Apple’s cloud computing “ecosystem” – walled garden or comfortable prison?

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A friend of mine—a longtime and formerly ultra-enthusiastic Mac fan—recently summed up his frustration with the direction Apple has taken. He still uses Apple computers because, he says, he’s too lazy to learn a new system, but he detests the walled garden model Apple has constructed around the iOS and, increasingly, OS X as well. He’s not a convert to the philosophy of cloud computing, with the exception of using DropBox for backups and file synching, but of course you could do that with a Windows or Linux system.

Meanwhile Apple’s new regime is making users more and more dependant on connection with the iTunes / iCloud / App Store mothership, which my friend says puts him in mind of 19th-Century sweatshops. They make people 100% dependent on the factory owner—in this instance the manufacturer of machines we depend on, like the iPhone, iPad, and, increasingly, the Mac as well.

Apple's Walled Garden Ecosystem

My friend has a nice mid-2010 13″ MacBook Pro running OS X v10.6.8 that could easily support OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion, but he’s balked at upgrading to any OS X version that has to be downloaded and installed remotely from the Cloud, with no physical media installer alternative available on CD, DVD or USB stick drive.

He also has a 12″ PowerBook G4 and a Pismo G3 500 MHz PowerBook still in service, both running OS X 10.4″ Tiger.

My unscientific observation is there are plenty more similarly minded veteran Mac users out there. Many of them had been ardent Apple advocates and “evangelists” for years, or even decades, but they’re feeling increasingly betrayed and frustrated by Apple’s recent and perceived future evolution.

I’m one myself, partly. I still love the Mac platform and OS X, and I’ve become addicted to my iPad…albeit not because of the iOS and its inherent, frequently maddening, limitations and restrictions, but in large measure due to the locked-down ecosystem model my friend referred to in his critique.

Guy Kawasaki—who back in the “beleaguered” days of the mid-late ’90s was Apple’s official Chief Evangelist, responsible for spreading the Mac gospel—is now a thoroughgoing Android fan who no longer owns any iOS devices and who declares in his latest book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book, that “real men use Android.”

ReadWrite Mobile’s Dan Lyons cites Kawasaki explaining that he switched to Android about a year ago, noting that, “People are kind of amazed, but I don’t use any iOS products, none at all. I fell in love with Android on the smartphone, and then I got a Nexus 7 and started using Android on the tablet as well.”

Even Steve Wozniak has declared that the iPhone and iOS have fallen behind the competition in some aspects.

Personally, I look at it as being obliged to take the good with the bad if I want to stay with Apple systems. I like many aspects of iOS iDevice computing, and can also appreciate the reasoning behind Apple’s rigorous lockdown of the iOS, and the relative slickness and security of the iOS ecosystem. There’s plenty I would change were it my decision, but I’m finding ways to work around the angularities.

That said, I’m apprehensive about further integration of OS X with the iOS (unless it meant the iOS becoming more like OS X, rather than the other way around), and I’m a long way from being sold on cloud dependency for everything from data storage to software purchases and upgrades. I liked local data storage and the optical based software distribution and installation model.

Hopefully things can get better too. There’s a rumor afoot this weekend that Apple is looking to bring full USB 3.0 support to iOS devices. I really hope that’s true, since it would eliminate one of my major iPad frustrations.

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  • Chris

    Really? I love how people speak about generalities of disliking apple products but never are specific. There system is far more secure and ecosystem is far more advanced them any other products. Sure you cannot customize it to the nth degree, but I have no reason to. It just works. Great motto because PC does not. I’m not a google person so android don’t appeal to me.

  • Stephen

    I live on the cloud and I am now completely wireless. I share and transfer every bit of information through ParsedCloud because their service is unbeatable from their security to easy to use interface. Prior to signing up for an account I lugged my laptop to and from work and now all I carry on me is my phone since I can access my info from anywhere.