There is, of course, the expected hoo-hah about the iPad. The rage between those who love it and those who can’t stand its proprietary nature is in full swing. Yet, I am constantly in awe of the fact that nobody seems to notice the obvious and simple cause of this clash.
It all comes down to one thing. Why must we be forced to choose between a good user experience and openness? How come we can’t have both? Every open platform has a god-awful user interface, relatively speaking. All Apple products, especially the portable devices, have a great user experience. I don’t personally like OSX, but I can’t deny that it gets a lot of things right that everyone else gets wrong. Font rendering is a good example.
People who don’t care about openness, or aren’t aware of the problem, are thrilled. They get everything they want. Hooray for them. People who do care about openness are enraged. Why are they mad about something they aren’t going to buy or use? This is easy to explain.
They are mad because they see an unfulfilled potential. Think of a screwdriver. A typical screwdriver can screw any screw that is of appropriate size. Imagine a copper screw and a steel screw that are otherwise identical. For some reason the screwdriver works on the steel screw but not the copper one for no apparent reason. I think most people would consider such a screwdriver to be broken.
A device like the iPad has all the hardware necessary to do a billion amazing things. However, it only does a few thousand things. Why? Because Steve Jobs says so. Who is he to tell me what I can and can’t do with this thing that I have bought? If you compare it to the screwdriver example, you can say that the iPad/iPhone/iPod are all broken. Broken technology enrages the geek, especially when they can’t fix it.
The nerd goes out to get a different screwdriver that is not broken. All these other screwdrivers are great. They work on all screws, as expected. However, they all have really uncomfortable handles. Every single screwdriver out there which is not broken is really uncomfortable. There is not a single exception.
Why can’t someone just take the good screwdriver and stick it on the comfortable handle? It’s so simple. There is no law of physics preventing it from happening. It’s 100% possible, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t exist. Every single screwdriver on the shelf is either broken or uncomfortable. The geeks can not be satisfied. Their rage multiplies exponentially.
This is the source of the rage against Apple. Apple seems to be the only company capable of making screwdrivers with comfortable handles, but their screwdrivers can’t do half of the things that other cheaper screwdrivers can do. Meanwhile, all those other cheaper screwdrivers give you blisters when you use them. I’m getting angry just thinking about this imaginary screwdriver scenario.
There are only two solutions I see. One is that Apple opens up. Apple is clearly capable of open sourcing things. They could just open their portable hardware and software, and that would be that. Obviously it will never happen, but I don’t understand why. If Apple did it, they would have immediate complete market dominance. If they had a comfortable and fully featured screwdriver, all competition would crumble instantly. There would be no reason to buy any competitor’s product.
The other solution is for the open source people to just shamelessly start ripping Apple off. If we can’t invent something better, which we clearly can not, then let’s reverse engineer and straight-up steal all of Apple’s stuff. Take the screwdriver handle down to the metal shop, copy it exactly, and attach it to a real screwdriver. Patent laws my ass. Why should we settle for anything less than achieving our full technological potential? Patents are supposed to help, not hinder, progress. If they are hindering, let’s just ignore them.
Google, I’m looking at you. You must know that Android’s UI sucks compared to iPhone. You have a jillion dollars. Just hire the best designers in the world, and get it done. What are you waiting for? You’re supposed to be a company of geniuses, why didn’t you just do this in the first place for Android 1.0? What can you possibly be thinking? What are all the non-Apple companies thinking?