I don't hate Apple, they just really let me down

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 22, 2022, 6:00 PM | comments: 0

In 2003, I bought the third-generation iPod. This was about the time that Apple ported iTunes to Windows as well. It was a total game changer for me, and I remember bringing it to the family Christmas gathering to say, "Look at this! It's all of my music! In my pocket!" A third party made an FM transmitter for it, and I used that it in my car until about 2009. When the video iPod came out in late 2005, I got one immediately. That was also the year that they switched to Intel processors, and I bought the first Intel-based MacBook Pro. It was an amazing an elegant mix of power and design. I bought a Mac Pro desktop at about the same time. The next year I bought the first version of AppleTV, which had a hard drive, so it was like a video iPod connected to my TV, which was in turn connected to my stereo, so I could sync all of my music there. iPhone came into my life at launch in 2007, and it was the most amazing device I had ever seen. I updated to the 3G model in 2009. I was all-in.

Things started to get weird in 2009. They finally dropped DRM from their music, which meant that I could listen to stuff without an iThing registered to my account. But the catch was that they wanted extra money to unlock the hundreds of songs I had purchased, which did not sit well with me. Worse yet, there were some albums that I couldn't even "upgrade." By this time, I was already buying most of my music from Amazon, which started selling DRM-free MP3 music in 2007. I started dating Diana that year, and I bought her an iPod as an early gift, so it meant I could give her music without her needing my own Apple login. This was the first crack in the Apple ecosystem.

AppleTV morphed into a dumb streaming box with no real local storage, but I held on to my original one for a long time. Something awesome happened in 2011 though, when Amazon, where I was already buying music, offered a music locker service. I could upload the thousands of MP3's I ripped from my CD collection, and listen to them anywhere. This was fantastic at work, because I wasn't dependent on a device, I could just use my desktop computer. At about the same time, I switched to Windows Phone (I worked at Microsoft, so it was free), which had a crude way to sync music to the phone, so at this point, I was completely free of the iTunes ecosystem. My music was platform agnostic. I also got off of iPhone, more because of the free phone than anything, but I didn't really miss it.

On the computer side, I bought one of the early 27" iMacs in 2009 to replace my Mac Pro, because a screen that big was worth the cost even without a computer. I bought Diana her first MacBook Pro right before Simon was born in 2010. I was still using the 17" model I bought in early 2009, and I upgraded it with an SSD. Apple was still making the best comprooders.

I held out on the iPad for a little while, but ended up buying the second generation in 2011. This is where I started to get frustrated even more. In 2016, they stopped updating it, even though it worked perfectly well for everything we needed it to do, especially given the use by a 3-year-old. Some apps wouldn't run on the old operating system. By chance, I won a new iPad Air for responding to a survey, first generation, in early 2014. I still have that one, and it's really capable, but they've stopped updating it. Certain software, again, won't run on it. To Apple's credit, these devices last way longer than your typical 90's or aughts computer, but it's super shitty that they stop updating them.

My 17" MBP was replaced with a MacBook Air in 2012, and that was replaced with a 13" MBP in 2014, which Diana is still using today. (I still have the Air, too, for some reason). I came around to wanting a laptop with more memory in 2018, in large part because a lot of development tasks were being relegated to running containers in the background, and that required more memory. The laptops Apple was producing were expensive for what they were, easily comparable to Windows machines since they used Intel CPU's, and I couldn't justify the cost. Not only that, but they had those awful keyboards and useless touch bars instead of actual function keys that us developers need. They also had no useful ports. So I flipped back to Windows laptops, and the two that I've had have been awesome. Not long after, I built my first desktop Windows PC in like 14 years.

Windows Phone had died and I switched to the "pure" Android phones that Google was making, first the Nexus line, then Pixel, and I've not gone back to Apple for anything. During the pandemic I bought an iPod touch with a credit from recycling the first iPad I had, but it's only used for testing stuff on mobile Safari, and for Simon to use onboard Disney cruises to chat with us. Apple soured on me because of the whole music situation, the tablet support and the crappy overpriced computers. I was all-in on Apple for the better part of 13 years.

During that time, there were some real issues I had as a software professional, too. Steve Jobs famously said "the Web is the app" with the first generation iPhone, insisting that we didn't need native applications to phones. I still think he was largely right, but Apple itself made that harder. They saw a new revenue stream in app stores, sure, but they also were constantly averse to existing standards. Remember Adobe (before that Macromedia) Flash? Someone had figured out a way to wrap Flash and make it run as an app on iPhone, which would have been huge because of the sheer volume of talented developers who knew Flash so well. But Apple prohibited that. They also fought being able to run .NET-based code or Javascript-based code on the platform, until they eventually relented. They crapped on so many standards over and over again, and that sucked. Even now, Safari is a mess that doesn't adhere to Web standards, so my cloud-based music player won't work because media elements can't automatically play without human interaction. It's infuriating.

The point of all of this is that I'm not an Apple hater, I used to be an enormous fan. I used to religiously watch every product announcement. But they haven't been doing it right. Even with that iPod I bought, I can't believe what a mess that iOS is, from the convoluted settings to the mess that is the start/launch experience. I never thought Android of all things would do it better.

There is hope, though. The M1 series of home-grown CPU's are the kind of innovation that they were into a decade ago. They have energy sipping silicon that blows away the Intel stuff without all the heat and battery drain. The new laptops and the new Mac Studio actually have a bunch of ports on them! The new laptop keyboards are not a squishy mess, and have actual, full-height function keys! I have a 16" MacBook Pro M1 Pro for work, and it's total overkill for a manager, but probably extraordinary for a software developer.


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