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Welcome to Apple: A one-party state (tortoisemedia.com)
117 points by imartin2k 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments

I thought this was going to be an incredibly cliché manifesto against Apple's closed-ecosystem, and while in some ways it was, it was surprisingly good, and this is an exciting move.

However, there was an error (or omission, to be generous) that I found somewhat strange:

The development of the Macintosh computer, released in 1984, is a revealing origin story for Apple. Jobs had assembled a crew of “pirates” to build a computer as he wanted it, which meant attractive design, a symbiosis between hardware and software, and, most of all, control – of the consumer, by him.

In a hundred small ways, he made the Mac immutable and inescapable. Its elegant contours were actually hard borders, held together by special screws so that bedroom hobbyists couldn’t get inside with their regular screwdrivers. Requests to license out the operating system (so that it could be used on other computers) were refused or ignored. The Mac would be an ecosystem unto itself. People would have to buy into it entirely, or not at all.

Jobs was forced out of Apple for his hubris; then reinstalled in 1997, when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. With Jony Ive at his side, and until his death from pancreatic cancer in 2011, he introduced a series of products that were like the original Mac in spirit yet incomparably more successful: the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.

This doesn't note that right after he was brought back from NeXT, he was pushing the idea of licensing the operating systems to everyone (there were a few being developed at the same time, but I believe the one he was focused on was Rhapsody, which later became Mac OS X) very hard. So hard, in fact, that he dedicated like fifteen minutes replying to an audience question on it at WWDC.

Note that Jobs didn’t create Macintosh. Having found himself without a power base within Apple, he looked around for a project and found Jef Raskin working away on creating an information appliance designed for “people first.”

Raskin’s vision was that it be low-cost and emphasize the user experience. But he and Jobs had very different ideas about how to accomplish this. Raskin did not want to create a computer people couldn’t afford, and his ideas for a new user experience were based on things like incremental search, not shipping an expensive (for the time) peripheral like a mouse.

Likewise, a bitmapped display and the cimputing power to make it work added too much cost for the computer to be an appliance in Jef’s mind, so he eschewed the kind of things Apple was doing with LISA, based on Xerox’s Star.

However, Jobs may have lost his power in the boardroom, but he outranked Raskin, and he pushed Raskin out. The Macintosh became another LISA, but without the overhead created by a design team trying to recreate much of the richness of the Star.

The Macintosh that shipped was less expensive than LISA, but certainly not inexpensive enough to be an appliance. They were way more expensive than The PCs of the day, and might well have fizzled had Aldus not shipped PageMaker and created a “killer app” for Macintosh the way VisiCalc created a killer app for early PCs.

The story Apple likes to tell about Jobs creating Macintosh is entertaining, but the backstory is much more educational for those of us working in mid-sized or larger companies, with all of the conflicting requirements, tradeoffs, and yes, politics.

Plenty more of that kind if thing at http://folklore.org/

There’s a collection of stories about Jef Raskin. He was an iconoclast with an insanely focused vision:


And Jef Raskin eventually got to create his vision, in the form of the Canon Cat https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_Cat

So wait - did the guy invent the FN key? And does FN on modern keyboards stand for "FroNt", rather than "FuNction"?

I don't think so. The space-cadet keyboard had a FRONT key and it predates the canon cat by at least a few years: It literally referred to the characters on the front of the keycaps (as opposed to the top).

It is true that Jef Raskin set the vision for Macintosh as an extremely friendly and approachable computing machine.

However, there is other anecdote which says..

Andy Herzfeld, one of the Macintosh’s developers, says that Raskin is “much more like an eccentric great uncle than the Macintosh’s father,”

However, ..He also deserves ample credit for putting together the extraordinary initial team that created the computer, recruiting former student Bill Atkinson to Apple and then hiring amazing individuals like Burrell Smith, Bud Tribble, Joanna Hoffman and Brian Howard for the Macintosh team.


The folklore.org links I provided go into this and more.

As I’m about to type into another reply in this thread...

I think the conclusion to be drawn from discussions like this is that although narcissists like to suggest they and they alone provided the “magic spark” that make projects successful, it is an entire team of people who actually create revolutionary products.

The business press—and society on average—love the myth of the visionary entrepreneur, but upon close inspection, success has many parents.

>Note that Jobs didn’t create Macintosh.

You create the impression Raskin created the Macintosh instead, but Raskin was working on a text menu based system nothing like the Macintosh so that just flat out doesn't fly. Raskin assembled the Macintosh team, but the creative vision for the Mac certainly didn't come from Raskin.

The folklore.org links I provided go into this and more.

As typed into another reply in this thread...

I think the conclusion to be drawn from discussions like this is that although narcissists like to suggest they and they alone provided the “magic spark” that make projects successful, it is an entire team of people who actually create revolutionary products.

The business press—and society on average—love the myth of the visionary entrepreneur, but upon close inspection, success has many parents.

I was aware of this! It's always been a very interesting part of consumer technology's history for me.

Yeah. The story of LISA and before that, Apple III are also fascinating. A hit product like Apple II buys a company a lot of lottery tickets for coming up with another hit.

His son is also a UX guru and created the ultimate power tool, enso- a launcher.

For those unfamiliar, that’s Aza Raskin:


And he worked on Jawbone UP.

That was a really fun time to be a Mac fan attending MacWorld Expos.

Also really frustrating. So a company called PowerComputing was killing it making Mac clones (with the full backing of Apple) and which had a very provocative ad campaign (http://www.streamstudio.com/powercomputing/campaigns.shtml), and here's what happened: The total Mac market was growing, but at the expense of Apple itself, and all the news reported on was Apple itself and its stumbling financials. I couldn't believe what I was seeing at the time. Had they reported on the total Mac market instead, things would have looked stellar, but instead they reported on Apple alone, and this hurt both Apple AND the perception of the Mac market.

And that's when Steve Jobs took all the licenses back.

I had one of those PowerComputing clones back in the day and loved it. I still have some of those marketing posters, and recall that season of Mac history with fondness. It’s a shame the Mac clone market got killed off.

Mac OS 8 and 9 were licensed to 3rd parties under Gil Amelio. That all ended, and the clones as well, when Jobs came back.

NeXTStep (or perhaps more correctly OpenStep) > Rhapsody > OS X. None of that was licensed to 3rd parties.

> That all ended, and the clones as well, when Jobs came back.

That's not true.

I don't have the time to grab a timestamp right now, but he very explicitly states that he is pushing clones hard in this (and reps Amelio).


It's completely true. He came back, personally went to the licensees asking for what he thought was a reasonable deal. They said no five times over three weeks. And so he cut them loose. https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=maIgu_7oLm0

If this is true. It didn’t last long.

He cancelled all of the MacOS licenses by changing the next version of macOS to 8 instead of 7.7.

He also spent $100 million to buy out Power Computing’s Mac license shortly after the deal with MS.

What I miss the most from the Steve Jobs/Ive era is the surprise, the push.

They were moving the walls. Now it just feels like they're making the walls.

Steve Jobs' keynotes were legendary.

MacWorld Expos were legendary (for a time). As a late teen geek demanding to attend some, the energy at those was absolutely palpable, I will never forget it. They also apparently had legendary afterparties, but I was on the cusp of 21 just when the MacWorlds were hitting their stride circa 1992: https://www.macworld.com/article/2833713/remembering-macworl...

I'll admit life inside Apple's ecosystem is pretty comfortable these days. But with every new Apple service I sign up for and every Apple product I buy I feel a bit more at their mercy. It would be pretty disruptive for me to switch out of their ecosystem now and that makes me uncomfortable. Their rejection of the app used by HK protesters recently is a good reminder of just how absolute their control is when they decide to exercise it.

I don't feel particularly at Apple's mercy because I still have a pretty valid alternative in Android. I only switched from Android to iPhone a couple months ago.

And when it comes to services, that's a big meh from me. Apple TV? Got the free trial, never watched anything on it. iCloud? Backups and settings sync, something which I won't be needing if I go back to Android. Music? Not using it, since I imagine it won't have much of the stuff that I want to listen to (and even if I wanted to get a streaming music service, Spotify still exists). iMessage has zero market penetration here, Apple Card doesn't exist here and I think Apple News also is not here. Apple Pay, something that I actually use and enjoy, still has an alternative in Google Pay.

Really the only product that I feel at mercy is the Mac.

I'd like to diversify but I'm pretty tied in at this point. iPhone, iPad, Macbook, Apple Watch, Apple TV, big iTunes Movie library, Apple Card, photos, contacts etc etc. I'm pretty happy with most of these but the switching cost is legit.

Looks like the writer found a provocative narrative and wrote it to fit Apple in that narrative

That's how it strikes me as well, with the caveat that I worked for Apple pre-Cook, just before and during the Jobs years.

One could just as easily use the United States as a metaphor — obsessed with self-sufficiency, a "we're the good guys" attitude, suspicious of systems they didn't have a hand in creating, etc. The author's choice to use China seems especially petulant given that Apple is the only FAANG company whose business model isn't based on farming and selling personal data.

Isn’t that most medium-form content on the internet these days?

This article reminded me of this clip from Iron Sky 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEERq5tLiOY

“Who wants a stylus?” Jobs asked then. “Nobody wants a stylus”

The stylus is great in the right app(Procreate/Notion/Notability...) and holds more potential So: 1. Visionaries also have their blindspots 2. Ergo, App developers are a major part of what makes Apple great (FB etc moved away from this) 3. Apples ‘walled garden’ is the only platform with the potential to provide users a wholly unified computing experience, over any Apple device... a cut back version of Weiser’s vision perhaps.

You have to understand the context under which this was said. Back when Jobs said it _all_ of the PDAs on the market required a stylus to operate them. And they all sucked mightily. The task of operating a PDA (let alone typing) with _fingers_ was considered impossible. So Jobs had to persuade the public that this is a better way to go. And being a Master Persuader, he did. It wasn't a "blind spot" in any shape or form, it was weapons-grade persuasion.

Nobody wants a stylus to operate their phone or ipod or what have you.

Styluses were a product of limited technology in those specific devices. And even modern stylus implementations are lackluster IMO. I had a surface book for a while I used for note taking and I ultimately just replaced that method with recording audio and typing out highlights. Styluses are good for very specific tasks such as literally drawing on a computer or precisely manipulating 3d objects since they can be much more pleasant than a mouse for that task, but for general interactions? No way, styluses are awful. And they can be lost/broken.

So I don't see how this was a blindspot for Jobs. He clearly wanted to create stuff that was the computer equivalent of high fashion with mass appeal, not niche hardware.

Jobs spoke in a historical context but I see the Apple Pencil as a stylus and its vision as very artist-focused (niche).

Paranoia and lock-in, that's how I'd describe Apple.

I am sick of “apple is falling behind in AI because it isn’t stealing as much user data as google and Facebook”

This reads like a hit job. The writer wrote this with an anti apple agenda. He/she did not elaborate how Apple different from amazon or google.

Also why is the outside world so obsessed with secrecy inside Apple? If they have that policy it’s their problem. In fact if it’s an issue, it will be a problem for them hiring great talent. I don’t get as investors and users why we have to care about what they do.

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