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2017 Can Be Your Year

Yes, there's a shift.

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Are you a computer user who's finally grown tired of DRIVE LETTERS - of C:\, D:\, Z:\? If so, 2017 might be your year. There are more Unix (read: non-Windows) systems around than ever before.

There's IBM's phenomenal AIX for the real aficionado. It runs on RS/6000 systems, Power Systems, 370 mainframes. It used to run on Apple's Network Server, but Apple couldn't move the product and so it was discontinued. If you want to run AIX on a 370, try Craig's List - and buy a football pitch to house the thing.

Ubuntu is a good alternative, although Mark Shuttleworth seems to think pretty icons equates to user-friendly. And as with most Unix iterations, the available GUIs (graphical user interfaces) closely resemble what you find on Windows, partly because it can make your transition easier, and partly because designers don't know any better.

You could also try FreeBSD or one of the offshoots such as OpenBSD, a virtually bulletproof distribution from the singular Theo de Raadt, who emigrated from the US to Canada just so he could legally offer better encryption possibilities. Theo's had separate teams of bug-hunters do nothing but inspect OpenBSD's new code for flaws (and thereby potential vulnerabilities) and not many today in the industry do anything like that. (It's not considered cost-effective to worry too much about things like bugs.)

Or you could plump for Apple's OS X, now called 'macOS'. OS X is a true OO (object-oriented) system, and it may take you a while to get used to it. (Tip from staff: if that special 'fatigue' wears you out, don't push it - close the lid and rest. Give it about a month and you'll never go back.)

OS X is the direct descendant of NeXT's NeXTSTEP and OPENSTEP, and still uses the 'NS' nomenclature internally. It's built on a 'class' system, but getting into that may be beyond your ability to appreciate. Suffice it to say that a real OO system is better for system development (far faster to make relatively bug-free products) and for you, the end-user, as well.

Apple's OS is a 'dongle' system, in that you mostly need Apple hardware to run it. There are components in Apple computers that signal the OS it's OK to run. Some of the hacker groups online will regularly find ways to thwart this dongle, but for most people, it isn't worth the bother. Just plump for some Apple hardware.

Apple's MacBook Pro laptop has been a workhorse, not priced much higher than 'top of the line' laptops in the Windows world. It's manufactured as a 'unibody', meaning the essential housing unit is one piece of metal, not a bunch of individual parts. Starting with the inception of the 'unibody' assembly line, the MacBook Pro became the laptop of choice. And it can still run Windows if you want. Or Ubuntu. Or FreeBSD.

All of which was self-evident truth until two months ago.

Apple's revenues for iPhone, two thirds of their entire business, dwarf those from their other core products. Apple's desktop line hasn't been updated in a long time, and their laptops (including the MacBook Pro) had been languishing as well. The desktops are still waiting for an update, but the MacBook Pro got its update - an update that most users wish had never happened.

Rather than spell it out, wasting words no one wants to write or read, let this dynamic duo explain it. About the only thing they miss is how Apple succeeded in giving away their lucrative education market to Google. Strategically, that market had been vital to Apple, ensuring that tomorrow's industry players would choose to continue working with Apple products. Not so anymore.

Yes, the list of mega-boners is long and impressive, as Rick Rossovich once said. The great super-important MagSafe adapter? Gone. The ports that every pro needs? Gone. Enough compatibility so you can at least charge your fucking iPhone? No.

A new super-CPU like the other big boys? Nope. A screen that is finally more than potentially perceptive? Forget it.

The list is endless. And at the end of that list, poised there like the worst practical joke imaginable, is something Apple call their 'touch bar'.

Words cannot convey the ghastliness of that contraption - from the POV of pure ergonomics, the end-user, the application developer, or the system itself, it's pure abomination.

And things look only worse when one realises how Microsoft, of all upstarts, ambushed Apple the day before. Microsoft have discreetly entered the hardware market. The corporate leaders of old who made the company so hated? They're gone. The new guard play according to new rules, and the only thing holding them back is their core OS, Windows 10. You still need antivirus to run Windows 10, and Windows 10 is what Microsoft use on all their platforms.

Here's the big promo clip again, in case you somehow missed it.

In case you missed the ramifications, that 28-inch screen is every bit as perceptive as an Apple laptop screen. Or was it the other way around. Pixels by their very nature are perceptive. Jeff Han's 2006 TED talk on perceptive pixels: over 4.5 million people have seen it to date.

Here's the TED page for the presentation.


See this link for screenshots from Han's demo reel for 2007.


And whether you use it that way or not, your screen is sitting there, waiting - begging - to be touched. All that real estate - and you choose to ignore it?

Of course it's hard for Apple (read: Jony Ive) to back down. They've all made it patently clear that touch screens are not to be touched. Fuck the users!

So whilst Grandaddy Big Blue concentrate on their big iron colossi, and Google take over the low end educational market, and Microsoft enter the hardware market and consolidate their position in the workplace, Apple are left with 'tap tap tap'. And solely for handhelds, of course. They've even abandoned their core computer market and changed their name from 'Apple Computer' to 'Apple'. Their server market is no more - they once had the world's fifth most powerful supercomputer at Virginia Tech. Thing of the past. Long live iPhone.

But will it? Market researchers say the smartphone market will bottom out in the next year or two. And Apple, with currently the world's biggest market cap and enough offshore cash to buy IBM five times over, are 'dongled' to their iPhone. None of the other newer products - iPad and the watch - are making a splash, and they don't care anymore about their core of desktop and laptop computers. The situation is so bad that they've dissolved their OS X (macOS) team. New changes will only accrue as side-effects to enhancements for their beloved iOS which powers iPhone. Talk about asking for trouble.

Perceptive Pixel Revisited

And you've yet to see the worst. For as fanboys everywhere dug into the innards of their dusty old MBPs, Microsoft set about bringing out yet another product that, for those on the other side, went mostly ignored and unnoticed.

The Surface Hub.

If anything ever oozed 'office', this was it. This monster computer - an 84 inch (seven foot) screen, needs to be mounted and installed by a team of three, costs $20,000 - is the ultimate exec toy. It's what every corporation will want. And it works exactly the way Jeff Han's screen did back in 2006 - Microsoft bought Han's company, so his achievements are now theirs.

Theirs, not Apple's.

Listen closely to the language used here. Watch too how they present their product. Sounds a bit familiar?

Yes, there's a shift.

Something Apple and Jony Ive and Tim Cook have refused to see: no matter how many iPhones they sell, the 'office' will still be there. And that office will have computers, and studio models, and hubs, and special collaborative software. The office will also keep the lead, not follow, its importance to the industry always at least as important (and lucrative) as 'tap tap tap'.

So whilst others blog about baseball and Russian hackers, their toys of choice get more and more marginalised.

So what to do if you want a new computer this holiday season? Get last year's MacBook Pro. Try to get it from a reseller so you avoid the 'Apple tax' which ups the price even more as of this past October. This might work if you don't need another keyboard or configuration. The battery's supposed to last for seven years, but it might start to swell after a year, and that's not swell.

See Also
RHD: The Failure of iPhone's Success (2009)
Recode: It's Tim Cook's Apple Now (2014)
Industry Watch: Microsoft Surface Studio (2016)
Industry Watch: Touchbar Macdongle (2016)

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