Well, it figures. I find a Macintosh weblogger I enjoy, and now he is thinking of jumping from the platform. And he isn’t the only one looking longingly at the exit. Interestingly, politics seems to play a small, but important role in this angst. (though, less so from DrunkenB).
Politics? In software? Are you kidding?!
Well, not politics in the way that is played in the three-ring sideshow that is Washington, DC. Politics used to be simply the process of developing, and debating policy ideas with the eventual goal of implementing the best policy ideas. Today, politics in Washington is about winning contests for your team. I’ll present for you as evidence the foolishness that was the Republican grandstanding on the Theresa Schiavo life support issue. Republicans used to believe as a policy, limiting the powers of the federal government is preferable. That is, until Schiavo became viewed as a chance to win political points. So, here we’ve gotten Congress to write a law giving the grieving parents a do-over in the courts, after the failed attempt to keep her alive through a congressional subpoena. Now, this is but one of many times in this one sideshow where the political players departed from their policy beliefs to try to win a game.
Back to the software industry, behind the fight between free and open source software, and shrinkwrapped software, there is a policy battle going on that goes beyond the general Microsoft/Anti-Microsoft dynamic whether or not I should be allowed to tinker with the software and hardware I use. Should the workings of the industry be transparent?
Tim Bray, who is also debating moving on from the pack of Apple Computer users, lists as one of his reasons the fact Apple is very tight-lipped on what is going on within. Not unlike other companies, but it has been very intent in keeping information locked inside until it can make very splashy shows at MacWorld and their developer’s conferences. In fact, they’ve been taking legal actions against people who passed on such information to the public. Of course, there are very good arguments for Apple to take this line of action, but it goes against what has become the overriding spirit of the internet age — open access to information.
But being closed also means locking yourself out away from feedback, and a lot of people still in Apple’s camp seem distressed by the direction of some things. For example, some aspects of the user interface has been controversial to the community, but with seemingly little way to alert Apple of this, the consumer seem powerless. And the next release of the OS (which according to rumor should happen this month — now that I’ve entered April while typing this up), fears are being confirmed.
A more graphic example of this would be the saga of the English-speaking Canadian’s thus far futile efforts to alert Apple that the Canadian international localization settings should not assume all Canadians speak French.
Ironically, Microsoft — a company that is hated by the internet at large — has started more two way communications (or at least the illusion thereof). Though Microsoft has always been free of the lip in announcing things they want to do, going so far as to continually promise stuff they cannot deliver (they’ve been working on something like WinFS since 1994, and it still is vapor in the wind), they’ve been sending their programs to write weblogs to talk about where they want to go, today. And in far more cases than I’m sure Microsoft was prepared for, the web has been writing back, blasting them and specifically telling them why they don’t want to go where Microsoft is leading them. (Some of the more entertaining exchanges sit on the Internet Explorer Developers’ Weblog.) Yes, it makes for good venting by the ever demoralized web developer community, but I can’t imagine Microsoft not seeing all of this anger directed at them, and at least consider changing course slightly. This feedback, and the phenominal success of Mozilla’s Firefox browser no doubt led Microsoft to announce releasing IE 7 as a standalone client.
One venture capitalist is positing that Apple is becoming a “they” company, a company that has lost all touch with its users and is more concerned with what is interesting themselves. They’ve probably always been a “they” company, but that lately they’ve been really good at reading what their users want. Now, is that changing? I’m not qualified to say. (I’m probably not qualified to say all that I’ve have already.) The un-switchers could just be anomolies in the grand scheme of things. Paul Graham says hackers are jumping back to the ship. Reports say Macs are very popular on the Harvard and Yale campuses. But then again, sometimes signs of distress sneak up and you never notice it. DrunkenB’s analogy is that of tooth decay.
When user-base rot starts to occur in a given cross-section on any platform, it's often less like a heart attack and more like tooth decay: it takes awhile, you start seeing signs if you're looking, and then it eventually just caves in while you're innocuously biting on a bagel.
As another example, ask me about my Toshiba sometime. It will be appearing here, very soon.