Periscope Depth

if the truth is told, the youth can grow

My love affair with Apple has not ended. But it’s on the wane.

It probably started when I bought a headset to help record the Overthinking It podcasts. Just plug the mic end into the Line In jack and the listening end into the Headphones jack and I’d be good to go, right? Plug and play? Drag and drop? “It just works”? Not quite. Turns out the Line In port on Mac products doesn’t support microphones. Which makes sense, I guess – mic-in and line-in are different audio specifications. But that’s not a problem anyone who uses this headset on a PC seems to have.

Later, I mentioned the problems I had playing hi-def XBox 360 games on my low-res Daewoo TV. Certain types of text are almost illegible. “No problem,” someone suggested. “Your Mac’s monitor is higher definition than your TV set, right? Just get an HDMI to DVI adapter and plug the XBox into your monitor.” Awesome! I could finally get rid of my TV if I did that. Except I can’t. Turns out the mini DVI port on my iMac isn’t a video input port. Silly of me to even ask! I mean, why would I assume that I can display images on a giant HD monitor?

Etc. And these aren’t isolated examples. A friend reached out last week for help on how to plug her Macbook into a projector. It turns out a Macbook won’t plug into a projector unless you buy a separate Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter. This is just common sense. Why would you expect to use a Mac for something that the shittiest ThinkPad in the world can do, out of the box, without buying a $30 add-on?

I still love OS X in all its iterations. I still love the iPhone OS, or at least the version that’s on my iPod Touch. But the more I use it, the more Apple’s hardware feels like Baby’s First Computer. If I just want to browse the web, make home movies with Comic Sans titles and create iTunes playlists for chicks I met at coffee shops, no problem! Click and drag! But if I want to do any of the things grown ups do, like “open a .docx file” or “put something on a projector” or “upgrade the video card” – too bad!

Apple hardware’s great for a non-demanding consumer: someone who wants something that’s shiny and quick and effortless. In other words, 90% of the market. When you consider that PCs are still 90% of the market, Apple’s hardware decisions make sense. Apple wants to take back that market share by beating PCs in the race to the lowest common denominator. They want to make something that’s non-threatening.

How do I set up my iPod Touch? Just plug it in and turn it on. A refreshing change of pace from the nightmare of driver installation. Now how do I open Flash files on my iPod Touch? Heh heh heh.

And as much as I like to bitch about my weird and special hardware needs, I am an average consumer. I can use my iMac for Hulu and Quicktime and iTunes. My iPod can display Kindle books, play iTunes songs and shoot space aliens. But my iMac can’t take HDMI input. And my iPod can’t play emulated games. Apple’s dictating the channel through which applications flow. It makes business sense: that’s where the money is.

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