Apple is an arrogant, closed, monopolistic dictatorship. The Cult of Apple, according to Fox News and a pair of professors from Texas A&M, carries all the hallmarks of a more traditional religion. It's got the creation story. It's got the messianic leader who rose from the (professional) dead. And it's got evil archenemies: Google and Microsoft.
Most important, though, it's got followers -- millions and millions of followers -- who see only perfection in its products, whose dreams take place against stark white backdrops and are subtitled in Helvetica.
My family were early Appleites. (Applish?) Back in 1981, my mom wrote her first book on our Apple IIe, using a powerhouse of a word processor called PFS Write. The computer had only one 5¼" floppy drive, which was needed to run the software, so every time she went to save her file she was prompted to remove the program disk, insert a data disk, save the file, remove the data disk, reinsert the program disk, and proceed writing. The maximum file size was 11 pages.
In those halcyon days, Apple looked certain to ride a smooth road to PC domination. The company had successfully brought graphical computing to the heathens, after all. But then the devils from Redmond appeared on the scene. Their GUI interface wasn't as stylish as Apple's -- in fact, it felt kind of tacked-on -- but they battled a closed model with an open one. Where Apple operating systems would only work with Apple hardware, Windows worked with everything, effectively recruiting every non-Apple computer manufacturer to its valiant cause.
Apple retreated to a cave on a mountaintop to lick its wounds, and, for a time, Microsoft enjoyed its own halcyon days. But then the landscape shifted again, with a pair of Stanford upstarts and a cool new product. They had no idea how they would make money, but that didn't matter -- with enough popularity and a bit of luck, they stumbled upon a business model that turned them into a mighty beast indeed. When it came to search, Microsoft's software empire was no match for Google's insurrectionary forces.
Meanwhile, Apple was biding its time, slowly collecting Horcruxes and regaining strength. Successes like iPods and Macbooks attracted more and more followers, until the time was right for the iPhone: One Product To Rule Them All.
Although Microsoft had long forgotten the power of collaboration, Google had learned from the Microsoft mythology, and chose to battle the closed iPhone with the open-source Android. And, notwithstanding the impregnable reverence with which iPhone owners regard their devices, the battle is far from over. Just yesterday, The Nielsen Company announced that Android phones outsold Apple phones for the first time ever.
Like all good stories, the question of which side is good and which is evil depends on, well, which side you're on. Talk to open-source fanatics (and, no, "fanatics" is not too strong a word) and they'll tell you that the ultimate evil is Microsoft. Try to extol the virtues of anything open source to Apple fanatics and they'll turn away and murmur to their phones, "We loves the precious, doesn't we? Yessss...."
And of course the truth is a somewhat murkier shade of gray. By increasing competition in the industry, Windows made PCs affordable to the masses and accelerated the digital age. Without an unreasonable obsession with design perfection, the iPhone wouldn't be nearly as delightful to use. Android may be open source, but Google's algorithm is anything but -- and, while open source can foster innovation, competition, and unfettered creativity, it can also produce some pretty dodgy apps.
So to whom do you swear your allegiance? Let me know in the comments or on @kcolbin.