With the purchase of two new Macs, I've given Apple $4,500 this year alone. I've been buying nothing but Macintosh desktop machines and Powerbooks (about 15 total) since 1991, not to mention extended warranties, iPods, Airport routers, and other pricey peripherals.
But there are times when I'd like to kick Apple in the nuts — not because I'm unhappy with the products, but because it's galling to me that I've given all that money to a company that has a troubling penchant for both censorship and the kind of self-serving righteousness that will always receive a smackdown on this blog.
Apple is about as free-speech-unfriendly as they come. That's a plenty stupid corporate trait for any company, but especially for one that disproportionally markets to people who think of themselves as individuals, creators, and (in Apple's words) "rebels, misfits, troublemakers, and round pegs in square holes."
Earlier this year, Apple banned the Eucalyptus e-reader from its online app store because the program draws content from Project Gutenberg, the much-loved online library of rights-free classic books. Actually, that wasn't the problem. The problem was, Apple's bluenoses explained, that one of the books in the Gutenberg collection is the Kama Sutra.
And consider the latest episode of Apple cracking down on iPhone content that few outside of the Cupertino bubble would find objectionable. The fashion photos in question are from a mainstream German magazine. They show just enough skin that the developer, perhaps mindful of Apple's legendary prudishness, asked buyers to state whether they are 17 or older before the app can be used. Not good enough, Apple decided. The company yanked the program.
Why does Apple concern itself with what adults voluntarily download to their Macs and iPods in the first place? It's all very much akin to a customer buying, say, a Sony TV, and Sony having programmed the set to shut itself off as soon as it detects a whiff of on-screen raunch. Crazy church-lady stuff, in other words. It's a miracle that Apple's Safari browser allows access to "objectionable" content (I wouldn't know, actually; I use Firefox).
My feelings about the company are not softened one whit by the recent news that Apple refuses to service machines that have been "contaminated" with cigarette smoke. It's one thing if the company wants to argue that tar build-up inside a Mac, or other excessive tobacco-related gremlins, constitute abuse and thus void the warranty. But Apple's eye-popping claim is that smokers' machines are bio-hazards, and that it would be unethical and illegal to expose its personnel to nicotine-related health risks.
That's thinking different, to say the least. Does Apple honestly assume we don't know how many toxic materials go into the making of a computer as a matter of course? The list includes mercury, radioactive isotopes, cadmium, and dioxins. But some tobacco residue, that'll kill Apple's people like flies? Please. They think nicotine is icky? Here's my free advice: Don a pair of latex gloves, wear a 25-cent mask from the hardware store if you're still worried, and get to fucking work on those broken Macs already.
For the record, I find Apple's actions in all these cases much more distasteful than any content (or tobacco cooties) that the company has so far managed to suppress.