Monday, 30 January 2012

Apple: to eat or throw?

To start off with this is not to detract anything from Steve Jobs – he is obviously a very smart guy.
But, all I seem to hear nowadays is how awesome Apple is. Why wouldn’t you want to have the latest iPad (although I do J) or the latest Mac Air. My Facebook feed is inundated daily with someone getting the latest white box delivered to their door and how sexy and attractive it is. But how many of these “design loving” desktop users remember the 1998’s Apple USB Mouse? Considered to be Apple’s worst mistake they were a usability nightmare. Jobs and the Apple CEO’s could not understand why anyone would question their design sensibilities and supported the mouse for another two years before realizing (and listening to users) that the mouse was difficult to grip. Coupled with Apple’s trademark short USB cord (which they still do) it was a disaster waiting to happen.
Many other IT companies had failures through the 90’s and early 2000’s too: Microsoft’s Vista (2007), Intel’s Pentium floating point divide bug (1993), Google’s Checkout rival to eBay’s PayPal (2007), SAP’s, well, everything! I’m not sure that we have really opened our ears and really listened yet.
What makes us forget the history and revere Apple so much? Is it that we loved being locked in to a hardware device – one that forces us to work in a new way (i.e. no USB ports on iPad) or is it that the software design is so “awesome” that we let the bad things pass us by – and even worse, change us?
If the world of Apple is so good then why aren’t I sitting in my office at work behind a Mac right now? And why isn’t my user account and email supplied by a Mac server? Answer: they just aren’t up to the job of LOB applications (unless that business is design and multimedia and the guy in IT is dressed in the same skinny jeans and $300 t-shirt that you are). Apple’s WebObjects (first released in 1995 and still maintained today) tried to bridge the gap as a web application server (built on Java and then Objective-C) but it failed just as badly as the mouse did.
Mac OS X Lion Server sounds like a pending failure too – firstly it doesn’t come with an install DVD – you download the nearly 5GB’s worth - good luck trying to install without having an OS already installed. If you are installing a server for an enterprise you probably know what DNS is, so the fact the Lion Server removes the need for you to know that and makes it almost impossible to edit settings for DNS, DHCP, Open Directory, and other network service makes it almost unusable for IT support staff to use.
Maybe you’re not an IT guru, you just need a server and maybe you need to setup a database. Lion Server uses PostgreSQL and for all Apple’s “awesome” user interface, there is no GUI for PostgreSQL only a command line interface.
That is not to say that I don’t use my iPad to access my Exchange email account, and the iPad has a nice wizard to help me connect to it and other email providers.
So who’s listening and who are they listening too? They will be around for the foreseeable future, but let’s not revere them too much but remember that they failed just as much as the next guy, just bounced back bigger this time.

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