Here’s a little technology mixed with philosophy. In another conversation with a different friend, I wrote this piece defending the proprietary nature of Apple’s iPhone development and marketing. I forwarded a couple of friends this article, in which the author explains how within one day of buying an Android phone (after a week of research) a newer phone more like what he wanted was announced. He expressed how frustrated he was that he could so quickly get bummed out about a new product because there is no organized strategy for the release of new Android phones, so every day you feel like yours is already old news. My friend said, well, the same thing can happen to people who buy Apple products. Here’s my response:
Specifically what he said is that he bought a phone one day before the one he wanted came out. This would only happen to someone who happens to randomly come into the Apple store July 21st looking for an iPhone and hadn’t even picked up the New York Times or seen the Huffington Post that a new iPhone was expected on July 22rd. It’s much easier to anticipate Apple releases than random phone manufacturer releases.
I agree that on a yearly basis someone is bound to be bummed that their Apple model isn’t the most recent, but at least you can see much more of straight trajectory in design features and backwards compatibility at least for a few iterations (PowerPC was supported for quite a while up until Snow Leopard). Apple has sneaky marketing strategies, and true they’re sneaky enough to make people buy things shortly before a newer model takes its place if they’re uninformed, but they are anything but haphazard, and wouldn’t change in the course of a week.
It’s not really fair to compare Apple to “all android manufacturers” but even if you said Apple vs. HTC, HTC released twelve different phones between october 2008 and september 2010. They weren’t evenly spread out, but if they were that would be a new phone every two months. That much of a beat down to one’s new device appreciation is six times the strength of Apple’s on a good day (HTC released 3 phones this june). That doesn’t happen to Apple users ever. I felt insulted as a paying customer and consumer to have HTC release a phone just like mine, on Verizon, like a week or two after I got what was supposed to be the best phone of the year.
I don’t think this is necessarily a strike against ‘open’ platforms, at least from the perspective of the manufacturer. In other words, this release schedule may just be reflective of the company’s marketing strategies and design wishes and savvy (or lack thereof, see this article for more on that). So, from the company’s perspective, a closed or open platform could be released in the same way.
The difference of course, and where i think it is a strike against open platforms, is for the experience of the end user. When you’re relying not just on the marketing strategy for one company vs another, but you’re trying to comprehend multiple marketing and design strategies, which is exactly what you have with HTC, Motorola, LG, Samsung, who aren’t on the same page, and you have a sofware producer like Google who isn’t really orchestrating anything from above, the endless choices (and the obviously felt sense of crappiness due to lack of real attention to design and quality) can ultimately work but will create uncomfortable and frustrated users.
Let’s say I was having this same debate around religious communities. Of course the strike against a universal church like the Catholic church is the dogma, the you’re in or you’re out, and the direct control by an authoritarian. We know that strike against Apple and Steve Jobs, and I agree that it’s dangerous. But for the end user of religion, when you have an endless supply of Protestant churches to choose from, all with different marketing and design strategies, you run the risk of making the user feel unsupported in choosing a church.
Or with meditation you run the risk of jumping from technique to technique thinking this path is greater than the other one. And in many ways, time is wasted trying to make yourself work that extra bit to make something work for you, rather than have the church put in the energy to make it work for you, and hopefully their vision of what you need and what you need have some overlap. Of course I am disgusted by many aspects of the Catholic Church, but the fact that the infrastructure is so solid and in many ways reliable is directly related to their proprietary (poperietary?) approach.
For a mystic, or a meditation geek like myself, I get an entirely independent sense of joy from understanding all of the different approaches, and exploring and experimenting, just like a computer geek has fun using android, because the difficulty and the challenge of it is pleasurable. Same with riding a fixed gear…there’s a certain amount of pride in working on your own bike and doing it the hard way. I have that side of me, and that’s why I can appreciate android, fixed gears, and non-monolithic religions like post-Jewish-enlightenment Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. But i also have the more conventional side that likes really nice things, things that are well designed, well orchestrated, and polished, even luxurious, and simple. No Protestant church has that ring to it, but the Catholic Church does. No android phone has that feel, but you know when you use an iPhone that you’re using the best thing in the industry. Is it worth the dangers? Maybe not, I guess I’m torn between those two worlds.
That was my response, but for TSP readers I have a question:
Having to choose between many good options vs having one excellent option. Which is simpler? Which way would you tend to go? What are the pitfalls of either path? How do hold contradicting views when making decisions?