I've had some interesting discussions of late about phone and computer Operating Systems. Some time back, I pulled out my BHi (Big Hunking iPhone) at a table in a bar and the guy next to me asked if it was an iPhone and proceeded to tell me about his daughter's problems with backing up to iCloud. We won't mention my assumptions about anyone who would trust their backups to iCloud. He then went on with a monologue about the superiority of Android and Linux. Basically I just let him talk. And then there was Ron White's Point - Counterpoint at Offline a few weeks ago.
These exchanges do bring to mind some of the differing expectations people bring to their devices and computing experiences. As I've spent some time in just about all the camps, I feel qualified to make some generalizations.
I now consider myself more an Apple person because I've come to the point where I just want my devices to work. Yes, I've rooted and jailbroken phones, and installed 3rd party ROMs on them. I've also installed and used Linux on laptops. There is that feeling of control and jubilation when you actually get these things to work and are customized to your specifications. There are also hours of frustration where you spend time on various forums looking for answers as to why it's not working. So, for people who like to hack and customize, I can see the appeal of Android and Linux. For the rest of us, we may have other ways we like to spend our time.
With Apple, most of the big decisions are made for you and you just agree to them. They do know what's best after all. It's probably the most locked down of all the hardware and software platforms. But by and large it works. And if you're willing and able to afford to drink the KoolAid, it all works pretty well together in the Apple universe. My iMac and iPad and iPhone should sync pretty well with the new updates to Mac OSX Yosemite and iOS 8.1. With outside control, comes the promise of seamless integration. And also fairly high expectations. So when they don't pull it off, you hear a lot of screaming.
I think that Apple also makes the most user friendly devices. You do pay a premium for that. But it's what I would choose for mom or grandma if I didn't want to have to do a lot of tech support. And if you do need tech support, Apple support is excellent. If you're lucky enough to live in an area with Apple Stores, you'll also have access to classes and support there.
I don't think that a lot of laptop or desktop computer buyers are likely to buy a Linux machine by mistake so I'm not too concerned about that. But I think there are a lot of people who buy cheap Android phones and/or tablets strictly based on price and often come to regret their decisions. Don't get me wrong, the high end Android phones: Samsung Galaxy S and Notes series, Motorola Moto X, Nexus 6, etc. are all excellent hardware and software wise. But while some people love to argue about the relative merits of Android vs. Apple as well as the relative merits of those who choose one or the other, it's kind of a silly distinction for most. If you're in the Apple ecosystem, you'll probably go with iPhone. If you're not, you have a choice to make, whose ecosystem do you want to buy into? Google and its hardware partners? If so, which hardware partner? Other than that, the products are pretty similar. But you may well reach a point with Android where your device is not working exactly as you want it to and it may be difficult to find help. Perhaps your cellular carrier or the box store where you bought it can help. But because of the insanely large number of Android devices and OSs out in the wild at any one time, it may be difficult to find someone with expertise with your exact device to help you through your problem. This is great for hackers who view this as a challenge, but not so great for people who just want Apple-style reliability.
And I have to offer a huge caveat about the cheap Android devices! You're usually buying an older Android OS that may be buggy and will never be updated. You have to deal with phone manufacturer and carrier user interface decisions and apps. If grandma doesn't understand that she's starting off with an inferior product, she's probably not going to be hacking it to make it work better. If you're comfortable playing that role, so be it. If not, spend a little more at the outset and at least get her a flagship device.
One message Apple is trying to get out now is that they're more respectful of your privacy. This started right after the iCloud photo debacle. But the main point is a valid one. Apple wants to sell you their hardware and software. They also want to take a cut of apps, music and movies you purchase through iTunes. But other than that, they're not interested in collecting your personal data or selling it to others. With Google, that's how they make their money - collecting your personal data via search and free apps and then selling it for advertising. I may be in the Apple camp but I use a lot of Google products so they're both making money off of me. Obviously, this is not an issue for me but it may be for some of you.
Another message Apple is pushing at the moment is the desirability of their products for creatives. You can create art using their devices - music, film, design, etc. I think this is also an interesting strategy and seems appropriate. A lot of the anti-Apple arguments I hear seem to come from people I would designate as more left-brained analytical types. Apple is pitching to the right-brained creatives. These are the people who would most likely appreciate the design and style of the device itself and appreciate the fact that the Apple approach would seem to be helping them bring their creative visions to fruition without having to struggle with the technology.
I will include a brief note about the often maligned Windows. Most of us who've been in technology for a while have worked with Windows. It wasn't necessarily by choice. It's what was out there. I started with it in the MS-DOS days and moved into Windows 3.1 and all along the line. I've had my share of blue screens of death. But by and large it and the Office suite of applications has enabled me to do what I've needed to do personally and professionally. In fact, I have an Office 365 subscription for my iMac and iPad. Microsoft is not particularly concerned about the hardware you use, and they're even willing to accommodate different OSs. I do wish they had a more compelling entrant in the phone market. I think it might have offered a good alternative to Android and iOS for the majority of Windows computer users. I got Nokia Windows phone for my work phone. While I like the design, I find updates buggy and the lack of apps frustrating. Consequently, it's difficult for me to recommend it.
Of course, there isn't one answer for everyone. I'm glad there are choices out there.
Would love to hear comments on your choices and why? How do you help people in your communities navigate through all of these technology choices?
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Resources and References
- Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet by Katie Hafner
- The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
- What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff
- From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism by Fred Turner
- Technics and Civilization by Lewis Mumford
- The Gutenberg Galaxy by Marshall McLuhan
- The Global Village: Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan and Terrence Gordon
- Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
- When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken and Stanley Schachter
- The Mature Mind by Harry Allen Overstreet
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Akamai's State of the Internet Q1 2014
- Deloite Tech Trends 2015
- J. C. R. Licklider's articles about his vision of the net
- Ebook Usage in Public Libraries (School Library Journal)
- Ebook Usage in School Libraries (School Library Journal)
- Pew Research Center - Public and Scientists Views on Science and Society