In the late 1990s when I was at secondary school, we looked upon Apple, its products and its users as objects of ridicule. We were proud PC owners, we valued the hands-on hobbyist nature of owning and maintaining a PC. We liked that we had the best games on PC. We had limitless options for hardware and software. We laughed at Mac users because their mice only had one button. We secretly liked how the steeper learning curve which came with owning a PC demonstrated our superior intelligence. The two people at school who adopted the first mainstream Apple products to be churned out after Jobs’ return to Apple: the original iMac and iBook were roundly derided by all us PC owners. We observed the clamshell designed iBook could also double as a colourful toilet seat. Whilst the iMac fared no better and inspired the following song:
Macs are sad,
Macs are poo,
Macs have speakers on their VDU
It all sounds quite juvenile but in essence Apple was different and teenagers have a tendency to mock such things.
Fast forward 15 years to 2011. In my household there is an iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod Touch, iPod Classic and iPad 2. There are still 5 Windows PCs all dual-booting Linux but my next computer will be a shiny iMac.
My opinion of Apple has changed a lot and it’s really because of one big reason: since Steve Jobs’ return, Apple was ahead of its time. It produced all-in-one computers when the PC market was still maturing. It’s safe to say now that the PC market is mature, a three year old PC is still more than powerful enough for all our home tasks: surfing the internet, domestic clerical work and enjoying multimedia. Fifteen years ago, Apple’s failing was to pioneer fixed configurations when hardware was still rapidly evolving. Our jokes were correct in the 90s but now it’s Apple who’s having the last laugh. There aren’t enough advances in personal computing these days to justify the upgradeable nature of PCs, the all-in-one Mac without user-upgradeable parts will satisfy personal computing needs now and for years to come. PCs still have their place for more advanced uses like hi-resolution gaming and programming but it’s Apple who has occupied the centreground of home computing.
Apple still evokes strong feelings both positive and negative. The detractors point to Jobs’ sneering opinion of its competitors. Some of it’s justified, a lot of companies have produced slavish copies of Apple’s unique innovations from the iPhone and iPad. Job’s personality is not perfect, everyone has character flaws, the CEO of Samsung and HP have their own, we just don’t know about them because the’re not public figures in the same vein as Jobs. No other company embodies one person’s personality and vision as closely as Apple and it’s under this bright and unforgiving spotlight that Jobs has been scrutinised.
Apple products are more expensive than their contemporaries but there’s always been a premium for the latest technology and for high-end aesthetic designs. The iOS operating system is tightly locked down for development but it’s this approach which made the App Store and its imitations possible.
Jobs’ legacy can be seen everywhere, the smartphones and tablets are the most obvious, the high grade craftmanship has been copied in the laptop world and the clear-glass, minimalist look-and-feel from Apple’s operating systems permeates Windows and Linux desktop environments. Apple has been running without Jobs’ full time influence for months and it has continued to produce must-have gadgets. Jobs isn’t leaving Apple but we should still take this moment to appreciate him, Steve Jobs the genius, the innovator and revolutionary of modern technology.