Bubble thinking: When Apple doesn’t fit your world view

Macalope

Apple is not perfect. This is true. What the Macalope doesn’t understand, however, is how that so routinely gets converted into “We must deny any Apple advantage in order to convey simply how bad Apple is.”

It’s 2015 and Dan Gillmor has a fist full of quarters and won’t get off the slowly rocking horse ride outside the Piggly-Wiggly that says “Apple is too draconian!” (No one’s exactly sure how it got installed there.)

“Will Apple’s Control-Freakery Turn Personal Computers Into Big iPhones?” (Tip o’ the antlers to ghibby!)

If you had to rate it, would you say that its control is super freaky? The kind you don’t take home to mother?

The general reaction to [the iPad Pro] was applause.

Not from me.

Shocking literally no one.

Cook's assertion reminded me of my declaration in a blog post five years ago, that the MacBook Air I'd just purchased was probably my last Mac. Apple, I said, was becoming more and more control-freakish in how it allowed customers to use the hardware they'd purchased.

Yeah, about that… let’s review.

What Gillmor was complaining about at the time was the fact that new MacBooks wouldn’t run older versions of OS X, which was a problem for him because he fully expected Apple to lock down OS X like iOS.

Yet here we are five years later and you can install whatever applications you want on OS X. But somehow Gillmor’s brain is still running the same software that kicks out these Apple screeds.

It seemed clear that the company intended to move its personal computers “into a more iPad/iPhone-like ecosystem, where Apple gives you permission to use the computers you buy in only the ways Apple considers appropriate.”

It seemed clear! That thing that has not happened at all. “To date I have been demonstrably wrong but I’m pretty sure I’ll be proven right any day now so I’ll just keep writing the same thing over and over again.”

Does iOS limit choice? Of course. Is this a problem sometimes? Absolutely. But there is also value in simplicity. Gillmor notes this himself, but for him it’s all about choice.

Oh, and Apple had a security problem so it’s really just as bad as Android.

The Android ecosystem also has its own serious insecurities, but there are several app portals besides Google's. Apple has made itself into what security experts call a “single point of failure”—where whatever goes wrong can affect many other parts of the ecosystem that no one can avoid using.

Are we supposed to believe this situation would be somehow better with malware spread across multiple stores, all with their own standards of review and remediation? How fast will those get cleaned up? You don’t really have to try to imagine that, it’s what exists right now with Android and it’s not great.

The only reason XcodeGhost happened at all is because there wasn’t a single source for Xcode. Chinese developers were downloading and using infected copies from local servers instead of Apple’s. The reason malware makers had to target Xcode is there are so few vectors of attack for iOS, which is why this was largely contained to China-specific apps. On Android they needn’t go to all that trouble, they just write malware-infected apps themselves.

XcodeGhost is a serious problem, but Gillmor seems to say that because Apple’s had this problem, neener-neener-neener, all its security advantages are null and void times infinity. The Macalope knows the utopian fortress Gillmor has built himself with the couch cushions doesn’t make its own rarified air, but that’s not how the real world works.

As Rich Mogull puts it, Apple has correctly evaluated the economics of malware and tried to make it expensive to make for its platforms (disclosure: the Macalope does some writing and editing work for Mogull). You’d think Gillmor would at least appreciate the fact that Apple takes privacy seriously. Mogull points out that:

…iOS is the most secure consumer computing platform available, as proven by ongoing government frustrations that passcode-protected devices can’t be accessed by law enforcement.

But nope. Choice is all that matters ever in Gillmor’s world, The End. The litmus test only has two values: Pass and Apple.

If, as Tim Cook seemed to be suggesting, the future of the Mac is the iOS ecosystem…

Gillmor’s letting his paranoia get the best of him here. Also up at the beginning, in the middle and probably at the Ubuntu Phone user group meetups. By which the Macalope means nights that Gillmor spends at home alone.

The frustrating thing is that he isn’t wrong about a lot of this. The App Store rules are too opaque and Apple does sometimes go overboard in nannying. But iOS’s security advantage is still very real and, while Apple’s newer platforms are more restricted, the Mac seems content to chug along as it is. Locking the Mac down to using the Mac App Store as the sole source for software is simply a non-starter.

Alas, criticism of Apple is apparently like a conference t-shirt: It only comes in extra large.

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