Scoble has a piece today on Apple’s brand promise that nails it precisely, never seen him hit the mark so well. Congrats. The other day at lunch I was telling the Uncov guys that despite what they may think, Scoble really is brilliant. Read this piece, I feel completely vindicated (though sometimes I read his stuff and shake my head in disbelief at how he could be so wrong).
Here’s the key point in Scoble’s piece: Apple makes a promise with its brand and doesn’t come close to keeping it.
The promise of Apple is that everything “just works.”
It’s true that the Mac does work better than Windows, usually, but that can be masked by the expected breakage in a user’s first transition to Mac. You expect stuff to break when you switch from Windows to Mac. You expect things to work differently. But it all comes home when you “upgrade” to a new version of the Mac OS and find that the engineers at Apple don’t listen to designers, or understand users any more than the geeks at Microsoft do. The problem isn’t with Microsoft or Apple as a culture, the problem is with the tech industry.
Google has it too. They will break us, I’m sure of it. If I told you how, they’d unleash a storm of hate at me very much like what you get when you criticize Apple. Even Microsoft used to have its anonymous assholes on the net who would make you feel pain for questioning their competence or integrity. Hey when they cut off Netscape’s air supply, they cut off a lot of users and small developers too. Sun did it with the Java wars (Microsoft again), and Apple — well read my piece on networking in Leopard, which may look like it was coordinated with Scoble’s. It wasn’t; we’ve both been stewing in the same broth — the hypocrisy of Apple’s marketing, the lack of humility that guarantees that everything we care about, as users, will eventually break if we trust the tech industry to take care of our needs.
The only way this is going to change, and the signs are good, is if the users take over from the press at telling the truth about these products. The people at Scoble’s dinner should come out of the shadows and tell their stories publicly, so everyone else who has a problem doesn’t feel that the problem is their fault.
You know, when I published my piece this morning, it took ten minutes for the first post to appear that blamed me for the problem with Leopard’s networking. But not much later, someone sent a pointer to a piece by Glenn Fleishman, where he says that Leopard’s networking is an improvement over Tiger’s. I trust Glenn, and believe him. I just didn’t know when I switched to the Mac that there were so many problems. I had to discover them myself. And many more were uncovered in the switch to Leopard. (So much for “just works.”)
There is something special about Apple, but it really isn’t all that present in the Mac OS. The error messages say something isn’t operational, which isn’t really a word in the English language (why not say it doesn’t work). When I followed Glenn’s instructions and enabled file sharing through the Prefs system, all of a sudden my MacBook which is running Tiger can’t access the file server. I’m sure there’s some reason for this that most Mac gearheads know, but they’re missing the big picture — the Mac makes a promise, as Scoble points out, that you don’t have to be a gearhead to use a Mac. It’s a big lie, you gotta assume the marketing people at Apple know it’s a lie, and they keep getting away with it, and there’s no reason for them to make it better, as long as they do get away with it.
I started blogging because people lied about the Mac, then they lied about the Constitution, then they lied about everything else I cared about. And since then blogging has taken off, so we have the tools to fix the problem, and if we wait for Silicon Valley to do it, we’ll wait forever. The solution is simple — tell the truth. Once you do, then someone else will feel they can do it too. And pretty soon the companies are going to have to do it, because as soon as they lie, there we will be to set them straight. Think of how much better our government would work if we applied this same principle to governance and then you’ll understand why blogging is so important.
PS: Apple ought to feel they have an option to either: 1. Live up to the promise that their products “just work” or 2. Stop making the promise. I hope they choose option 1. And ideally they’d stop making the promise too, because there’s always Murphy’s Law to keep you on your toes.
I rushed through this in my piece about Leopard a couple of weeks ago, I do things other than review software, so I don’t always have enough time to go into depth. And I wanted to be reasonably sure it was as bad as I thought it was. But now I am reasonably sure, but maybe I’m still missing something, if so, I bet a lot of other people are too. Here’s the problem with networking under Leopard.
In the previous version of Mac OS X, you would mount a remote volume, and from then on it was as if it were one of your local disks. That’s how networking has worked on Macs since the 80s, and it’s the way it works on Windows (not sure when it came in there, but it was present on NT and XP). It’s the way networked OSes should work, it’s hard to imagine them not working this way.
However, amazingly, that’s not how it works on Leopard.
Here’s an example. I have three computers on my LAN that I can access from the laptop I’m writing this piece on, Bucharest, Darkstar and Illium. They are conveniently listed in the Shared section in every Finder window. This is a small improvement, in previous Macs, you had to 2click on a Network item in the same place, and choose the computer from a dialog. Now you can see the names without clicking (It’s a small improvement because believe me, I’ve got these names memorized.)
Let’s say I want to look at the disk named Ohio on the computer named Darkstar. I click on Darkstar, and a list of disks appears, among them Ohio. I double-click on Ohio and the list of disks is replaced by the files and folders in Ohio. Nothing has changed in the left pane of the window, no disk has been mounted, I can access the contents of this disk only in this window, and only as long as it stays open. If I navigate to another disk or folder, I no longer have access to this disk. This is the first major step back. (There were some minor reverses on the way here, each of the steps in this process take much longer for some reason than they did on the earlier version of the OS. I have two machines that haven’t been Leopardized, so I can compare, and the delays can be really long, and yes, I’ve rebooted everything numerous times. The pre-Leopard machines are faster. I actually replaced one of my Mac Minis because it was too slow, now after “upgrading” it’s just as slow as the one it replaced. Oy.)
But here’s the real kicker. Suppose I want to save a file to the Ohio disk from inside one of my apps. There’s no way to do it!
This is the part I can’t believe.
I can’t even go through the navigation process to locate the disk (a lot of extra steps from the old method, where I could just access it as if it were a local disk). It’s not that it’s hard to do, it’s that you can’t do it. This is a basic feature that goes back to the 80s. How do they get away with removing it, and no one calls them on it, and they don’t explain it anywhere? (Or did they and I missed it. In a Steve Jobs keynote, did he say “Oh and one more thing, we removed a feature so basic you don’t even realize it’s there.”)
Now, as I said earlier, it’s possible it is there, staring me in the face, and I just can’t see it. I’ve been using computers long enough to know that that sometimes happens. If so, show me how to do it. How do I save a file to a server volume from inside an app?
Update: You can navigate to shared disks in some apps, and not in others, as has been pointed out in the comments. Note that in earlier versions of the OS you could save to network disks in all apps.
Here’s a video that illustrates how the Finder doesn’t let me mount a network drive in Leopard.