Note - BerkeleyLUG blog posts are written by BerkeleyLUG members of various backgrounds, levels of experience etc... The views and opinions in each blog post do not represent the views of the group as a whole or the founders.

Why I still don’t use Apple Products…

Posted on Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 11:29 am by jdeslip


… and, if you care about innovation, you shouldn’t either.

Just over two years ago, I wrote an entry for BerkeleyLUG in which I tried to explain to the sometimes baffled people in my life why I so strongly oppose Apple - http://goo.gl/xhc5. While the ultra-closed nature of their devices (see the above article for a small subset of examples illustrating Apple’s closed nature) is a major reason why I don’t personally use Apple products, it was their recent (at the time) litigation against competing open-source products that really got my goat.

I am writing today, with great sadness, because matters have only gotten worse. In the United States alone, in the past few months, Apple has taken advantage of the broken patent system to ban multiple competing products from consumers’ hands:

Apple succeeded in blocking all HTC Android devices from entering the country, forcing HTC to remove common features from its phones and now continues to pursue further litigation against the modified devices - http://goo.gl/j6zrR. In this case, Apple is using a dubious patent that gives them the sole right to detect text strings like phone numbers in documents and to allow users to press on them to perform actions.

Apple has succeeded in getting an injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab because they have apparently patented the rectangle with curved edges despite the obviously large amounts of prior art. http://goo.gl/sqRD5

Most disturbingly, in the last week, Apple has succeeded in banning a stock Android device, the Galaxy Nexus, for basic functionality in the Android OS itself. The particular patent in question gives Apple the sole right to perform searches across multiple sources and to show the results in one interface. That is right, according to the patent, Apple is the only company in the world allowed to perform basic search. http://goo.gl/YuWHZ

I started BerkeleyLUG three years ago because I believe in the ability of technology to revolutionize the world. More specifically, I believe that open access to technology breeds future innovation and that this innovation literally defines us as a culture. As evidence, I believe the success of the most important innovation of our time, the open internet, is a direct result of the availability of the open-source standards such as html/javascript and open platforms like Linux, Apache, MySQL and other open projects.

The broken patent system and companies like Apple who abuse it are destroying our chances for creating the next great thing in tech on open platforms and standards. Instead, what we have to look forward to is a future of computing where one company controls the hardware, the platform and the communication protocols to network between devices. This is the future we will have if Apple is allowed to eliminate competition. They control the hardware and the platform already. Additionally, Apple has complete and arbitrary control over which applications can run on their platform (something unheard of in a computer OS). Not only that, they control the content you can sell on their devices by effectively preventing sales that compete with their own content from being sold (e.g. you can’t buy a Kindle ebook in the Kindle app on your iOS device – http://goo.gl/bC4GQ). They have even limited the platforms by which you can access the open-web on iOS – e.g you can’t use html/javascript rendering engines other than Apple’s own. Third party browsers (like chrome) on iOS are forced into simply wrapping a different UI on top of the one and only browser that Apple provides.

This is a sad state of affairs. But, I, for one, am not done fighting. Which is why I ask all of you reading this to join me and the EFF in fighting patent trolls like Apple by fixing the broken patent system. Please start by signing your name to the EFF’s effort defendinnovation.org.

And, for our future’s sake, don’t buy Apple products…

(edited to fix typos that shame me)

34 Responses to “Why I still don’t use Apple Products…”

  1. Patrick J Quinn Says:

    Ok, i get what you’re saying and i think the recent spat of legal action (where by Apple invoke injunctions against Samsung products and vice versa) have given you the ammo you needed to write this article with conviction.

    In software terms Apple are very much a user of open source, contributing only where licensing requires them. This says nothing about either the quality of their software or how innovative it is (Linux has been imitating Apples desktop experience for almost a decade to some degree) however i totally agree that where true software innovation lies is in the open source model.

    I DONT however see the Open Source community coming out with hardware which changes a market to a point where its beyond recognition (such as the iPad, iPhone, Air etc) . At the forefront of consumer hardware, Apple have been the driving force behind innovation for quite a while.

    I see a lot of this day to day in the office and so on, people have an emotional reaction to Apple products (they deem them to be elitist etc) and go out of their way to justify what is an emotional response with logic, clutching at any shortcoming they have to do so.

    Not ripping on your article, its a valid point and Apple have screwed up big time with their pursuits of silly patent trolling but as a whole Apple products are the best in their respective classes taking into account build quality, fluidity, usability (based on properly defined design principles) and application availability (iOS and Mac OS X both take their underpinnings from BSD so *you* can’t hate either too much ;) )

    I am actually tempted to send you an Apple laptop or mobile device to use for a few months just so you can see what i am saying.

    Just my 2(0) cents, no offense intended.

  2. blades Says:

    @patrick open source cannot produce hardware and market it in the same way due to budgets: open source, generally, is free and therefore *can’t* market itself as effectively as apple and the rest. look at xbmc/boxee as an example: xbmc is the progenitor, and boxee took it, skinned it, made deals with commercial companies, and broke into the hardware market. similarly, apple took bsd, and turned it into a commercial product.

    apple do not innovate, particularly. smartphones have been around for a long time before apple, as have touch-screen phones, icon-driven interfaces, app stores, and all the rest. what apple did very well was dumb it down, make it accessible to the average user (at the expense of freedom) and charge a premium for doing do. they did the same with tablets, too, for what it’s worth – plenty of prior art and pre-existing hardware in that case, too. in fact, apple’s ‘innovation’ is in patent trolling: claiming a patent on something that shouldn’t be patented (e.g. multiple source search functionality which google have been doing for years with google desktop, slide to unlock which is centuries old – sliding door locks anyone?) and then suing the competition.

    as to best in class, i think you’re probably pushing it a little. they’re a premium product, priced as such, and are arguably poor value for money. they’re dumbed down, simplified, and heavily restricted. to me, that isn’t ‘best in class’ by a long shot. i mean, would you buy an aston martin if it would only work with petrol bought from aston martin garages and could only run on aston martin roads? of course not. yet that’s somehow fine for apple products. as to build quality… apple have seriously dropped the ball there in recent years across all of their product lines: antenna problems, screen colour problems, exploding devices, battery issues, reliability issues… about the only real thing i admire apple for is their clear design ethos and their adherence to strict usability standards across their ranges. however, those are very much ‘al dente’ and if i’m honest i disagree with some of their decisions in that area. for the record, i used to work as a mobile phone developer, and got to try out pretty much every single phone available up to the point where the iPhone 4 was released and still maintain an active interest in that area. *every* device had issues, but until recently htc had the best balance for me (they lost it when they dropped the micro sd slot from their devices). as much as i loved the samsung s2, it felt plastic-y and cheap. the iPhones always say nicely in the hand, but were too restrictive and while they felt premium there were too many oddities in the interfaces and too many reliability issues for me to truly get on with it as a device.

  3. macias Says:

    @Patrick, just one note — usability? What is the meaning of purple rectangle? Or yellow triangle? Or white circle?

    You don’t know? How is this possible? After all it is exactly what Apple did with their “properly defined design principles”. They violated the very basic principle of usability “principle of least surprise”.

    What about noticing, that the folder content has 2 groups of items — files and directories. Somehow Apple missed that when designing their file manager.

    What about changing the size of the window the way user wishes to — like maximizing it. Oh, missing feature, for Apple maximizing is resizing to half of the screen.

    Installing software might be better than Windows, but it is a joke comparing to Linux packaging system (all I have to do is mark the package, that’s it — no dragging some files, no configuring it right at the start).

    Sure, MacOSX is cute as sweetest candy, but cuteness is not usability. And thus I removed MacOSX from my Mac and installed openSUSE.

    (I don’t even start talking about broken design of the hardware itself, like removing RMB while at the same time requesting for RMB actions. Or having TWO usb ports on the LEFT side of 15″ laptop. You see USB port is so huge it cannot fit at the right side).

  4. macias Says:

    @Blades,

    “smartphones have been around for a long time before apple, as have touch-screen phones, icon-driven interfaces, app stores, and all the rest.”

    Names and dates, please.

  5. blades Says:

    @macias
    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=first+smartphone
    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=first+touch+screen+phone
    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=first+icon+interface

    honestly, have you never heard of google?

    but seen as you can’t be bothered, try 1992 when the IBM Simon was conceived as the first touch screen mobile phone. not long after that, was the iPaq, and palm and htc all had devices not long afterwards. capacitive touch screens themselves were around in 1965, and multi-touch was around in 1984 in bell labs. incidentally, the Simon had the ability to dial a phone number when it was typed into an email viewed to the phone by clicking on it. sound familiar? hell, the lg prada was released the year before the iPhone and was almost identical in terms of functionality and looks.

    icon-driven interfaces first appeared on the Xerox Parc in 1973. most modern phone icon interfaces can probably be traced back to sony’s early colour models (e.g. k800) which pre-date apple’s devices considerably.

    as for app stores – try practically every smartphone platform prior to apple, such as symbian. danger os had an os-native app store in 2002, but 3rd part stores were available in the late 90s.

    apple did not and have not created anything new. what they have done is recombined and repackaged effectively, taken advantage of technology, dumbed it down to make it mass-market accessible, and marketed superbly. i’m more than happy for them to do this – provided that they don’t attempt to litigate other companies or stifle ‘innovation’ using patents on ideas that they stole themselves.

  6. macias Says:

    @Blades, of course I heard of google. I also heard about “discussion merits” — in short facts matter.

    Now, thank you for those examples (no irony here), you see it is really great read (what you just wrote), and it gives way better perspective. And _now_ you convinced me to your original thesis.

  7. colinp Says:

    I do not, nor will I ever, have in my possession any Apple product. As much as I dislike Microsoft (by their predatory nature) they are saints in comparison to Apple’s “stifle competition” nature. What goes around, comes around and I hope not too late.

  8. Patrick J Quinn Says:

    Yep Mac OS X is not devoid of its problems, and when it comes to developing my applications (apart from Android development which works great in OS X) i use Arch. Still having studied usability design as part of my degree Mac OS X (back then anyway) ticked *most* of the boxes.

    I owned one of the touch screen, icon driven smartphones which existed before the iPhone and i am safe to say that it was the biggest pile ever and when the iPod touch came alone (before the iPhone) the technologies where *lightyears* ahead of the competition at that time. So much so that when the 3gs was about, most Android phones where still catching up to the 1st gen iPhone (by the admission of the tech journalists, not mine).

    Sure they dont introduce a brand spanking new technology to the market but they take concepts and make them work and in my opinion thats innovations.

    The iPad is the best in class (again tech journalists e.g *professionals* agree) i own the SGS 2 and my brother owns the iPhone 4s, if i had it all to do again i would go iPhone due to how the hardware feels and how the software responds, both of which affect my experience. The GS2 feels like it was spewed out of a toy factory in haste (the Nexus is actually a much better phone in terms of build quality but i didnt get it due to its lack-luster GPU)

    I might be overly particular about the finer things, but i despise things like ‘jankyness’ and poor touch responsiveness. it can have all the features and functionality in the world but if its ‘janky’, it personally affect my view of the device and my overall productivity. This is an issue with Android otherwise Google wouldnt have gone to such lengths with “project butter”.

    The where a lot in those replies so i am sure i missed a point or two. They are good points, i just am a stickler for detail and (fan-boyism aside) i chose apple based on that point alone and i am very very happy with my choice.

  9. blades Says:

    @patrick i’m a professional *developer* rather than a journalist, so i actually have to work with devices for testing over a long period of time, rather than for a couple of days to write a review about them. often, you’ll find that journalists will miss details that only become apparent through prolonged real-world usage, and even then sometimes only in comparison with the competition (which they may not have reviewed themselves).

    end of the day, you’ve picked apple based on your perception of quality. whether i agree or not with that isn’t an objective statement. however, the article isn’t talking about perceived quality, is it? it’s talking about apple’s patent trolling and how this stifles innovation.

    and the point is that innovation is about creation, about something new. apple polish and refine, but they’ve not created anything new. and in the process of their litigation, they’re also preventing *everyone* from benefiting from refinements and polish, particularly in cases where they’ve demonstrably taken this from other people. add that to their closed environment, their disdain for their developers, and – quite frankly – the substandard quality control of their recent devices, and you end up with what i would call a substandard product. of course, if you don’t care for the open source ethos or about open computing and open standards, by all means stick with the overpriced apple ecosystem. but those of us who care about freedom and are disgusted with apple’s business practices will go elsewhere.

  10. GJones Says:

    Ironic that Jobs (using a Woz’ creation) gained notoriety making devices to ripoff the phone company. Yet when push comes to shove Apple does not want people to use or modify ‘his’ creation.

    Woz’, to his credit, has always wanted to openly share his creations.

    Read the biography on Steve Jobs. Very telling.

  11. Ford Says:

    Unfortunately, the F700 photo listed here isn’t accurate. The Apple iOS GUI design comes from the Apple Newton along with the tag line “there’s an app for that”

  12. Ford Says:

    Also, on the voice command thing, Google could not litigate against Apple because Apple can show previous work toward Siri with the Newton. Apple has been working on it since the Newton… so … yeah fuck off with that too. I am not the biggest Apple fan, but claiming that Apple doesn’t innovate, or that they simply steal things make you look like you’re full of shit.

  13. macias Says:

    @Ford, go somewhere else and curse as much as you like. The web is not backyard for rednecks.

  14. blades Says:

    @ford the first voice recognition system was designed in 1952 by bell laboratories and was called ‘audrey.’ that’s 1952, which is a long time before apple. you’ve also got dragon dictate, ibm’s voice recognition systems, prior art in star trek and other sci-fi, and val which was used in the 90s on automated phone systems.
    so, no, it’s not innovation to take something that already exists and stick it somewhere else. at best, it’s an inventive use of prior art. that should not be patentable. perhaps the *mechanism* they use to perform the voice recognition *might* be, if the idea of cloud computing hadn’t already been done, and they weren’t using existing data networks to make use of it.
    face it, it’s not new, not by a long shot. this is why the whole business of software patents is pointless, stupid, and stifles innovation. it’s not ‘we invented this’ – it’s ‘we were the first to use this in this context’ at best, and more often than not it’s ‘we were the first to apply for a patent for this in this context.’ it’s doing nobody any good other than the lawyers, and it’s harming competition. apple aren’t the only people guilty of this, but given that they used to be counter-culture, they’re now in danger of becoming the thing that they once hated.

  15. Sri Says:

    I use Linux mostly at home, Windows at office and recently bought an iPad for my son. I bought it for him because he likes it and for the superior display.

    I like Linux the most. Apple products are good for people who doesn’t know much about computers / technology. I mean, they will be happy with what they get and think they are the best features available today.

    One example here – I have been using Compiz for the past oh so many years, nothing like that exists even today on Macs (Windows would be an irrelevant comparison, because it is so far behind). The number of parameters that I can tweak to my heart content, the settings export and import feature, etc make it such a pleasure to use.

    Every product has its place. But I get annoyed when I see people saying Apple makes the best products.

  16. macias Says:

    @Sri,

    What you said is all OK, but it is worth mentioning, that we don’t live in a designed, predestined, static world. Your every decision has influence on other people.

    So on one hand buying Apple/MS product is just this — buying product. On the other hand it is supporting those companies. And they don’t give a damn, if you like them or not, what only matters is cash flow, because it allows them to grow.

    Except for buying Mac (I wanted experience for myself) I won’t buy anything from Apple. Or Sony. I wouldn’t like to see such companies that inject viruses into my computer prosper. Or companies that control my every move. I would be happy if other people stop supporting them, and so — I don’t support them.

    The world is what we make of it. And for me, freedom is one of two of the finest products you can have (the second one is fairness).

  17. Ken Scharf Says:

    Early iPods were open enough (despite Apple) to allow running third party software on them (Rockbox, Linux, etc)but the current few generations have been nailed shut. Apple still refuses to port iTunes to Linux (though there has been some success running it under Wine). Only greed has forced them to port iTunes to Windows (in the begining iPod/iTunes was strickly a Mac affair). OsX is a rippoff of BDS and Linux. Many Apple multimedia formats are also unavailable on Linux, and Flash is banned on Apple (though there are solutions for this, and maybe Apple is right about Flash after all …..)

    Still Apple products are sexy, with leading edge ideas. Not necessarly original, but perfected. I can only think of two or three Apple “bombs”, Apple III computer, Lisa, and Newton. Lisa was really just a half baked Mac, so Apple got that right the second time. Newton was ahead of it’s time, the iPhone picks up where it dropped the ball. The Apple III was probably designed by a stoned Woz.

  18. JJ Says:

    I used to want a career in IT/engineering. Now I actively seek out ways to work around computers instead of having one.

  19. Dave Says:

    Regarding prior art, everyone seems to have forgotten Sidekick (1983) where it would recognise text in a document as a phone number and would dial the number using an internal modem.

  20. jdeslip Says:

    Hi all – original author here. Thanks for keeping this comment section *mostly* classy. It is good to know that we have a higher quality discussion here than in Engadget’s comment area.

    @Patrick – I don’t think anyone would claim that Apple doesn’t innovate at all. The mobile space in general (and not any one company) is rapidly innovating and that is in large part thanks to competition. For example, a very small subset of the features that Apple has “borrowed” from Android include: the entire notification system, voice typing, quick replies, multi-tasking, cut-and-paste etc… Obviously many of these evolved from other products and have gone back and forth between iOS and Android a few times.

    Additionally, I do think because of Apples marketing prowess, they are often credited with more innovation than they deserve. The iPhone was not the first phone with a capacitive touch-screen or a grid of icons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LG_Prada). It wasn’t the first phone with apps. Apple definitely didn’t invent the app-store or the single place to update all your apps. They didn’t invent the touch-screen tablet (archos anyone?) or the rectangle even.

    And, they definitely didn’t invent the idea of showing search results from multiple sources (hint – nobody in this century did) – despite the fact they are banning Android devices because they convinced some judge that they did.

    What they have done is advertised all these features so well that people forgot they all existed before Apple. That is, in my opinion, what apple does best: advertising.

    Ultimately, I believe it should be up to the consumer to choose which product and platform to support. I have no problem with people using Apple products, even though, the closed nature of their products make it the wrong choice for myself. What really bothers me, though, is when Apple tries to prevent the consumer from having this choice. That is wrong and I believe it warrants a strong response from the community. Which is why I ask that if you care about such matters that you sign the EFF petition and vote against Apple with your pocketbooks.

  21. Johny Boy Says:

    This doesn’t say much about Apple, it does say a lot about the state of the American patent system and how it can be abused.

  22. dd-man Says:

    Let them (Apple) keep litigating all they want, and in time all their creative juices will be funneled only in that direction, at the expense of innovation and new products. You see, with this behavior they are paving a path to oblivion without even realizing it.

    Recently in a discussion, I and some of my friends came to the conclusion that the death of Steve Jobs simply lit the fuse of their on demise, because Apple at its best was always one man show.

  23. macias Says:

    @dd-man, and do you guarantee that they won’t bribe Congressmen? They won’t change the law for their favors? They destroy innovation?

    As long as Apple is so arrogant, I don’t care about them — but I do care about others (including myself). And what you say is simply giving up the fight, and letting bad people gain more power.

    (Maybe I am biased, but your words are very close to the sayings just after Soviet Revolution, when scientists were forced to clean the streets. People said “ah, don’t worry, this is just temporary, let them [communists] have some fun, it will collapse anyway”.)

    There is also purely logical reason to act now — it is easier to fight when Apple has to prove its value, than when it becomes really dominant (like MS on desktop).

  24. Jordan Says:

    So the jist of why you don’t use Apple products is that they choose to enforce their patents (which they are required to do by law) and that Apple chooses to go after companies that infringe on their patents?

    Personally I am against hardware and software patents from an open source point-of-view, but to say Apple is the bad guy here in this situation does not make sense. In patent law the company has the sole responsibility of going after those who infringe on their patents or that company, Apple in this case, loses the rights to their patent. Yes, it’s stupid and inane but it still stands. Did you consider that HTC and Samsung should not have violated Apple’s patents (if in fact, they actually did)?

    In the long-term there is really no advantage for hardware and software patents, which companies like Apple, HTC, and Samsung fail to understand and realize, so they end up in costly patent battles which in the end hurt themselves but more importantly their customer.

    The reason I don’t use Apple products is much simpler and better: I don’t want to pay the price that Apple charges for their products. Also, I am able to find hardware that suits my needs better and at a lower cost.

  25. macias Says:

    @Jordan,

    You can patent given thing just as a countermeasure against being patented by somebody else. And you don’t have to sue anyone, you can “open” the patent to anyone.

    I won’t buy anything from Apple right now, because they are too close products (no USB in iPad for example, transfer via iTunes), the previous post shows perspective for people who like Apple product and see only a product.

  26. Shruti Says:

    1 thing that I would like to comment regarding the “Apple doesn’t innovate” theme of this article :

    Sure, Apple doesn’t always invent the product. But Apple creates the market for that new type of product. What was the smartphone market before iphone? Or a tablet market before an ipad? Certainly these markets were much weaker before Apple launched its products.
    And you have to realize that unless a market is created for the newly invented product, its further development cant be supported. In other words, if a market is not created for the new product, its invention is useless.
    Innovating the technology is a part of Apple products , but it is not Apple’s forte. Apple rules in user interface. They work towards making that technology convenient to use. And yes, if every technical invention can be patented, then every convenience feature development should also be patented.

  27. Soumyanath Chatterjee Says:

    Good war of words on the interface. Will someone care to check the origin of X in OS X? Apple had taken X Windows of Unix and OS/2 of IBM and shamelessly named the product OS X. And now we debate on the IPR forgetting the original products.

  28. Calls for Apple Boycott Follow Ineffective Android Ban Attempts; Judge Compares Apple to Animals | Techrights Says:

    [...] evasion from the ban, but not just yet. The customers suffer, not just companies. The Berkeley LUG says that “if you care about innovation, you shouldn’t” buy Apple products. It is [...]

  29. Richard M Stallman Says:

    Whether Apple is innovative is not the main question, because
    innovation as such is only a secondary value.

    Innovations can be helpful or harmful. The only way we can expect
    innovation to benefit people in general is one in which people in
    general decide which innovations to use. Thus, the most important
    value in computing has to be: to have control over your computing. If
    you ensure that, whatever innovation occurs in your computing can only
    be beneficial for you. However, if you make innovation the primary
    value, you will applaud companies for innovatively giving you the
    shaft.

    For freedom’s sake, we must insist on software that respects our
    freedom — in other words, free software, free as in freedom. With
    free software, the users control the program. With nonfree software,
    the program controls the users. This is what the free software
    movement is all about. See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html.

    The “open source” discourse, which focuses on secondary values such as
    innovation and code quality, fails to put freedom front and center, so
    it fails to show other people that they can and should demand freedom.
    If you care about freedom, say so!

    See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html
    for more explanation of the difference between free software and open
    source.

    Dr Richard Stallman
    Campaigning for free (libre) software since 1983

  30. Jonas Says:

    I’m suprised how the people, who don’t like the policy of Microsoft and Apple trust google blindly. Why are there so many Linuxuser also google fan? Google supports opensource and free software only because they get your data. Don’t use Chrome – use Chromium instead. For internet search take startpage.com. And don’t forget to free your droid.

  31. grantbow Says:

    Several good articles were posted about the closing arguments of one of the Apple vs. Samsung cases today at http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech

  32. grantbow Says:

    http://www.sunsteinlaw.com/publications-news/news-letters/2012/08/Timbers_201208.html

    the concluding paragraph:

    Judge Posner’s opinion, if widely accepted, would have two broad implications. The first is that any patent infringement case might be dismissed with prejudice unless it is supported by expert reports meeting exacting standards never before articulated by a court. The second is that injunctive relief will never be available for patents that are subject to FRAND licensing terms.

  33. colinp Says:

    I wonder how many shiny new Apple products the nine jurors and the judge will now receive, as a gift of appreciation?

  34. Kevin Says:

    I agree with the thrust of your article, however, I am curious of why you think that Apple is immune from judicial and political scrutiny. Both the EU and the US seem to be chomping at the bit to go after Google but I have not read anything about an investigation into Apple’s abuses (other than the ebook deal, which is not really all that significant).

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