Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 16th Feb 2012 14:46 UTC
Mac OS X Well, this is a surprise. Several websites have a preview up of Apple's next Mac OS X release - it's called Mountain Lion, and continues the trend of bringing over functionality from iOS to Mac OS X. Lots of cool stuff in here we've all seen before on iPhones and iPads, including one very, very controversial feature: Gatekeeper. Starting with Mac OS X 10.8, Apple's desktop operating system will be restricted to Mac App Store and Apple-signed applications by default (with an opt-out switch), following in Windows 8's footsteps.
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If the trend to lock computers around a single supplier/overlord continues, you will not be able to do so without plenty of black magic in a near future.

The geek computer market is large enough to support itself. Geeks created the PC market, and there was a time when there was no other type of user. Because of this, the trend doesn't mean anything. We geeks know what we want. For a long time our needs and the needs of the average consumer more or less lined up. We liked the ability of a PC to do anything we told it to, and consumers liked how a PC could fit into multiple roles.

If our needs are diverging, so will our products. We'll still have our System 76, our Boxx, and new brands that come out to cater to the needs of users who want to continue to do whatever they want with their PCs. The consumers can continue on their path without affecting us. So you like Apple? Tough, they don't cater to you. Find someone else. You and the rest of the geeks are your own trend, not the victim of a single amorphous hive mind.

But when in the future all computers sold are actually locked down "appliances", without a single low level toolkit, without being able to plug any hardware created without the consent of the supplier, without even physical ports to interface with anything else (all in the name of good design, of course, at least is how they will sell this "feature")... well, things will become quite bleach.

No they won't. You'll buy a product that has all those things that you need, because you have your own market. Who do you think things like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino are made for? The market is there already - it's just suppressed by the availability of general purpose PCs from vendors who mostly cater other types of people. When these PC vendors forget about us, our geek market will flourish.

You will end up with a generation that looks their computers like our own generation looks their TVs. This will result in a massive reduction in the interest in computers by potential people (that will proceed to some other professional path), and a slow down in innovation.

Maybe... though I take the selfish view of that and think of that positively. If true, the world will still never stop needing geeks. We'll be in higher demand, they'll pay us more, and they'll have more for us to do. Computers will no longer be a trendy field, and I think that's just fine.

Worse, since these "appliances" will be black boxes, they will be massive privacy killers and a powerful tool for authoritarian regimes to keep their sheep under control. After all, if you control what a computer can do, you also control what their users can see.

This implies other problems that Apple and Microsoft has nothing to do with.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Alfman Member since:


You look at these corporate walled gardens with indifference for "geeks", however you don't seem to appreciate the extent to which we have benefited from commodity desktop computers being open.

1. Barriers to entry.
So long as commodity computers are sufficiently open, one will find that almost any desktop system in use can be used as is for real development. These ordinary computers can be used for development and normal use without restriction. The difference between a geek and a non-geek should be in the knowledge we possess. We don't have to special order an expensive "developer system". We don't need to pay for a yearly "developer key". Our own abilities are the limit. However when commodity computers become closed, this raises the bar to entry and artificial restrictions on our desktops end up becoming the limit.

2. Access to customers.
The availability of unrestricted niche computers for devs, while important, doesn't necessarily help if one's customers remain behind a restricted walled garden. Developers must be able to reach consumers who are using commodity hardware. Software developers loose when their customers cannot install their software.

Edited 2012-02-16 20:29 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3