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Should I support this company?

This is post no. 98 for Kev Quirk's #100DaysToOffload challenge. The point is to write many things, not to write good ones. Please adjust quality expectations accordingly :)

Back in 2007, in undergrad, if you walked into the dormitory computer club room (... long, narrow, with computers along the walls), you would have seen a group of three guys, busy coding, all on Mac OSX looking desktops. Even though Macs really weren't a common sight around back then. So... this is the local Mac fanboy club, right?

Well, if you looked closer... actually, one of them was a Linux desktop, themed to look like a Mac. And... that other one... wait, that's... Windows? At least the third one was an actual remote desktop connection to a real Mac Mini.

We eventually all bought MacBooks though (the 2007, plastic white ones). They were awesome: super fast Core 2 Duos, high-resolution displays, and, of course, the operating system that had both an Actual UNIX Command Line and a fancy, Just Works GUI that could run all the things.

(I actually still have the same machine running as my main server on my LAN.)

Fast forward to 2022. Apple is, yet again, cool: their new M1 series chips are super low power and nicely fast. So... if I were to buy a laptop (... no I'm not; my T420 is still perfect), there could be a discussion of tradeoffs, benefits, downsides, ...

I wouldn't be too happy to buy one though. Even if it was obviously better than the alternatives, on all fronts. (... or, at least, in a way, buying one would feel like... giving up.)

It's just that they're not a manufacturer of computers anymore; they're an empire. People buy their products not only because they're good but because they want to be a "blue bubble" person (a tactic that is working out really well for Apple); because they have all those other Apple things, too; because it's cool.

They don't need to interoperate with anyone else because they're big enough. They can push their stupid flat design trends because they're big enough and cool enough. They can charge a stupidly high 30% for their app store because developers can't go anywhere else anyway if they want to reach their users.

Their users. Feudalism at best.

This, in a way, is really sad. I want a world where, by buying something, you express the sentiment that you like the product that you're buying, and you're happy for them to go on and make more of those. I don't really want to think about about power structures between corporations when picking the best phone to buy. And I definitely don't want to have to buy a particular product because all my friends are using it and the company controlling their phone doesn't want those phones to talk to my phone nicely unless I'm also paying their mandatory Empire Tax.

By the way, I'm not saying they're not making good products. This entire thing wouldn't work if their products weren't good. The problem is that you wouldn't have the chance to make a similar product, even if it was just as good. Part of that is actual network effects (e.g. all the software you'd need to port). An underappreciated part of that though is not Actual Engineering Issues but are about incumbent companies not letting you in.

... but then, to end with something that's not entirely just gloominess: the EU is, apparently, likely to accept some rules, forcing companies to interoperate better. Which... is a slightly different issue from Apple's walled garden, but... it might show that people do care and things might get better at some point?

... comments welcome, either in email or on the (eventual) Mastodon post on Fosstodon.