There’s nothing wrong with criticizing anything made by Apple. After all, Apple has fouled up many products from their Maps app, MobileMe, along with numerous and persistent bugs in OS X and iOS. However, if you’re going to criticize any company, you should at least use facts.
Far too often, anti-Apple critics rely on hearsay, rumor, and half truths to disparage anything made by Apple. Even worse, they’ll often resort to outright lies to bolster their position. When you can’t even acknowledge facts, that’s a clear sign you don’t have much of a basis for criticism in the first place.
For some odd reason, Apple has attracted a horde of critics unable to think clearly in any way, shape, or form. Yet such critics have no problems vocally broadcasting their ignorance as often and as loudly as possible. Let’s examine the foundation for much of the criticism against Apple.
The Laziness of the IT Department That Ignores Their Real Customers
People who work in the IT departments of companies seem to have the strangest logic. A friend of mine told me that after he requested a tablet to use when he’s traveling, his company’s IT department decided that what he really needed was a new laptop instead. To make sure he had the latest tools, the IT department bought a new laptop with a touchscreen display, and then to increase his productivity, they removed Windows 8 and installed Windows 7 on the computer instead.
The IT department rationalized their decision as follows. First, they wanted to be “on the cutting edge of mobile computing” by getting a laptop with a touchscreen. Second, they wanted to insure maximum worker productivity by using Windows 7, which isn’t optimized for touchscreens.
If paying more for a laptop with a touchscreen and then installing Windows 7 on it so you can’t take full advantage of that touchscreen makes sense to you, then you might be qualified to run the IT department at your company. Perhaps next time the IT department will give out laptops without a battery so no one can use them unless they’re near an electrical outlet. To make the laptop even more useful, perhaps the IT department will refuse to issue power cords to go along with the laptops as well. That way workers will have to use the laptops only when they’re in the IT department.
When IT departments twist their logic around to make completely irrational decisions, you can see why so many people just bring their own smartphones and tablets to work and skip the hassle and frustration of dealing with their IT department altogether. When people do this, you have to ask why is any company paying for an IT department in the first place?
IT departments constantly forget that their job is to maximize worker productivity, not force their own favorite technology on to others, especially when that technology isn’t the best tool for anyone else. Instead of focusing on maximizing productivity, IT departments focus on simplifying their own jobs by learning as little as possible so they can dictate what other people should use without fully understanding what other people really need.
Why IT departments get away with this without getting fired immediately is one of those mysteries of the universe. Fortunately for the IT department, the CEO is usually too busy granting himself multimillion dollar bonuses to care what the IT department does, so everyone stays happy except for the poor workers saddled with inferior tools to do the actual work.
Part of the reason why IT departments continue clinging to the Windows world may lie in what Seth Godin identifies as “competence” in his book Small is the New Big. Seth argues that people who are competent know how to solve the same problem the same way, but they don’t know how to solve different problems, nor do they feel confident solving the same problem in different ways. Competent people know one way to solve a problem so that’s how they solve it over and over again.
Competent people fear change because that risks making them look incompetent. Rather than deal with change, they prefer dealing with what they know, which insures they can continue looking competent. As Seth Godin says, “In the face of change, the competent are helpless. Change means a temporary or permanent threat to their competence. But among the competent, the smart ones realize that change is inevitable—and that they are doomed. Hence the tremendous discomfort among our happily competent population.”
Right now, IT departments (and many computer users) feel competent in their knowledge of maintaining Windows PCs. Yet dealing with other technology such as iOS or Android devices in addition to Linux and Macintosh computers, threatens the typical IT department’s competence. Rather than openly accept other technological tools that may be better suited for other workers in a company, IT departments cling to the trap of competency by blocking and refusing to deal with anything other than what they already know, even to the point of making up lies about other products to justify their decision not to explore those other technology options. This is the classic case of knowing how to use a hammer so rather than learn to use a saw, a screwdriver, or scissors, use a hammer to solve every problem you see.
Ask the typical IT department if Windows is the perfect solution to every possible problem. The real answer is that no single technology is the perfect solution to every possible problem on the planet. Any IT department that insists on cramming a single technology (such as Windows) down every worker’s throat regardless of what workers really need is proving their own lack of faith in their own ability to solve problems.
Until people stop fearing change because it might make them look incompetent, and start embracing change because it gives them new opportunities to be competent in other ways, too many people (and IT departments) will remain trapped in the past. Ultimately they can’t help but fail in the long term, which means most IT departments are simply digging their own grave by refusing to step out of it.
Clinging to the Past
The common belief is that wisdom teeth existed when humans had larger jaws and needed wisdom teeth to grind down tough plants for food. Unfortunately as humans evolved (although some insist on staying as backwards as possible), the human jaw got smaller but wisdom teeth still remained. When wisdom teeth don’t have enough room, they can cause problems, which is why dentists extract wisdom teeth.
At one time, wisdom teeth served a purpose. Now they’re just a nuisance at best. Yet when you look around the computer world, you can find plenty of archaic vestiges of the past that once had a purpose but make no sense for today just like wisdom teeth.
Ask new computer users why hard disks in Windows are labeled the C: drive and they’ll likely have no clue. Yet even as late as Windows 8.1, you can still see drives labeled as C: or D: drives. Logically, someone might wonder what ever became of A: and B: drives, but if they weren’t around during the early days of PCs, they might never know the answer.
In the early days when computers only had floppy disks, the first two floppy drives were labeled the A: and B: drive. With MS-DOS, you had to specify which drive you wanted to use such as telling a program to save a file on the A: drive (the first floppy disk) or the B: drive (the second floppy disk).
When hard disks became popular, MS-DOS 5.0 designated the C: drive as the hard disk. With a hard disk, few people had a reason for two floppy disk drives, so computers soon only had an A: drive (the floppy disk drive) and a C: drive (the hard disk). Eventually when floppy drives disappeared altogether, computers were left the C: drive for the hard disk and the D: drive for the CD/DVD drive.
Today it makes no sense to refer to the hard drive as the C: drive, yet the remnants of that era still lingers in Windows 8.1. The C: drive designation serves no purpose any more for novices, yet still remains to confuse novices while giving them no added benefit either. Given a choice between making computers easier to understand or retaining ancient history that makes computers harder to understand, you can already see which choice tech-savvy users prefer.
Another example of useless archaic information confusing novices occurs with the keyboard. The original IBM PC keyboard stupidly combined a numeric keypad with a cursor keypad so you couldn’t use both at the same time without clumsily holding down the Shift key. Yet the dual function of the numeric key still remains on many of today’s keyboards.
Originally keyboard manufacturers retained this confusing labeling of keys to maintain compatibility with software that might need these specific keys. Nowadays, no modern software requires the specific use of the Home key on the numeric keypad when most keyboards also have a separate Home/End keys along with cursor keypad. Yet these ancient keys still linger, causing more confusion for no good reason.
For another example of archaic icons, ask yourself when was the last time you used or even saw a 3.5-inch floppy disk. Now look on the toolbar of Microsoft Word 2011 for the Macintosh and you can see a floppy disk icon that represents the Save command. Microsoft Word 2010/2013 also recycles this floppy disk icon for its Save command, but new computer users have never used, let alone seen, a 3.5-inch floppy disk before, so this icon makes no sense either.
Icons are supposed to be easy to understand such as showing a printer for the Print command or the scissors icon for the Cut command. Experienced computer users know what a floppy disk looks like but today’s novices do not, which makes the floppy disk icon useless to help novices figure out how to use software.
The typical tech-savvy user response to retaining archaic symbols from the past is to force novices to accept these cryptic and meaningless items as part of learning to use a computer, which makes as much sense as forcing people to learn Morse code just to use a telephone. Rather than make computers easier to use, tech-savvy users prefer computers that are difficult to use since it insures their own job security and self-importance.
The Vietnamese language originally relied on Chinese characters where every character requires multiple strokes to write and memorization to know what it means and how to pronounce it. Such a cryptic language kept most of the population unable to read and write, forcing them to rely on scholars to do their reading and writing for them.
To simplify Vietnamese, a French Jesuit missionary converted Vietnamese to a phonetic system to make reading and writing easier. As a result, more people could easily read and write, lessening dependence on expensive scholars.
Today’s tech-savvy users are the equivalent of Vietnamese scholars who wanted to keep people as helpless and ignorant as possible to maximize their own status and salaries. Make Vietnamese easier to learn and the need for scholars drops dramatically. Make computers easier to learn and the need for tech-savvy users drops dramatically.
The reason why tech-savvy users hate simpler computer products is because it threatens their monopoly of computer knowledge. When people can learn and use computers without relying on expensive tech-savvy users, there’s no need for tech-savvy users.
The next time you hear a tech-savvy user angrily dismiss a simpler computer product, ask them why. Chances are good they’re really frightened of losing their monopoly of knowledge because without cryptic knowledge keeping people confused, they can no longer justify their own existence.
The Tyranny of Tech-Savvy Users
There are more people who don’t know how computers work than people who do know how computers work. That simple statement can be applied to any field such as saying that there are more people who don’t know how cars work than people who do know how cars work. Yet this simple statement is what too many tech-savvy users overlook all the time.
The typical tech-savvy user thinks that just because he knows how to fiddle around with command-line interfaces and memorizing arcane commands, then everyone should take the time to learn this information as well. If people fail to do this, then they should do it anyway no matter how difficult, time-consuming, or confusing it may be. Technology should be complex and confusing so only a minority of people can control it and gain power over others like priests serving the illiterate masses.
The truth is that most people don’t want to know how their computers work and don’t want to waste time adapting to their computers. I’ve been teaching computer courses for decades and the persistent, number one problem that most computer novices face is understanding and managing files.
When most people save a file, they don’t know where it goes. Then they don’t know how to find it again. Then they don’t know how to copy or move a file from one folder to another because they don’t understand how to navigate from one folder to another, or how they can keep following a hierarchy of folders only to wind up in a dead end. They also don’t know what file extensions mean and why they even exist.
File management programs, such as the Finder in OS X or Windows Explorer in Windows, do not help most novices, but only confuse and complicate matters even more. That’s why iOS does not offer a traditional file system, although power users constantly demand one. There are definite advantages to allowing file management, but also definite disadvantages.
By hiding file management from users, iOS makes the iPhone and iPad easier to use, but also less flexible. By offering file management, OS X, Windows, Android, and Linux gives users more power at the sacrifice of increased complexity and confusion. It’s this ease of use vs. power debate that products must carefully balance, yet tech-savvy users do this all the time.
Someone perfectly comfortable installing their own operating system and building their own PC rarely complains that they can’t build their own microwave oven or reprogram how it works. Instead, such computer tech-savvy users just use microwave ovens without complaining that it’s lacking features for power users.
Computer tech-savvy users don’t want complexity in every area of their life, just in computers. Imagine if the small minority of people who enjoy building and reprogramming microwave ovens insisted that everyone learn how to build and reprogram a microwave oven before they could ever use one. Would computer tech-savvy users eagerly embrace this type of additional complexity in their lives? Probably not, yet these same people feel no shame in urging computer novices to embrace greater complexity in computers while ignoring much simpler alternatives instead.
Most people want to use a computer, not maintain it. Only tech-savvy users enjoy maintaining a computer because it’s fun for them, but they fail to realize that what’s fun for them is horribly complex to almost everyone else.
If you read this blog post from EE Times, you can read how one person got tired of dealing with complexity that kept interfering with getting work done. The author initially chose an Android tablet for greater flexibility, but discovered that “…I found that when it came to daily functional use, I was spending more time making the system work than I was working at the system.”
Although the author specifically talks about Android and indirectly about Linux, this could apply to Windows and OS X users as well. Computers are generally too complicated for most people to use, and few people want to take a training class or read thick books just to do something as simple as write a letter, save, and print it. Yet that’s the endless refrain of advice from tech-savvy computer users to novices.
At one time, tech-savvy computer users represented the cutting edge of the computer market. Now that computers have become commodities and smartphones and tablets threaten the tech-savvy user’s fiefdom of arcane computer knowledge to keep out the uninitiated, tech-savvy computer users are either embracing new technology or resisting it by refusing to read anything that contradicts their point of view. This is simply a strategy for failure that too many tech-savvy users are ready to embrace to their grave.
Given their own stubbornness, these tech-savvy users will likely reach their financial grave long before they reach their physical one. Along the way, they’ll likely get more frustrated as their knowledge becomes increasingly irrelevant to the vast majority of society, and even then they’ll still keep refusing to change. When you meet people like this, you have to wonder why they keep using their computer knowledge to remain as ignorant as possible about other alternatives.
Simpler computers benefit the vast majority of users out there. Complex computers benefit the tiny minority of users out there. Guess which type of computers will appeal to the majority and represent the greatest market? If you need a hint, ask yourself why the iPhone earns more than every product Microsoft sells and you should have your answer.
The Hidden Price of Cheapness
The number one complaint about Apple is that they charge too much. At a certain point, price is an obstacle. Just look at how much Apple once charged for a Macintosh compared to a similar Windows PC. Nowadays, that price argument no longer makes sense because Apple products are often just as much (or even cheaper) than comparable products.
Want a cheaper iPhone? Just get an older model and it’s often free with a contract with a cellular carrier. Think a Macintosh is too expensive? Macintosh computers, like most Apple products, have a higher resale value. In addition, you can buy refurbished models of current and previous models. Still think Apple products are too expensive? Ask yourself what’s more important, your time or your money?
Far too many people look at the initial price of a computer and automatically assume that the less expensive Windows PC is just as capable as a more expensive Macintosh.
Windows enthusiasts love to point out how inexpensive PCs are compared to Macintosh computers (except when they aren’t), such as comparing the cost of a Mac Pro to a similar Windows PC or comparing the cost of a 5K iMac to a Dell 5K monitor where the price for a Dell monitor was initially equal to a 27-inch iMac and its 5K monitor).
One reason why PCs are so cheap is because manufacturers use cheaper parts to make them. It’s much less expensive to use plastic for a typical PC laptop compared to carved aluminum for a MacBook Pro.
A second reason why PCs are cheaper is because manufacturers partially subsidize the low price by pre-installing bloatware on PCs that annoy users to buy the full version of the bloatware program. The problem is so bad that even Microsoft points out the problems of bloatware as a reason to buy a PC from a Microsoft store instead of from one of their so-called hardware partners.
The big problem with cheap PCs is that they’re rarely designed to focus on the customer first. Instead, they’re designed to focus on the manufacturer’s profits first with the customer dead last. That’s why Lenovo now risks tarnishing their entire reputation just because they wanted to make a little extra money by pre-installing adware on to their computers that compromised security.
When you focus solely on your own profits, you’ll rarely benefit the customer. Vista’s annoying security feature didn’t improve the customer’s experience or productivity and neither did Windows 8’s confusing tile interface. Customers wanted a safer, more secure version of Windows that would make their life easier, not make their life harder and more frustrating. Microsoft basically released Vista and Windows 8 without caring what their customers really wanted just so they could make money selling a new operating system.
When you have companies willing to exploit the customer so they can make a little extra money, you have to wonder why so many people would enthusiastically support any company that continually takes advantage of them. How many people would willingly support a thief who keeps breaking into your house and stealing your valuable possessions? How many people would not only willingly support a thief stealing from them, but then get angry at anyone who points out this dysfunctional relationship?
There’s more to choosing a computer than just price. Would you trust a car mechanic who uses a Swiss Army knife to work on your car because it’s cheaper than buying specialized tools? Would you trust a heart surgeon to give you a triple bypass operation by cutting costs on sterilization so he can make a little more money on every surgery?
If a company focuses on pleasing its customers, the profits will come naturally. If a company focuses on profits while ignoring its customers, it may succeed for a while but eventually even its most loyal customers will get tired of being exploited and go somewhere else.
Business isn’t only about profits but about establishing relationships with customers, which will lead to higher profits. The more you please the customer, the more the customer willingly keeps buying from you. The more you exploit the customer, the less likely the customer will buy anything from you.
Yet Lenovo will probably keep selling PCs because people will look at the price of a Lenovo PC and think only of the initial cost while completely ignoring the long-term costs such as compromised security and decreased user experience. Perhaps exploiting the customer isn’t such a bad strategy after all. As long as so many people only look at price just to save a penny or two, there will always be plenty of customers for companies to exploit again and again.
Best of all, the people these companies exploit will turn around and become their biggest and most vocal defenders despite being taken advantage of multiple times. As long as there are people insane enough to allow themselves to be exploited and then turn around to defend their exploiters, ignoring the consumer in favor of extra profits is probably a valid business strategy after all.
The Technical Specification Superiority Complex
Ask most Windows enthusiasts why they love Windows PCs and they’ll typically bombard you with their parade of technical specifications that they got at a lower price than a Macintosh. Of course, having the fastest graphics card won’t do you any good if you have a cheap monitor, and having the fastest processor is pointless if you don’t have memory or a hard drive fast enough to take advantage of it.
When you’re doing video editing, a fast processor can be crucial. When you’re doing word processing or browsing the Internet, a fast processor will be wasted on tasks that don’t require a fast processor.
Even more puzzling is that many technical specifications sound good on paper but don’t do anything useful in practical application. Many Android smartphones had NFC (Near Field Communication) at least two years ago, which would allow smartphone users to make payments with their Android phones just like Apple’s iPhone 6 can now do.
The problem with NFC is that few retailers accept NFC payments through a smartphone, so Android’s early advantage with NFC technology in smartphones two years ago was relatively pointless. What good is a feature if you can’t use it?
Cramming ads with technical specifications only appeals to people who understand and care about technical specifications, which represents a small minority of potential customers. Anyone buy a car based on whether the engine can produce a maximum torque of 249Nm @ 4250 rpm? When was the last time you bought a refrigerator solely because it had a 406kWh energy consumption rating?
People obsessed with technical specifications often forget that technical specifications are meant to highlight what a product can do for the user. Technical specifications are not an end in themselves just like NFC was a pointless feature in Android smartphones in a world where most retailers didn’t support payments through NFC terminals.
Windows enthusiasts often criticize Apple for emphasizing appearance over technical specifications. Then these same Windows enthusiasts eagerly embrace rival products that also emphasize appearances to the point where they almost look exactly like Apple products.
Look at the difference between early smartphones before the iPhone and current smartphones that all now closely resemble the iPhone. Look at the early Tablet PCs and notice that today’s tablets all closely resemble the iPad. Even Microsoft’s Surface tablet constantly gets mistaken for an iPad during NFL games.
Look at Hewlett-Packard’s Envy all-in-one PC and see how it closely resembles Apple’s iMac. If Windows enthusiasts want to criticize Apple for emphasizing appearances, they should also criticize Windows PC and Android smartphone manufacturers that do the exact same thing.
Even more astounding is that when Apple’s technical specifications surpass rivals, critics simply dismiss Apple’s advanced technical specifications as a gimmick, such as the use of 64-bit processors in the iPhone. When rivals offer more advanced technical specifications, it’s a feature. When Apple does the exact same thing, it’s a gimmick. Does anyone else notice the double-standard of so many anti-Apple critics?
The reason Apple doesn’t emphasize technical specifications in their products is because most people don’t care. What people do care about is how the product looks, how it feels, and more importantly, what that product will do for them whether it’s running a quad-core processor or a wind-up spring. If a product doesn’t satisfy the customer, it’s useless.
Give a Neanderthal man a Windows 8 PC with 128GB of RAM and it may be one of the most powerful PCs on the planet, but that Neanderthal man won’t have a clue how it could help him in any way. Now give that same Neanderthal man a spear and even though a spear is far less sophisticated than a Windows 8 PC, it will be infinitely more useful to that particular person. If technical specifications alone were the only criteria for measuring a product’s value, then a spear should lose to a Windows 8 PC every time with every person.
As much as tech-savvy people refuse to admit it, technical specifications are always secondary to the actual usefulness of a product to a person. One person can be perfectly happy with a pocket calculator even though it’s far less sophisticated than a Windows 8 PC. Ultimately, technical specifications mean nothing if the product doesn’t help the user in any way, which is a fact that tech-savvy people have trouble understanding.
That’s why Apple rarely markets to the tech-savvy crowd because those are the wrong customers for Apple. Instead, Apple markets to people who want simple solutions to complex tasks, regardless of the technical specifications buried inside the product. On the other hand, tech-savvy people prefer complex solutions to simple tasks, regardless of the difficulty in achieving any useful result (Windows 8). Oftentimes, achieving a useful result can be omitted altogether just as long as the complexity of the device provides enough advanced technical specifications to gloat about (whether those advanced technical specifications do anything useful or not).
To promote the Apple Watch in China, Apple isn’t parading a bunch of confusing technical jargon to potential customers. Instead, they’re strapping the Apple Watch on the cover of Vogue and letting people see how an Apple Watch can be a fashion accessory as well as a useful device. People buy emotionally, which is why technical specifications rarely sway anyone except for tech-savvy people who aren’t interested in simple solutions anyway. Apple is promoting the Apple Watch for how it looks and what it can do. Nowhere will you find any emphasis on the speed of the RAM chips buried inside. Given a choice between fashion and technical specifications, the majority of the world prefers fashion, especially if the fashionable device can still provide useful results that technically-ladened devices can never do.
Will a product make customers feel good about their purchase? Will a product do something useful for a customer? Those are the only two questions you really need to consider. Technical specifications are always a means to an end, but never an end in themselves.
The Lack of Vision
One unique characteristic of Apple is that they often demonstrate a long-term vision and work tirelessly to fulfill it. When Apple introduced the iPhone 4S, the big feature was Siri, a voice-activated assistant. While critics dismissed Siri as a gimmick, they quickly offered similar products such as Google Now and Microsoft Cortana.
While these other voice-activated products may be equal or even superior to Siri, the companies behind them lacked the vision to see where they could apply their technology for future products. Siri makes the Apple Watch far more useful since its tiny screen makes traditional touch screen interfaces far more difficult.
When Apple introduces a product, they either kill it quickly (Ping, MobileMe, etc.) or they use it as part of their long-term strategy. Siri now powers Apple’s CarPlay. In the meantime, Microsoft developed Windows Embedded Automative that uses a different voice-activated feature separate from Cortana.
When Apple introduced iOS to power the iPhone, they had the foresight to use that same operating system for the iPad. In comparison, Microsoft developed Windows Phone to counter the iPhone, then got caught flat-footed when the iPad came out.
In response, Microsoft created Windows RT on the original Surface tablet to compete against the iPad. Unfortunately, Windows RT apps weren’t compatible with Windows Phone apps, and neither Windows RT or Windows Phone apps were compatible with Windows 8, creating three separate app stores and three different ways to develop apps.
Now Microsoft’s latest goal is to offer Universal Apps where developers can write a single app that can run on multiple devices. While admirable, shouldn’t Microsoft have thought of this before they introduced Windows Phone and Windows RT along with Windows 8? Chaos and confusion is the price you pay for the lack of a long-term vision.
As anyone who has suffered through the various user interface changes between different versions of Microsoft Office and Windows knows, constantly relearning new skills to accomplish familiar tasks is simply a waste of time. Technology should make tasks easier, not different and harder. Much of the problem with rival products like Android and Windows is that they suffer from Apple-envy. They want to be like Apple without actually offering all the ease of use and simplicity that Apple products offer.
The time and frustration wasted trying to get your computer to work often translates into anger that there could actually be an easier solution. People tied to the familiarity of complexity feel they’ve spent so much time mastering the complexity of their rival products that they’re reluctant to lose their hard-earned knowledge to use and switch to something else.
Far too many people think that innovation should exactly duplicate existing technology otherwise it’s doomed to failure. Just read through this list of 42 reasons why netbooks are better than the iPad that appeared in PC Magazine. Now go through each reason and you’ll see that it focuses mostly on clinging to the past without recognizing the future.
When you follow a company that lacks vision, you’ll often go around in circles wasting time. When you follow a company that has a long-term vision and executes its plan, then your life will be much easier with less relearning and more productivity.
To see the danger of lacking vision, all you have to do is see what Steve Ballmer, then Microsoft’s CEO, thought of the iPhone back in 2007.
The Real Foundation of Criticism
Ultimately the foundation of most anti-Apple critics rests solely on their inability to see the future and accept the idea that their current technology may no longer be the best, most productive, or most popular any more. Does anyone like finding themselves suddenly obsolete overnight?
Did blacksmiths cheer the introduction of the automobile? Did slide ruler manufacturers readily accept the simplicity of pocket calculators? Did music stores celebrate the popularity of digital downloads and streaming video?
When your whole way of life threatens to disappear tomorrow, you’ll do anything to fight this change including lying. Here you can see an interview with Bill Gates who says the iPad is flawed because it won’t let you input any data. When you have to resort to blatant inaccuracies like this, then you know you’re getting desperate, and rabid desperation is the only hope anti-Apple critics have left.