Being the Square Peg

While listening to a podcast this morning they talked about the increasingly desperate tactics employed by Apple to sell more iPhones. It turns out the latest version of iOS detects third party repairs to the hardware, and essentially bricks the phone with no re-course. You might think this is reasonable until you discover that the Apple stores are not just going to offer to fix your phone – from this month they are going to offer you a kick back on broken or damaged iPhones in return for you purchasing a brand new one from them.

If you think about it, Apple are in a bit of trouble. Everybody in the countries where you might buy an iPhone that wants one already has one. Therefore the sales numbers are going to start to follow the contract renewal cycle of the mobile phone networks – which is why Apple are suddenly re-inventing the sale of devices to a subscription model, where you get new hardware automatically ever so often.

I think it’s becoming ridiculous, and I’m glad I don’t use an iPhone any more.

It’s almost like there’s a barrier to entry of owning Apple devices, and the barrier is getting higher and higher. Throughout the last ten years you might even argue that Apple devices were “aspirational”. I guess it’s easy to forget that throughout the 1990s they were expensive junk that had locked up the publishing industry in much the same way IBM had the desktop PC market in the 1980s. Who remembers IBM losing 17 billion in one year ?Owning the expensive device is no longer enough – you also have to take it back to the mother-ship if anything goes wrong with it, and they will offer to sell you a new one to replace it. Even better, they will try and sell you a subscription so you get a new one every year anyway, regardless of if you need it. What’s going to happen to all the old hardware? It can’t all be recycled, because computer chips tend to have all manner of exotic and/or toxic metals in their construction.

It’s almost like you were nearly a round peg, but Apple wants to glue you into a round hole, rather than letting you find out if you fit. I’ve had enough of it.

I’ve owned all manner of computers and mobile devices over the last few years – Android phones, Windows phones, Android tablets, Kindle tablets, Windows laptops, Chromebook laptops, Linux laptops, Linux desktops, Windows desktops - and the most immediately important factor in all of them has been how well they play with common protocols – how well they work with established networks and platforms. The hardware, and the operating systems have become a secondary consideration – because they are all good enough.

Granted, you’re always going to get edge cases – like my work laptop that has to be able to run virtual machines – but beyond that, “good enough” has become a mantra of sorts. All we really need is for things we use to play nicely with each other.

Have you ever asked yourself why Apple computers aren’t quite 100% compatible with wireless networks ? How about why Microsoft never released the server message block protocol to the world? Why did it take Adobe a decade to open up the PDF file format? Why does Microsoft have two differing XML document formats ? Why do DVDs have encryption not worth it’s name on their contents ?They all need their heads banging together.

I will freely admit that I have square peg tendencies – if faced with an argument I will almost always act as devil’s advocate – it drive’s my other half nuts. It extends to computers, technology, and the internet too though. Why follow the crowd? Why be just like everybody else? Why believe the marketing? Why not try everything, rather than listen to anybody else - and make your own mind up ?Be the square peg.

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