent years. But that only gets you so far with those who actually know what they want -- I don't like being told that what I get is enough for me. (After all, there's a reason Macs ship with development tools -- as MacOS X is a Unix system, it would have a big credibility problem without them.) Unlike Windows, which is layer upon layer of designed-by-committee cruft, MacOS retains a fair amount of elegance. And I do want a MacBook -- a regular one, not the Air -- for my next computer. But after that, all bets are off -- I'm not averse to getting a PC laptop and installing Linux on it. The tools I need may be more baroque and less consistent on Linux, but they are there, and they do work for what I need. Don't drive your power users away, Apple. You need us as much as or more than you need the Brookstone crowd. (After all, who else was out there touting Applescript as a vast improvement over batch files a decade ago, or laughing at people because plug-and-play Nubus, PCI, and ADB peripherals meant that the control DOS users bragged about having was nothing more than the ability to repair grave defects inherent in the system?)

1 comment:

free ipod touch said...

I see the apple macbook air as more of a stylish luxury item than a needed business laptop.

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