Microsoft: Big evil monopoly with closed, proprietary systems that exclude competition.
Apple: Fun loving small guy, fighting the big evil Microsoft.
Does the above sound about right to you? If you answer “yes”, then you are likely an Apple “fan-boy” living in cloud cuckoo land. Whilst these statements may have been true in the past, events this week reinforce the idea that they are no longer even remotely true.
I use iTunes. I started using it because its podcast support is second to none. I didn’t have an iPod when I started using it though. iTunes only supports iPods. So I had to indulge in a complex process of downloading the podcasts in iTunes, then running an application that dragged them out into a standard mp3 format, loading them into Media Player and finally downloading them to my mp3 player. Windows Media Player, incidentally, supports just about every music player on the planet, except for iPods of course as Apple blocks them from talking to anything bar iTunes. These days I have an iPhone, so my iTunes experience is more pleasant. It’s still horribly slow, difficult to use and ugly, but it makes syncing my music and podcasts to my music player a breeze.
Apple only wants iPods to work with iTunes. Palm had other ideas, and used a hack to enable the Pre to work with it. Since then, Apple and Palm have indulged in an update war with each other as first Apple blocks the hack, then Palm uses a new hack to get around it, then Apple … ad nauseam. When this will end, I don’t know, but Apple have just released their latest attempt at blocking the Pre. No doubt Palm will respond in a couple of weeks.
A few years back, Palm made PDAs. One essential feature of a PDA is that it syncs its email data with your email servers. Palm made valiant efforts to get their PDAs to work with Outlook and Exchange, but Microsoft didn’t want this and put many hurdles in Palm’s way. Microsoft were roundly – and quite rightly in my view – condemned for such practices. The EU even fined Microsoft for anti competitive practices and ordered it to open up its proprietary systems to others. This resulted this week in them announcing plans to reveal full details of the .PST file format and allowing anyone, on any OS, to write software that can read and write to these files.
So at present, we have Microsoft continuing its recent move toward openness and (sometimes begrudging) cooperation with alternate OS and office application suppliers, and we have Apple (ab)using its music player dominance to exclude Pre owners from using iTunes. So perhaps its time to update the stereotypes. I propose:
Microsoft: Old toothless ex-empire that’s learned to share the world with others (though it’ll no doubt throw its weight around occasionally).
Apple: A small, but rapidly growing, evil monopoly with closed, proprietary systems that exclude competition.
Perhaps, when the EU has finished with its current distraction of imposing an unelected president on the people of Europe, it can get back to the serious matter of fighting evil business empires…