Apple v Google

Tim Bray on the iphone from his blog http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/201x/2010/03/15/Joining-Google: The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger.

He goes on to say why he disagrees, and he is right. There are too many companies who want to undo the benefits brought by the web by using their power and influence to create walled gardens. Almost every time there is a workshop on big company strategy, there is someone who wants to build one and force people by de-facto monopoly to pay to access it.

I like Google a lot, not least because they played a crucial role in getting my wife and I together. Google makes my life better in a number of ways, but I don’t like everything they do. I like the picture of my house on street view but am well aware that burglars can more easily scope out a potential burglary without having to lurk around suspiciously working out the best approach and where to hide while being overlooked least. And they are certainly more than a bit arrogant in their attitude to copyright, and I still have no idea how I will ever get paid for people reading my books free on their sites. But these things are just a few small cracks in their do no evil mantra, and I still think their corporate heart is still in the right place. On balance, they make a very positive contribution to the world.

I also like Apple too, to a point. I have had an Apple computer since 1987, sometimes a few, and I’ve lost count of how many that adds up to now, but a lot. But although Apple usually make things look nice and fairly easy to use, they have always spoiled it by being so damned arrogant about everything, and it isn’t always justified by the quality of their devices. They under-specify their machines. There is never enough memory, or enough battery life, or there’s a crap camera, and the software keeps crashing. Anything from Microsoft is pretty much guaranteed not to work properly on an Apple (I’m not saying that it will work on a PC either mind). And QuickTime sucks. I still regret buying the Pro option, since the key I got lasted about a month before the next ‘upgrade’ made it useless, and they wanted more cash. And I can no longer open many of the files I created in the first several years of using an Apple. So Apple makes things cute and easy, but they have a lot of quite big faults that go a long way to cancelling out their merits. And now, trying to control all the content is just a step too far.

So, on this battle, I will take sides with Google. Sure, they might want to take over the world, and are making good progress, but if they make it a better place, that’s fine with me.

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