The dark side of Apple

Is Apple going to the dark side?

In recent years Apple has gone from being a successful, but niche technology company to a powerful, mainstream entity. For many years Apple users were almost a geeky cult of slavishly devoted fans who sneered at the average Joe happy in his Windows environment. Apple was deadly cool – something that hasn’t changed – with a narrow user demographic – something that certainly has.

With the advent of the iPod, iTunes, the mega-cool Air notepads, the iPhone, and the soon to be iPad Apple is now very much a company front and square in mainstream society. I would think there are few individuals in the affluent west who do not own, or at least are exposed to, an Apple product. Whilst they retain much of their street cred and all of their sniffy attitude Apple is now raking in the dough and looking for world domination. Good for them.

It seems to me an inevitable part of the cycle that success breeds a certain amount of contempt. When everything you touch turns to gold it’s hard not to think that your shit doesn’t stink either. The greater the share of the market the more, it seems, is the urge to control and dominate the market. We saw it with one of Apple’s great rivals Microsoft, shopped for anti-competitive practices. It may yet happen to Google, perhaps their greatest rival going forward, who are becoming more ambitious with every passing month. For now though it’s Apple who rule the roost, and they know it – and it’s not something they’re going to let slip.

More and more often lately Apple have been flexing their recently acquired muscle. Not enough for them to rest on their pedigree, they’ve been pumping iron and they’re not going to take any shit from anyone.

Now I admire Apple in so many ways. By and large I think their products are great. They’re designed and engineered with an elegant simplicity and an eye towards creativity and quality. I think Steve Jobs is a visionary. If I don’t quite think he’s the messiah as so many Apple-philes do, I certainly think he’s a clever boy – and will be rightfully lauded one day as a pioneer in the building of the world we live in. His influence goes beyond technology, he has shaped society.

In recent times though they have looked to crowd others out of the marketplace, and heavied small operators looking for their cut. More and more their professional disdain for much of their rivals has become a high-handed and indiscriminate arrogance. They’re not a high-end cottage industry anymore and so have lost the quirky individualism that always seemed much of their appeal. In short, as they’ve become big they’ve lost their charm.

Unfortunately it is the common punter who has to face this charmless corporation. Apple is parading up and down the beach with its new muscles and kicking sand in the face of the average Joe. I went to download an app for my iPhone from the iTunes store before. The download was interrupted by a message saying that Apple had changed its iTunes agreement and I had to acknowledge it before the download could proceed.

I was surprised to find that Apple now restrict use of these apps outside the country of download. In other words if I pay for and download an app in Oz I’m not allowed to use it when I fly out of the country. It’s no idle demand either as Apple claim they may disable apps they find being used in contravention of this.

This strikes me as being unlawful. If I buy a book I own it. I have exchanged my money in order to own and do with it what I want, wherever I want. If I buy music in the iTunes store then I can play that wherever I want. Surely the same principle applies to iPhone applications I purchase – applications, by and large, built not by Apple but by third party developers and sold in the Apple store. By what law can Apple demand of me where I use what I own?

I agreed to the terms. I had no choice as my download would abort without it. I have no intention of honouring it. It is a contravention of my rights as a consumer, and if Apple choose to exercise the option to disable my apps when I go abroad then I’ll be fighting them all the way.

It’s a disappointing development, and pretty cheap. The Apple name is being tainted by such actions and you have to wonder if they are following the dark lead of Microsoft.

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