Technology Weblogging

Tipping the Apple cart

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

There are some high profile folk in the technology and weblgging communities who are quitting Apple products: Mark PilgrimCory Doctorow, and even Tim Bray is giving it a thoughtJason Kottke asks whether Apple should be worried. He wonders whether these acts could be a foretaste of what is to come:

Nerds are a small demographic, but they can also be the canary in the coal mine with stuff like this.

Is Kottke right? Are these men the canaries in the mine: harbingers of deep and serious times ahead for Jobs and company?

I doubt the average Mac user has heard of Mark Pilgrim, or Cory Doctorow, or even Tim Bray. Kottke’s point, reiterated by Tim O’Reilly, isn’t so much that, “Look here at these famous people, they’re leaving Apple” or even, “look, these are famous people”, as much as these were longtime fans of the Apple/Mac environment. If they, stalwart and heavily invested champions, are considering leaving, will Bob and Alice, Ted and Carol be far behind?

Yes, and no.

These gentlemen are also heavily invested in open source and open standards, which has and will continue to influence their decision. The average Apple customer, though, most likely doesn’t care about source or standards; no, not even when it impacts them. Lock-in? What is lock-in. Lock-in is having to make a choice and living with the consequences. Heck, the average consumer is used to having to make that crucial choice: VHS or BetaMax; iTunes or MP3; marry Paul or hold out for John; Macy’s or Gimble’s; Pepsi or Coke.

To the average consumer, lock-in is equivalent to competition and isn’t competition supposed to be a good thing? As for the average tech, he or she doesn’t know how to communicate the awfulness of lock-in—well, other than acts such as switching to Ubuntu.

But then, a geek switching to Linux isn’t necessarily a new thing.

“Hey, I’ve switched to Ubuntu.”

“I find I like the Brazilian coffee beans, myself.”

“No, Ubuntu is a form of Linux.”

“Linux? Weren’t you already using Linux? I thought all you geeks used Linux. What were you working with before?”

“A Mac.”

“Mac? As in Apple? With all the aqua stuff?”


“Wow. Well, aren’t you precious. Little wittle command line scare the big bad geek?”

“Hey! I’ll have you know that the Mac operating system is built on BSD, a hipper version of Unix.”

“Yeah, but that’s like driving a Barracuda with an automatic transmission.”

Geeks leaving Apple for Ubuntu isn’t a Sign. Even famous geeks leaving Apple famously isn’t a Sign. Geeks leaving Mac for Linux is just another example of someone making a choice.

Now if Uncle—the man who can’t figure out how to use his toaster without burning PopTarts—leaves his Mac for a Linux box, well….next thing you know, Microsoft will replace Steve Ballmer with a black woman, and Sony will decide that art demands to be free.

In the meantime, my own Why Switch ad. Just tap the apple, wake up the worm.

Or, if you have time and bandwidth, the best version. Warning: Quicktime mov file, huge sucker. And one for your little iPod, too.

Quicktime 7 required

Print Friendly, PDF & Email