Choosing between “It Just Works” and best of breed

November 11th, 2009 Gadgets & Hardware, Hydrapinion, Tech

My iPod’s getting old.

It’s my second one, a fourth gen iPod Classic model from about 2004, and it’s seriously on its last legs. The body is scratched and beaten and there’s a big black streak of dead pixels across the middle of the screen as if someone’s tried to tear the top off it.

You don’t hear much about the battery troubles that plagued the older models anymore and although my first iPod’s battery tanked after two years it certainly hasn’t affected me this time. Like most iPod users I love it and will happily fork over hard-earned cash if/when it does give up the ghost.

But I have no desire to own an iPhone, despite being a Mac user of sixteen years so far. Why?

Partly because yes — Apple is mostly right with their oft-repeated refrain It Just Works. Of course, you wouldn’t expect it any other way if you inhabit a world exclusively of Apple products. As soon as you bring another operating system or protocol into the equation, they’ll tell you that’s the element causing the problem.

And I’m not just picking on Apple. Those of us in technology journalism have heard the same thing from Microsoft, Adobe and many others. I hear it so often I’m always promising myself to document my frustrations at a blog called itshouldjustwork.com.

But as much as those companies would like it to be so, we’ll never live in a world where consumers use only their products. When we carry around and operate a PC, laptop, mobile, camera and as many other devices as a technology vendor has thought of, we’ll forever be looking for ways to put round pegs into square holes.

When I’m feeling noble I can convince myself that it’s my job as a reporter to maintain devices from different vendors which all have different underlying systems and are not blessed with the It Just Works kernel, simply because readers will do the same and will expect to know how to make all that stuff play nice.

But it’s equally true that I love my Windows Mobile 6.5 Palm Treo 750 as much as my iPod, and I know that somewhere in the world there’s a way for it to talk to the Mac OSX on my computer (there is, just for the record — Missing Sync www.markspace.com).

Despite each device having a different operating system, I know my mobile is little more than a SIM card and Bluetooth transmitter and there’s no reason I can’t use it as a wireless modem while I’m away even if I’m making Windows talk to OSX. A Google search results in dozens of results detailing the method.

So while I’m somewhat of a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist that refuses to give any single company all the disposable income I spend on computers and gadgets, I simply like different tools from a huge range of vendors — like most of us. I don’t want my purchasing decisions influenced more by what will work together easily than what I like to use.

We have the right as consumers to buy a piece of technology and have it work with what we already have. That’s especially true for Mac users when the vast majority of hardware is built for a Windows environment. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe, and like he discovered, the truth is out there.


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