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michael4774's avatar

Why do people have such a problem with Apple's secrecy?

Asked by michael4774 (14points) May 27th, 2010

Lots of people have been talking about Apple and there has been lots of discussion about their secrecy. Several companies have always criticized Apple for their lack of openness such as Google and I’ve never really understood what the big deal is for end users. Do people really care? Doesn’t Apple have the right to do what they want with their products? Are they supposed to share everything? People are even saying it is ”morally wrong.” What is this? Why should they share future plans and/or prototypes with the public? What if their plans change and the public is let down? The media already creates so many false rumors that build up so much hype that ends up letting people down. Don’t they already create great products? And isn’t that the whole point of it all? So what is the problem? Their strategy seems to be working. I am interested in learning why people really dislike this so much. What are the disadvantages to this? What do you think?

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13 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

I’m not aware that the complaints are about secrecy. The complaints I hear are about overcontrol of app writers, business partners, proprietary formats, closed systems, etc.

ETpro's avatar

@dpworkin That’s my impression as well. Secrecy during the development process makes perfect sense in the incredibly competitive, copy-cat world of high-tech geek gear.

Anon_Jihad's avatar

@dpworkin And don’t forget they’re Terms and Conditions disallow the use of iTunes to develop nuclear weapons. Fackin’ jerks.

jerv's avatar

It’s not exactly that. Unfortunately, the thoughts in my head on this issue are hard to put into words, so bear with me.

Most of the outrage I have heard is that Apple is a closed platform. Basically, it’s a little hard to get the development tools, the license terms on them are fairly onerous compared to the tools for Windows or especially Linux, and if you do manage to get something made then you better hope that Apple approves of it or else!

It isn’t a problem for end users who just like a magic box that can get them online, but for those who actually use a computer as more than a portal to the Web, a computer is almost by definition something that is supposed to be able to be customized without restriction. And then there are those who like to be able to at least obtain software that you can’t get from a closed shop like Apple. Hell, that is one of the biggest draws of Linux; you can get anything you want, and if it doesn’t exist, you already have the tools to make it yourself.

Compare dealing with Apple to living in a furnished apartment where you are not allowed to move the furniture or bring in any appliances that were not there when you moved in. Or a car where you are only allowed to refill the gas tank at the dealer and will get sued if you replace the stereo, install an air freshener, or otherwise make any modifications that are not a factory-approved dealer option.
Now compare the alternatives; Microsoft, which for better or for worse is the world standard platform, compatible with everybody and fairly customizable, and Linux, which allows you to do anything you want except steal other people’s work and call it your own. Many more options available if you just leave Apple alone.

Also, tech gurus are kind of like old-school hippies in that most beleive that information is supposed to be free. Shared. No secrets. Many of the early hackers circumvented security measures not because they wanted what was behind the locked doors, but merely because they didn’t like the door.

There are two definitions of “free software”; free as in speech, and free as in beer) and even people who have no problem paying for software want free as in speech software. And if you read many of the licenses for free as in beer software, you will notice that their terms protect intellectual property rights. It is perfectly acceptable to charge money for free software, so long as it is actually free.

Personally, I fond this abhorrent behavior from a company that took Xerox’s work and capitalized on it the way they did. And it gets “better” when you read the OS X EULA and compare it to the BSD license; a fact that has caused some legal issues. Had Apple written OS X from the ground up then fine, but the fact tha there is some BSD code in there makes a big difference. By the same token, I despise hardware makers that make it extremely difficult to write drivers for their products and for all intents and purposes will not allow their stuff to be used with alternative operating systems and/or do not allow the tech-savvy to tune the hardware to it’s maximum potential.

Apple used to be about freedom and all, They used to be the rebels, and I am sure that the disillusionment over seeing them out-Gates Microsoft plays a role in the resentment here, but the simple fact is that you cannot run a shop as closed as Apple does and not piss off those who are not sheep. As for great products…. matter of opinion. They may be great for those who are easily impressed and lack either the skill and/or ambition to change things, just as a stock automobile is fine for people who just want to commute. However, there wil always be enthusiasts who want to tweak this, tune that, replace the other, etcetera, and shutting them out will cause tempers to flare.

Okay, I know I blithered here quite a bit trying to communicate something I can’t convey succinctly, but I hope that now you at least have some idea of how people could be pissed at Apple.

Thammuz's avatar

As far as i’m concerned there is no problem with secrecy during development.

The problem is when this secrecy extends to the fact that the end user isn’t allowed to know what your programs do and is supposed to let it do whatever it wants, the fact that i can’t transfer my music from my iPod to my computer without third party software because they had to sell their assholes to the DRM system, the fact that you HAVE to register your iPhone, the fact that developers must jump through hoops like crazy to develop for the iPhone and then they’re only allowed to distribute via iTunes and so on.

Mac is becomeing more and more like Microsoft, and that’s precisely what’s wrong with it.

rawrgrr's avatar

@jerv Hey jerv. Nice answer, just curious about a few things. You say Apple is like ” living in a furnished apartment where you are not allowed to move the furniture or bring in any appliances that were not there when you moved in.” assuming your talking about their iPhone, I think of it like a room where you can move around furniture provided by the building. It’s not like the building has bad “furniture”, in fact, they have an enormous selection. Better quality and more than others right now. But I think of their restrictions more like preventing someone who tries to tear down their wall to make a bigger apartment. An average person doesn’t really need to do that. It’s difficult, dangerous, and will probably end up doing more damage to your apartment.

You also say “Or a car where you are only allowed to refill the gas tank at the dealer and will get sued if you replace the stereo,” Now thankfully problems with Apple’s products don’t occur as often as a car that needs a tank refill. It seems a bit exaggerated but I do get the point. Apple doesn’t want you modifying the thing. But whatever the reason may be (security, performance, whatever) Apple has made it so that the average person prefers not to modify their product. If you want to get around it, you can, but they’ve made it so people don’t want to. Why should an average person go through the trouble of modifying their phone when it does all they really need (and yes that means more than browsing the web).

There is a reason Apple supports an open web while they prefer a closed product. The iPhone isn’t for everybody (like you, but it great for most people). There are other phones out there, different mp3s out there. If you want an Android thats great. Google makes great phones but it’s not the same for the internet. It’s not like you have a different internet to choose from. There’s only one. And we all have to share it instead of giving all the power to a certain software company that controls how we see things on the web. There’s no way around that. And yes Apple has done some hypocritical things in the past (from what i’ve read, I wasn’t alive at that time) but I’ve always appreciated what they’ve created and tried to do. Making technology more accesible to the public, to a bigger group of people. I have trouble believing that millions of buyers are all sheep. You can’t call those millions of people that, lots of those buyers are regular people too. Now once we realize we can chose not to buy from Apple it doesn’t really matter what they do with their products. It’s really all up to the people. There are some people that think Apple’s strategy is flawed, but they need to realize the difference between an actual flaw and something they don’t agree with. If you don’t agree with them don’t buy from them. You don’t go in a Starbucks complaining about why they don’t sell dunkin dohnuts. Or why they don’t sell chicken. They have their own store and decide what they want to sell. Don’t like it? Go to the next shop. A company’s success is all up to us and it’s obvious that many support what Apple has done for them.

jerv's avatar

@rawrgrr I’ve sat on a lot of “decent furniture” that did not fit; stuff designed for people about 4–6 inches shorter than me and thus very uncomfortable even if it’s not technically bad. That is how I find most of Apple’s software. At least on the PC side, I can just chuck it out and find something that fits.

As for your second paragraph, yes, but not by much. Also, I am honestly offended by any attempt to curb human curiosity and turn us into sheep. If you think that such dumbing down is a good thing, then I have to ask you when you plan to start lobotomizing people.

You ask, “Why should an average person go through the trouble of modifying their phone when it does all they really need” and you are correct. However, not all of us are average. I am not and therefore I will not like the way Apple does things unless they change.

Maybe I just don’t trust them since they are a marketing firm who happens to do technology as opposed to an entity that actually understands and loves technology. It used to be different, but the new Apple is all about commercial whoredom.

“I have trouble believing that millions of buyers are all sheep. You can’t call those millions of people that, lots of those buyers are regular people too.”
Why would I want a 612MHz CPU that is underclocked to 400MHz to avoid draining the battery prematurely running an OS that is largely incapable of multi-tasking though I hear that they are finally adding that in the next version when I can get a 1GHz CPU that can multitask and still last over a day between charges? Then again, most average people don’t have the strong opinions about DRM that I do or even know what DRM is and are more likely to believe any marketing hyperbole than the minority that is actually tech-savvy enough to cut through the bullshit.

But at the end of the day, the biggest reasons that I won’t buy Apple stuff are quite simple.
1) They don’t have anything I want
2) When comparing what I want/need to the prices that they offer, Apple fares very badly
Therefore, Apple loses my business due to Capitalism. If you can’t supply what I want at a price I am willing to pay, then someone else will get my money.

rawrgrr's avatar

@jerv And there is nothing wrong with that. You might also recall me telling you before that not everybody is average. I understand that. I am not in any way trying to say that products such as the iPhone or iPad are the best. I’ve said this several times.

I’m just trying to say that I don’t think you should ridicule the people who really enjoy their Apple products that do just what they need. Their slogan was “The Computer for the Rest of Us” and that is what they’ve been trying to do for all these years. Make computers for people other than you who already know the ins and outs of a computer. But Apple knows that the people that don’t, couldn’t care less about what’s inside a computer, as long as it’s enjoyable, easy to use, and does what they want. For example, an iPad is technically supposed to be a slower machine considering the specs but the experience is much faster than some computers because it focusses only on what the average person really needs and let’s them do it with such ease. This is what causes those “silly” emotions over their “silly” machines.

People will actually pay more for a product that is more enjoyable and easier to use. That doesn’t mean the product is dumbed down. They’re making it more accessable to more people, engaging more and more of the population to technology and the internet everyday, Including Grandma! This isn’t “dumbing down” but instead removing unnecessary layers of abstraction to get people focussed on what most people really need. If Apple doesn’t provide anything you want, don’t buy from them. They’re not for everybody. I know this. (I do own other kinds of products such as Blackberry and Pcs too, don’t think i’m just an Apple fanboy) I won’t call you dumb for your decision, or a sheep. So try not to do the same please and thank you.

This might also be a nice read

jerv's avatar

@rawrgrr For the rest of us…. removing unnecessary layers of abstraction to get people focussed on what most people really need….
Let me put it like this – I prefer stick-shift over automatic for greater control, performance, and (in bad winter weather) safety, but most drivers today don’t know how to use that third pedal. If loss of skill for the sake of ease of use even if that requires major sacrifices isn’t “dumbing down” then you and I have different definitions.

Either that or I just find so many tech-related things easy that I cannot help but feel a bit condescending towards those that cannot match the level of proficiency I had 25 years ago as a child.

You raise some excellent points as usual but have failed to alter my opinion.

jerv's avatar

@rawrgrr I thik I found someone who said what I feel better than I could say it myself:

” I know a lot of non-techy people who are willing to spend the extra “Apple Tax” and buy into the hype, simply because everyone else is. I’ll ask them, why do you want a Macbook? What is it that it can do that something technically equivalent at half the price can’t do? What software that’s Mac only you have to use that you can’t use on any other platform?

I don’t get a reply to the question. I get things like, “oh, but it’s so ‘intuitive’”, or “oh, but when you slide it with your finger, the whole screen moves”, or “Macs don’t get viruses” (which isn’t true, btw, because if it was, then people like Norton Antivirus wouldn’t bother making an Apple version, yes?)”

rawrgrr's avatar

@jerv I don’t wish to argue any longer. I’m to tired right now. Let me tell you though, when I bought my Mac, it wasn’t because of all the hype. I was curious and was interested in trying something new.

I’ve come to realize that I’ve always been able to get things done faster with Apple products. Things like uninstalling a program, where I had to go through Start, then the control pannell, and check several options to complete a simple task that could have been done with a simple drag to the trash (Maybe that has changed now but that is just an example). A skill that involves several complicated actions in order to complete something that could have been done without them is a skill that I don’t mind losing. The example you provided though says that the lack of these extra options brings more inconveniences than not, but if that is the case then yes I agree although it isn’t like that most of the time. As long as the same thing can get done faster and simpler it doesn’t really matter to me- but that’s just me.

Let me put it like this – Some like to shop at IKEA and some don’t. The handymen that do usually know how to put it together themselves while most people have to take more time out of their day to learn how to put the simplest thing together (and hopefully don’t damage the thing while trying) in order to save some cash. Some will prefer to buy a pre-made extra cushiony chair that they enjoy while there will be the handymen laughing at them for paying more for a chair that does basically the same thing. Let you sit. And while there will be those that express their satisfaction with their pre-made chair others will laugh at them for paying more for a more enjoyable experience. .. But let me tell you, if you are a handyman by all means buy from IKEA. Just don’t laugh at those that choose not too. It’s not that easy to put my opinions in words but I hope you get what I mean.

jerv's avatar

@rawrgrr I never had any intent of actually arguing with you, but I have a strong opinion across the aisle from yours.

I used Macs for years, finding them superior for many of the same reasons… until there were other options for PCs at the same time that Apple removed options from the Macs. And what Apple hypes now can also be found elsewhere, only without the glitzy marketing.

Maybe it’s that I have a totally different idea of “simple” though. Replacing the head gasket on my old Corolla was time-consuming and tedious, but actually simple to me. As for uninstalling stuff through the Control Panel or a package manager, I personally place that as beyond simple, and furthermore I feel that it’s an important safety thing to protect people from their own impulsiveness. I’ve seen a lot of Macs messed up by indiscriminate deletion. Maybe it’s just that I learned and can now do it faster and easier than most people.

As for furniture, I find Ikea overrated. I got my extra-cushiony chair here and I’ll bet you that come moving time, I’ll have a lot easier time packing… and also more comfortable than most of the Ikea furniture I’ve tried. Sure, I could build my own but why bother? I also bought myself a Gateway even though I could’ve built a faster system cheaper, so I am not totally opposed to spending a little more for convenience. The local pizza place appreciates that too.

We will likely never agree on computers, but I think we both agree that it would be pointless to go on since we’re both set in our ways.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


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