If you had asked anyone even just a decade ago if Apple Computers would become the richest corporation in history, you’d have received a huge round of guffaws from a skeptical financial community. Overthrow the likes of Exxon? You need to get your head examined.
But then Steve Jobs got busy and along came items like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, and of course their anchor product, the MacBook laptop computer. Their interfaces are well-known for their ease of use, which might be described as “so easy, a caveman can use it.” Apple users have actually been encouraged to be proud of NOT knowing how a computer works on the inside. As a long-time Windows user, I know a bit about the hardware and softwRE architecture of my computers. Were I an Apple user, I’d be happily ignorant of things like drivers, DLL’s,
Apple users have smugly asserted that their computers are immune to viruses and malware. That’s only true to a degree, and mostly because the Apple user has tended to be a small target, a relatively poor student or a small business. For every Mac, it’s been estimated there are around seven PC’s out there. If you’re shooting critters against the side of a barn, it’s much easier to hit a fox than a rat. Relatively speaking, Mac’s simply haven’t been worth the effort of the bad guys.
There has been a belief propagated by Apple users that Apple hardware is better and more reliable than that of its PC rivals, but that simply isn’t true. Apple computers are made in the same Chinese factories making HP, Dell, and other PC’s. Apples arrive DOA and fail at much the same rate as Windows machines. Its so-called “geniuses” offering Apple support in the stores are the same sort of guys working down the street at the computer repair store. Some good, some brilliant, and some totally incompetent.
However, that is changing and now Mac users should be running anti-bad guys software, too.
If Apple only made computers, it wouldn’t be the success it is. Steve Jobs steered Apple in totally new directions with its non-computer products, especially the iPhone at first, but then the iPad.
Speaking of software, while we talk in terms of Mac’s, iPods, iPhones, and iPads, it’s really the software which has made Apple the success it is. As I said, the hardware is rather pedestrian and not all that different from what you can get in the Windows world. It has a certain consistent look to it because if there’s one area where Apple wins hands down, it’s in the consistency of their products appearance. They all look sleek and well-made, but that’s mostly just for show. Looking better doesn’t make them better.
More than anything else, it’s been the iPhone which has propelled Apple to become the richest corporation in the world. However, along comes Google with its Android phones. Suddenly, the iPhone doesn’t look like the unique world-beater it once was, and I’m not even referring to Steve Jobs’ “Your holding the phone the wrong way” defense of his phone having a poor reception problem and dropping lots of calls.
Take my phone for example, it’s an HTC EVO 4G 3D. Yes, it does take actual 3D photos and videos viewable on the phone itself. No iPhone can do that yet. Its 4.3″ display is noticeably larger than the iPhone’s 3.5″ display. The pixel density on the iPhone is technically better, but most people won’t notice the difference unless the phones are actually displaying the same image side-by-side.
Yes, Apple phones have quite a few more apps than Android phones, but many of those apps overlap each other with slight differences in features. The more desirable ones are also available for Android phones, or else there’s an equivalent or better one. Perhaps the several Siri-like programs for Android aren’t quite as good yet, but then Siri isn’t all that good, either. Entire blogs are devoted to the dumb things Siri sometimes says. And let’s face it, what can Siri tell you that you can’t find quickly and with better accuracy using software that isn’t voice-based?
Apple’s browser, Safari, is just okay. Most Apple users end up with Firefox or, embarrassingly to Apple, Google’s Chrome as their everyday browser.
And let’s not even get into the Apple Maps stumble, which forced Apple to go back to the maps application of its archrival, Google Maps. In case you don’t know what the problems were, this page should be good for some laughs.
Apple loses more market share to Android phones every day, and there are no rumors of any sort of killer advance to be offered in opposition to Android. And now we have the entry of phones and tablets running neither Apple’s OS nor Android but Windows. The Windows phones are slow to take off, but Windows is a very familiar OS, so expect Windows phones to gain market share as time goes by, if only gradually.
And speaking of Windows, it must be noted that the usual jab against Windows versions of the past, that it was buggy and crashed a lot, isn’t heard so much anymore because Microsoft has made a huge and very successful effort to provide a dependable OS. Starting with Vista, and even more so with improvements of Windows 7, it now works quite well with minimal annoyance, and what annoyances are left are usually easily swept away. Windows 8 is taking off a bit slower than Microshoped, but that is largely due to the radically different interface which takes a little time to learn to use effectively. Time will tell if Windows 8 works well enough on a small screen to penetrate the smartphone market, though.
And much the same is happening in the Android world with a plethora of tablets with advanced features being offered by a variety of competitors. You see, Android is an open system. Unlike Apple’s almost military control over its hardware, software, and apps, Android is open with Google neither approving nor disapproving of the products Android developers come up with. Each new update of the iPad so far is just an upgrade of the same basic design, whereas Android tablets offer a wide variety of options and features offering some real choices.
At one end consider the 7″ cameraless Nook HD which, along with its new big brother the HD+, has a display resolution about equal to the “Retina Display” touted on the latest iPads, but with a detuned and Nookified version of Android designed to make it a very fancy Barnes & Noble-oriented eReader with some Android features. At the far other end you have the Google Nexus 10 with front and back cameras as well as a 2560 x 1600 display resolution leaving the iPad’s 2048 x 1536 and the Nook HD+’s 1900×1280 display resolutions in the dust and at a price, $399, which makes it a far better value than the iPad. (It should be noted that the Nook HD+ has a 9″ display not the 10″ of the iPad and Nexus 10, making its resolution quite comparable.)
There is talk of an Apple watch on the horizon, with supposed (or speculated) features like seeing text messages and getting GPS-based local information on one’s wrist. Apple under Jobs was known for, as some have said, “products we didn’t know we needed until we saw them.” Frequently, those needs have been along the lines of needing to be an early adopter of new technologies, but not always. The iPhone was more than merely cool. It made many people’s lives easier and better. It remains to be seen if a high-tech wristwatch can do that. Perhaps if you can use it to make voice calls or conduct voice-directed text messaging while driving. Without something like that, it might turn into one of Apple’s many (but easily forgotten) flops.
At this time, Google is gaining ground on Apple. For a long time I went with PC’s rather than Macbooks and Android phones rather than iPhones for fear that Apple was taking over the world. Now, it’s starting to look like Google might do that instead. At least Google is an open system and doesn’t try to manage things to trap the world into using its own products—or those it approves—exclusively. Many of us view that sort of thing as belonging within our own sphere of control, not that of the device’s manufacturer.
I’m a lot more comfortable with Google than Apple, so I’m not unhappy to see Apple going into gradual decline.
On the other hand, Apple has surprised us before, but with Steve Jobs at the helm of product imagining and development. He may have left a couple projects yet to be seen in the development stage, and we may see a few of those in the next few years.
The question is, can Apple keep up with Google and Microsoft without Steve Jobs. I don’t think so.