Apple’s string of disturbing decisions 

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Faces drawn on a brick wall, with the word ALL standing out

Apple, and especially the Mac, have played a key role in my professional career since the late 1980. Ever since it launch, I envied my friends who could afford one. My first professional Mac was a Macintosh IIx running System 6 at University, and the first one I could afford was a Macintosh IIsi in 1990.

, I’m writing this blog post on a cellular iPad Pro 10.5” riding a train out of Cornwall to London Paddington.

I followed Apple’s different product launches and ad campaigns of the 1990s (who remembers the short film “Wave if you use a Mac“ filmed in New York ?) up to the mythical “Think Different” campaign around 1997. I still have the Maria Callas poster on a wall of my office.

There were ups and downs, but while Apple fought for its survival, it stuck to its principles.

Empathy, focus and impute. Understand and serve the customer better than anyone else, forget about everything else, and make sure every little thing you do serves, always and everywhere.
– Mike Markkula

Their attention to detail, alongside with an ethical and user-centered approach fascinated me, but the recent string of Apple decisions disturbs me.

(1) Earlier this year, Apple removed VPN apps from the Chinese version of the App Store.

Earlier this year China’s MIIT announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.
— The New York Times

(2) Apple hid the Taiwan’s flag emoji in iOS 13.1.1 if you’re in Hong Kong or Macau. It still shows up in text prediction, or if you type Taiwan, but it’s completely gone from the emoji keyboard. Apparently, users in China have been unable to see or type the Taiwan flag since 2017.

Because of Taiwan’s political status, the People’s Republic of China considers any mention of or allusion to its independence as an offence against its sovereignty.
The Verge

(3) Last October, Apple removes the app from the App Store after rejecting it, accepting it and banning it again. The app remains accessible and fully featured as a web app.

(4) Now, the BBC reports that Apple has changed its map to include Crimea in the Russian territory.

What is going on here?

Mind you, this kind of map modification is neither new or uncommon. It’s a well known issue with map editors and creators: how do you represent a disputed territory on a map? Google has been doing this for years, but the timing feels bad.

Meanwhile elsewhere

Tim Cook standing silently while President Trump tours Apple’s manufacturing plant in Austin.

Russia passing a law that will oblige smartphone (or any connected device for that matter) makers to offer Russian alternative apps alongside to the stock ones by next July.

They have argued that mandating the installation of certain apps would provide a necessary convenience boost for elderly consumers.

According to Meduza, it seems that the bill was actually a Kremlin initiative tied to Russia’s efforts to make its Internet traffic less dependent on the World Wide Web. Internet sovereignty.

What will Apple do ? Pull out of the Russian market? Or add third party apps to their localised iOS releases? This makes me feel as a first baby step towards adding backdoors to please governments and agencies.

In a similar move, China just announced that all government offices remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years. Like @gruber points out : does this include iPhones?

I fully understand that Apple has to comply to local laws, has shareholders to please, and is in this business to make money, but I miss the days when owning a Mac meant more to its owners than just the display of a social status symbol (aka being sufficiently rich to be able to afford one).

Apple and the Mac still mean a lot to me, but I can’t help but feel a trend here…

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Comments and responses

  • 24 Jan 2024

    The Macintosh celebrates its 40th anniversary . It was launched on the 24th of January 1984.

    I can’t say I’ve used a Mac all of my computing life, but I’ve lusted for one close to all my computing life. I didn’t have the means to own a personal computer before 1990.

    The first Mac I owned was a Macintosh IIsi with a 13″ AppleColor High-Resolution Monitor.

    Early days

    My computing started on an IBM PC in 1982. I used to go to my Dad’s office in the evenings and weekends to learn how to programme in Basic and fool around in DOS. Later, I learned to programme in Fortran on one of my university’s DEC VAX 8800 mainframes (I actually saw the last punch cards being used). I wrote my Biology Master’s degree in MS Word 2.0 on an 5.25” dual drive Olivetti PC with a green CRT screen.

    A close friend had bought the original Mac, and later the Mac SE/30. I remember drooling each time I spent time with one of them. I couldn’t find a way to own one, but I knew deep inside I needed to.

    I suppose I was attracted to it for many of the same reasons other people were. The overall design of the object, the sharpness of the display, the GUI. It was whimsical, delightful, user-friendly and felt like it gave you superpowers.

    The overall attention to details, the carefully crafted user interface of Mac OS still delights me today even though the screen was small and “only” in black and white. You can dive back into those days and run classic Macintosh systems at Infinite Mac.

    Susan Kare's original Macintosh control panel (1984)
    Susan Kare’s original Macintosh control panel (1984)

    At home and at work

    My first professional Mac at University was a Macintosh IIx. We set up an image lab in the late 1980 ‘ties for research and teaching purposes, and replaced the Mac IIx with a Mac IIfx equipped with GENlock + image capture cards and a large colour monitor, colour flatbed and slide scanner and large format printer.

    I managed to get the Mac IIx assigned to me, and since that day in 1988-89, Macs have been my primary personal computer of choice. I have never worked on anything else.

    Over the course of my PhD years, I equipped the lab in Macs, desktops and laptops, converting a many researchers and staff to Macintosh, setup Mac servers, networking and Wi-Fi, etc. It was during that period I discovered and experimented with what would be called “the world-wide web”, around which the core of my future professional activities revolved.

    The Mac has been part of my life ever since. I have always had a Mac (or several) at home, and all of my web design and development activities have been led from a Mac.

    It’s still the Mac for me

    Times have changed, Apple has grown and changed too (not always for the better) and there has been many Macs, and other Apple devices, in my life since my beloved old Mac IIsi. I’m writing these lines on an 11″ iPad Pro sitting in a coffee shop, connected wirelessly to the internet and having my words synchronised to my other devices. It still amazes me what we can do today.

    Despite how big and corporate Apple (the company) has grown, with its growing slew of disputable decisions and ever deteriorating developer relations (if you need to read more 1, 2, 3), I still love the Mac and macOS (1).

    If I had to choose to stick with only one device, it would without any hesitation be a Mac.

    Happy 40th anniversary Macintosh ❤️

    More Macintosh memories

    Ads on who uses the Mac

    New life

    The best way to boot your old Macs, is to use Steve Chamberlin’s floppy disk emulator:

    Floppy Emu is a floppy and hard disk emulator for classic Apple II, Macintosh, and Lisa computers. It uses an SD memory card and custom hardware to mimic an Apple floppy disk and drive, or an Apple hard drive. The Emu behaves exactly like a real disk drive, requiring no special software or drivers.

    Worth reading or listening to

    Amongst all the tributes to the Mac, here are a few of my favourites,

    (1) Mac OS (originally System Software (eg System 6); retronym: Classic Mac OS) is the series of operating systems developed for the Macintosh. Mac OS X, appeared in 2001 with Mac OS X 10.0, and was changed to macOS in 2016 with the release of macOS 10.12 Sierra.

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