Nerd Butler

Dammit, Apple has me wondering

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Apple makes great products. They just haven’t been products I was particularly drawn to in the past. The restrictions Apple makes in the name of user privacy and making things “just work” always seemed to be too harsh for a nerd who wanted to tinker with his devices. So what happened to make me start questioning my aversion to expensive aluminum chassis and the letter “i” in front of everything?

Why I’ve avoided Apple

Let’s start with the disclaimers. I’ve used Apple products off and on for the last 20 years. In my home (where I am the IT support staff) there is an iMac, a MacBook Air, 2 iPhones, and a couple of old iPads that found their way into my closet. All of them are perfectly good pieces of hardware and serve their owners well.

None of them are devices I use on a regular basis because Apple’s approach always felt too restrictive to me. It seemed they were trying to hide the guts of things from me. They don’t want me to see how the sausage is made, they just want me to use the devices and not worry about how it all works. As a nerd, I really want to know how it all works. I want to flip switches and try to break things. To experiment with different settings and adjust every last aspect of my equipment.

Apple is opposed to this. And for good reasons. You can really screw things up if you tinker too much. And no one wants to break their rather expensive Apple product because they enabled something they shouldn’t have. So I have spent most of my time avoiding Apple in favor of less expensive things that I could tinker with and not feel as bad if I broke them.

Why I’m not so sure anymore

In June, Apple made a rather remarkable announcement. Over the next 2 years, they were going to transition all of their Mac computers to processors that are being built by Apple specifically for the Mac. This is a huge announcement for two reasons:

  1. Apple will no longer have to rely on outside vendors for any part of their manufacturing process
  2. They can make all of their Mac computers work as smoothly and seamlessly as an iPhone or iPad

This second point is the one that really caught my eye. Starting at the end of 2020 and into the future, a Mac computer will be able to run any iOS app in addition to the existing catalog of software that runs on a Mac. Suddenly the number of ways to use a MacBook just increased exponentially.  

It also means that the software running on a Mac will run faster, produce less heat, get more life out of a battery, and just generally give you more of what you want out of a computer than you got before.

I always thought that the only way for Apple to catch my eye again would be for them to loosen their grip a little bit and let me tinker to my heart’s content. Instead, they doubled down on their philosophy of controlling the whole ecosystem and in the process made an incredibly compelling case for why I might want to switch to Apple after a life of avoiding them.

So, how to decide?

I won’t be rushing out to per-order the next-generation MacBook. But I’ll definitely be paying more attention to reviews and announcements about the new hardware being issued from Apple. I’m pretty happy with my current list of computers and gadgets. But eventually, everything has to be replaced and when that time comes it will be a competition between Apple and everyone else. And I’m not so sure Apple won’t win out this time.

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