On Hating Apple, and Other Technological Musings

In a previous post, I was asked by a reader why I revile apple products. There is indeed a story behind it (or at least a long-winded justification), and I shall share it with anyone who wants to know.

First of all, I will acknowledge that Apple is one of the most popular companies in terms of customer satisfaction. There is no doubt, from survey data and the hordes or cult-like followers, that Mac inspires adulation, obsession, and hyper brand loyalty. In multiple studies of communities that form around brand loyalty, Mac-lovers are a common case study.

But the list of things that annoy me about Apple products continues to grow with every interaction I have with its uber-sleek interfaces. The reasons that others sing the praises of Mac’s design are the same reason I detest Mac. For starters, Mac intentionally designs its products to be a highly mediated, controlled experience. Users are not encouraged to know /how/ the product works– they are just encouraged to use, enjoy, and worship the Apple Aesthetic. Apple controls what apps can and cannot be installed on its products and it controls the functionality of user interfaces. When a Mac breaks, it’s nearly impossible to fix it yourself, because Apple keeps the “guts” of the device on lockdown. Mac creates dependence on the Apple stores, and is helping to raise a generation of people who don’t know how computers work and don’t know how to make computers work for them.

Every button, box, or app on a Mac is designed to do one (and only one) thing. It isn’t versatile, and does not accommodate for the unique needs of the user. Instead, it demands that the user learn the function and then perform it. I don’t like being trained by my machine– I want to customize my machine so that it works for me. It’s important to me that I have an array of tools at my disposal, and having a PC and an Android phone allows me to have options.

Apple products and software are only compatible with each other. It is incredibly annoying to me that I can’t have my iTunes account linked to my Android phone, that Apple forces me to buy their products in order to have access to the music/software/apps that I purchased through them. But Apple is obsessed with having control over not just the users’ experience but, indirectly, their content. Apple is so focused on protecting its company image that it sacrifices users’ freedoms and functionality.

I think that Apple feeds into a postmodern aesthetic, too, (as has been noted by Sherry Turkle in Life on the Screen, among others) that consists of surface and pastiche. Apple, in denying users the ability to access the hardware and the code underlying the software, forces users to interact only with the surface, interface level of the machine. The iconography of Apple focuses on reproduction of certain logos and other images that the user comes to associate with the brand. I don’t like to admit defeat, I guess, and like to think I’m not a slave to the machine and not a slave to a culture of reproduction and corporate over-lord-ness. I want the user to have as much freedom as possible.

To quote Tron: I fight for the user.