This is Starting to Scare Me …

Twice this morning I’ve read two seperate entries about people considering “unswitching” … scares me as I’ve watched Apple climb out of the nightmare that was OS 7.5.x, to the whole Copeland thing, to OS 9 where things worked (sort of), to ultimately OS X and the smooth experience we have today.

It seems people aren’t pissed about the performance issues of the past; it’s the emerging corporate culture starting to get at people. The problem, IMHO, is that Apple is trying to continue in its culture of control and secrecy while the rest (at least a good majority) of the web is opening up. Think about the open source movement, blogging, personal media, etc and you can start to see the Apple isn’t fitting in at the moment. Not enough for me to switch — I’ve never been a user of any other platform … with that said I’ve had jobs that made me use a PC for various reasons (I even have one on my desk at work and a laptop at home for consulting work), but I have been a faithful Mac user since 1984. I wouldn’t give up my Macs for anything, but I do see these emerging points of view.

My wish? That Apple would show its users (dare I call it a fan base?) a little bit more of what is going on inside. I work with a lot of people from Apple (who are smart, energetic, and very together) who would have a lot to say that people would love to read about. How about it Apple, maybe start a corporate blogging program to let people in? I doubt it would ruin Steve Jobs’ “voila moments” at the big shows … at any rate, just thought I’d ask.

15 thoughts on “This is Starting to Scare Me …

  1. It’s not really an emerging thing at Apple – they’ve been über-secretive at least since the Return of Steve. In the days of Newton, they were actually flying the only working prototype model around the continent to get people interested in it. That wouldn’t happen again, when things like iPods are developed under such a strong veil of secrecy that even people in Cupertino hadn’t heard of it before the launch.

    I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, either. Apple is surprisingly open where it counts. Darwin, the streaming server, etc… What difference would it make if you get to see a preview of the Mini Mac 6 months before it’s publicly released?

    I think there is some confusion about what being open means. Having more people at Apple blog would be interesting (I already subscribe to about half a dozen Apple bloggers), but would it _really_ change anything? Does anything _really_ have to change?

    Microsoft has a fair number of bloggers, but I’m only subscribed to Scoble. Sun has a whole lot, but I only subscribe to Bray and Schwartz (and Gosling).

  2. I don’t so much care Apple trying to keep secrets, although they’re losing people by going overboard in their efforts to do so. I do care about Apple’s increasing love of DRM. I do care about their continued membership in the Business Software Alliance, which boils down to an invasive extortion racket for big software thieves (MS got busted again for including someone’s code without permission, and they’re also in the BSA—maybe they should extort themselves?).

    I’m not sold on corporate blogs, either. They’re basically marketing copy written by non-marketing people. MS started them, and started flogging them, because they have a longtime strategy of finding out who the best and brightest in any company are, and cherry-picking them. This is one reason why Apple suddenly became coy about crediting individuals, and (one reason) why they don’t do blogs. I don’t honestly care about the heavily sanitized thoughts of Employee X. I do care about the products Employee X is working on.

  3. I guess the point of the post this morning wasn’t really to dare Apple to blog — although rereading it makes it seem that way … what I am concerned about is that as Apple continues its rise (both adoption and financially) it is risking alienating the people who stuck with them during the really dark times. Where this came from was a couple of posts I read and from some of the experiences I am having working with them on the ADC project … just frustrates me a bit.

    James, I couldn’t agree more with the DRM statements … when I first started using the iTunes Music Store I thought it was amazing and the DRM didn’t bother me, but as I have purchased more and more songs from them the idea that this stuff only plays on 5 of my Macs (which is way too limiting) and my iPod is a pain in the ass. I just bought my daughter an eMac and I wanted to “authorize” it play my library so she can listen to some of the music I’ve purchased there (for her) … too bad, I already have authorized too many machines. WTF!

    D’Arcy, great insight on their new-found openness in the software space … we do appreciate that very much and are begging them to open a couple of other things up for us. They have killer software products that can really change teaching and learning, but it needs a few more hooks to really work. At any rate, I am just happy you guys are reading and this post inspired you to respond. I appreciate it.

  4. I’d like to submit to you an analogy to Apple’s secretive actions if I may…Few, if any of you view new car announcement time as a major event these days. After all, you can see tomorrows cars a year or more in advance, but in the 50s and 60s it was an entirely different thing. The new models were kept under wraps until announcement day, complete with paper over showroom windows, cars shipped under tarps, and TV and radio teasers beginning a week or two in advance.

    That in part is what created America’s “Love Affair” with the automobile, record sales and owner loyalties Apple’s secretiveness has had much the same effect on everyone, especially the Mac “Faithful” as they are called. When Apple does something, it’s an event ala the automobile business of the 50s and people BUY it because it’s exciting. When Dell (or any one else) releases a new computer, it’s like a new Chevy complete with rebates…they have to SELL it. Shazam vs ho-hum

  5. Why is it that folks think Apple came up with the concept of digital rights management? There would be no DRM at the iTunes Music Store if the labels didn’t demand it. We should actually be thanking Jobs… if not for his anti-DRM stance, and his negotiating skills, the DRM situation would be much worse… everywhere.

  6. What ‘increasing DRM” at Apple? They introduced DRM in iTMS because they had to, and so far they’ve only loosened it… they originally only let you authorize 3 computers. Other than this slightly relaxed DRM for iTMS (totally relaxed compared to Microsoft: Windows Media Player has a component that runs in the NT kernel and even LOCALSYSTEM rights can’t turn it off), what exactly are you referring to?

  7. When BMW becomes Ford, Beamers will buy Mercedes. That process is beginning and will continue. The people who use Macs because they are superior will continue to do so until something better comes along. Until then, keep your Mac.

  8. I can honestly say I haven’t bought a piece of music from anywhere but Apple since the iTMS opened … It has just recently started to bother me that it is hard to take a large collection and use it in various places. I don’t steal music and as the director of group that develops software I fully understand and appreciate the need to protect intellectual property (and the rights of the producers).

    Rick, I do think Steve Jobs and Apple have done an amazing job of convincing people in the music industry that it is better to embrace emerging technologies to enable new markets than it is to be terrified by them. Arresting people and now with the ongoing Grokster case I see the iTMS as a HUGE win for all of us. I just wish there was a way I could be trusted with my music. I know I didn’t say “increasing” in my post, but I think the idea of DRM is hitting people fairly hard … the buzz of the store is wearing off and people are starting to wonder a bit.

    This would have made an amazing addition to the discussions in my IST 110 class last semester … we focused almost exclusively on the creation of a solution to illegal file sharing issues we are facing with music, movies, games, applications, etc … lots of students discussed Apple and many (if you can believe it) had no idea they even sold music online … at some point, I’d like to invite some of you all into my class (via iChat AV) to talk about this topic. Anyone game?

  9. My answer to DRM is to take Apple’s old slogan, “Rip, Mix, Burn”, and switch it around to “Mix, Burn, Rip”. I consider the CDR-Audio copies of my iTMS purchases to be the “real copies”, because any data you can’t or don’t back up doesn’t really exist… it’s written on the wind, patterns in the clouds, castles in the sand…

  10. Oh, something Apple and the MPAA might find interesting.

    Since I started using the iTMS I’ve been buying more CDs. LOTS more CDs. I hear a song or hear about a song and go to buy it on iTMS… and if I can’t get it there my next stop is often Amazon. I never generally bothered buying music online before, and I get to the Brick and Mortar store so seldom, but iTMS is so easy and if it’s not there I guess I’m already in a buying mood…

  11. I wouldn’t worry about it. There are plenty of counter examples like this one:

    Tim Bray works at Sun and isn’t a totally disinterested party. He admits that part of his reason is that he would like to run his company’s software. Also, he apparently believed the blogger/internet news spin on the Asteroid case and believes the court case is something that it isn’t. Trying to equate protecting your confidential documents is not the same thing as trying to prevent a journalist from finding corporate malfeasance. It takes someone ignorant of the case or someone who is seriously spinning to believe that the Apple case will deprive journalists of the rights to have anonymous sources for whistle-blower news reports.

  12. Peter, I have some stats that support what you are saying … when I get back to the office tomorrow I’ll post them. When I ask my students what their habits are now that they have (a) heard about and used the iTMS and (b) understand copyright law they all are saying that it has impacted their behavior. In other words, they are stealing less — but still stealing when push comes to shove — and are buying more music more often in a song by song format. It proves to me that the RIAA (and eventually the MPAA) should be embracing technology solutions when done right and quit with the massive legal threats … imagine if these people put as much energy and money into solving these issues instead of camping out behind fear!

    By the way, if this thread is interesting, you might want to bounce through some of the posts here from my IST 110 class last semester.

  13. Sorry, I meant RIAA, not MPAA. I haven’t memorised the lowerarchy of archdaemonry yet. 🙂

    Another massive source of really cool music out there are sites like 3hive that are basically blogging about artists and groups that put demo samples up. I’d list more but 3hive’s links page is pretty exhaustive. And then there are fairly substantial index sites like Classic Cat and the Piano Society.

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