Opinion: Is Apple a bigger danger to our lives than Microsoft?

Columns & Opinion, Gadgets, iPhone, iPod, Macworld 2008, Mobile phones, MP3 players

Jon_smal.gifJonathan Weinberg writes… I thought I could rely on Apple so this morning I awoke to disappointment in Steve Jobs after his Macworld announcements yesterday. I was sure he’d launch a new iPhone with either 3G or bigger storage memory, thus annoying the FOUR MILLION people who have now, like cult followers, signed up to the iPhone religion.

But it was a clever move. Save that announcement for a couple of months time, and bring a second-generation device out around a year after the first and no-one can have any complaints… can they? After all, technology is always changing and those of us who spend fortunes on gadgets and gizmos, only to see them bettered just weeks later, are fools of our own making. I do it, as much as you.

So unable to make any real iPhone jibes, I must first start my Macworld reflections by hitting out at the CHARGE imposed on people to upgrade their iPod Touch software. Sure, you’re getting new programs but £13 for the privilege when you’ve splashed out a couple of hundred or so for the player itself a few weeks back is a massive liberty from Jobs. To quote Ricky Gervais in Extras: “Is he ‘avin a laugh?’

That’s the biggest slap in the face to Apple fans since the iPhone price came down $200 in the States and all early adopters got was a $100 voucher for the Apple store in return for their troubles.

But then Apple can do it, because like Microsoft, they have a growing monopoly on many of our daily lives and I worry it is yet another sign they are becoming too big for their (re)boots.

For many Apple can do no wrong, even when they do wrong. Imagine if Microsoft started charging for Windows Vista service-packs, what an outcry there would be! I don’t think we’ll hear such noise over the $20 Touch charge with people blindly paying it, and not thinking about the precedent it is setting.

The new iTunes movie rental services is yet another sign of Apple’s burgeoning dominance on the entertainment industry and the way we consume media such as music and films. I actually think it’s a brilliant idea, and one that is a clear sign digital delivery for this type of thing can and will work.

They’ve signed up all the big movie studios, assuming they ever make any more films seeing as the writers’ strike continues a-pace, and that now gives them a stranglehold on this type of technology.

For while Blu-ray and HD DVD each have their own backers, for Apple to win the rights to so many blockbusters from so many sources, will make it hard for any other firm to gatecrash the party.

That, of course, is the idea. It is why Apple will make a fortune from this in America from today and then internationally when it launches in Britain and Europe, hopefully later this year.

In the past, all the fears about techno-dominance had revolved around Microsoft and Windows. Yesterday’s announcements by Mr Jobs won’t deter the Bill Gates haters from laying into them, but perhaps we now need to look further towards another US giant.

It’s never good for one company to own, run and provide so much to society, and both MS and Apple now account for a huge percentage of the way we work and enjoy life.

When you throw Google into the mix – and even they are increasing their partnerships with Apple – it makes for a very worrying war of the tech worlds that is now heading our way at light-speed.

Whether there can be more than one winner, I’m unsure. But I’m certain it will now start costing us dearly… both in monetary terms for once free rights like software updates, and then in freedom choice.

PS: I love the Macbook Air, although it is a little on the pricey side!

Jonathan Weinberg is a technology journalist who is writing this article from a bunker somewhere in Britain in case of retaliation from the big three!

Jonathan Weinberg
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