Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is Apple Good for Innovation?

Just about everyone on the planet agrees that Apple products are the soul of innovative design.  But are they good for innovators?  For me the answer is "not so much."

I have been using Apple laptops and iPhones for years.  As a software developer, I have a list of annoyances with Mac OS X starting with Apple's incomprehensible management of Java.  However, Mac OS X is far more productive than MS Windows, with its viruses, crummy OS releases, and bloatware.  iPhones are close to worthless as telephones in the area where I live in large part due to ATT's network.  But you can now switch to Verizon, so that's not such a problem either.

The real problem with Apple is that their products are closed.  Want to install a new file system?  Not here.  Want to pick a different motherboard to play around with power utilization?  Try somewhere else.  Want to know what the OS is really doing under the covers or (gasp) inspect the source code?  Dieu forfend!

Innovation in my chosen field of databases is increasingly based on breaking down the dividing lines between hardware and software to manage massive quantities of data economically and quickly.  The more I learn about hardware, the less I want fully integrated products.  I want devices I can interact with and learn from.  I want visibility into internals.  I want works-in-progress, not ready-made perfection.  In short, I want open platforms that give me the parts but do not tell me what to build with them.

A few weeks ago my iPhone dropped on the floor and shattered.  The replacement is a Droid 2 Global running Android.  The user interface is clumsy.  You have to watch out for viruses again.  But the hardware is lightning fast.  There is a free-for-all of people inventing new Android applications.  The source code for Android itself is available on  The open nature of Android is rapidly making it the locus of innovation for mobile devices.  I feel at home already.


Dimitri said...

Seems you're missing a point.. - Apple laptop is a tool to achieve other work (not related to the laptop) - it's simply a tool which will remain stable and do what you need, nothing more, nothing less.. ;-)) I've used Linux on my laptops over 12 last years, and finally was tired from tweaking Linux just to get a simple work done.. - now fully enjoying my MBP and will stay with Apple as long as I can :-))

BTW, I'm curious - are you also tweaking your car every morning you're going somewhere or in the middle of the road?.. ;-))


Robert Hodges said...

Actually I used to work on cars a great deal. :)

Ironically for Java programming Apple laptops are not stable, because Apple keeps messing with the Java version and build tools like Ant.

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