Of MacMacs and Asshats

One of the main motivations I have in (re)starting this blog, I confess, is that there’s simply so much asshattery on the web about technology that the Angry Mac Bastards really can’t cover it all.

Now, understand that despite their name, the AMBs don’t rant exclusively about things relating to Apple. It’s just that Apple attracts a lot of asshattery. Some of the asshats are Mac fans (“MacMacs,” as John Welch dubs them). Assuredly, there are many, many MacMacs out there, and probably only a third at most are Daniel Erin Dilger.

But in my experience they are vastly outnumbered by the anti-Mac crowd. This has been going on for a quarter-century now, of course. Macs are “toys,” no real computer user would ever want one, they’re just overpriced status symbols, blah blah blah. At this point this sort of thing is barely worth responding to: even if it gets under your skin, it’s just so uninformed it amounts to trolling. Yeah, you’re tempted to go down the list of rebuttals. Yes, we can read and write all those stupid “office” document types. Yes, we can play your crappy pirated DivX movies and open RAR archives. No, we can’t usually play the latest games, but that multimillion marketing campaign that has you drooling over God of Heavy Bioshock 2000 was put together entirely on Macs, from the print ad comps to the web site development to animating and editing the TV commercial, so have a cup of shut the fuck up already. You can respond for hours and the response will boil down to, “Yeah, but you kiss Steve Job’s ass hurr hurr hurr.”

(There are more intelligent anti-Mac arguments, to be sure, but even the ones who come across as principled and eloquent frequently get a little suspect: partly because they often end up doing the same stupid snipes, and partly because they often end up being only half informed, like the common myth that the Mac just “stole” everything from Xerox.)

However, over the last three years, something new has happened: the iPhone.

The iPhone and its related gadgets, including the forthcoming iPad, are new for Apple. They represent a new kind of platform, one that’s got a similar variety of applications as a general purpose computer but that’s treated by Apple like a game console: they vet applications and control distribution. This is also new for Apple in that it’s wildly successful. It may not be the number one smartphone, but it’s right up there. Like it or not, it’s reset the bar. Within a year of the iPhone’s release, most of the smartphones on the market started looking like… iPhones. Big colorful screens, touch-driven interfaces, swipe to scroll, web browsers that could by and large actually browse the web the way a desktop browser did rather than the way Lynx did (Adobe’s kvetching about Flash support notwithstanding).

So this is all sunshine and roses, right? No, because of that phrase like a game console. Apple locks down the iPhone and this really pisses people off. Some of that’s perfectly valid; the “App Store” is, to borrow a phrase, a bag of hurt. Apps can and are rejected for capriciously stupid reasons, and since it’s the only real game in town, this is not the same as being kicked out of Walmart. It’s the equivalent of being kicked out of every place that doesn’t deal in gray market merchandise.

Of course, this can be really overstated: for all its warts, the App Store works for 99.9% of the developers (and that’s probably a low estimate). Most developers don’t have particularly bad experiences to report and very few fail to ever get their apps onto the store. The dirty secret They Don’t Want You To Know is that by and large, the App Store is wildly successful.

"They," you ask? Who’s "They?" Why, the people who’ve found, in the iPhone, a whole set of brand new reasons to hate Apple. It’s been a godsend to them.

Which brings me to Tim Bray. But not until the next post.