For the last two years or so, I've been exploring the world of Apple products quite heavily. I've owned three different iPods, and two different Macintoshes in this time frame. It's rare that one company's products can change your life and your outlook in such a short range of time.
Before I discovered the iPod, I had tried a number of other MP3 players and was very underwhelmed. The flash based players were flimsy and very fragile. The UI sucked. The hard drive based players were big, bulky, heavy and very clunky. The entire hard drive based player would jerk whenever the hard drive heads were seeking data.
After I bought my first iPod, I fell in love with MP3 players. My first iPod was a fourth generation, 40GB iPod. It only had a monochrome screen, but it played the music beautifully, was brain-dead simple to navigate (love that click wheel!) and ended up changing the way I listen to music. I used to buy CDs and keep them in a CD case in my car. Whenever the stuff on the radio sucked (as it OFTEN does), I'd pop a CD in and listen to that. At one point I even had a 10 CD changer installed in the trunk for just such a purpose. Now, after buying an iPod, I never listen to CDs. I have a 6 CD changer integrated into my car stereo, but it never gets used. Instead, I have an iPod interface installed in my car stereo. With a 40GB HD on the iPod, instead of 6 CDs worth of music available whenever I want, I know essentially have thousands of CDs available at any time. Essentially I can have ALL the music I'd ever want to listen to in my car at all times. The CDs are now basically a 'backup' of the iPod. I only buy them to dump the songs onto the iPod and then they go on the shelf never to be used again. Add to this, the large number of podcasts out there, and I have an endless supply of stuff to listen to in the car. I rarely listen to the radio anymore. That first iPod was the beginning of the 'iPod Halo Effect' for me.
Before I discovered the Macintosh, I lived in the land of Windows. Windows has always been very buggy and very flakey for one reason or another over the entire time I'd used it. Whether it was security bugs, or stability problems, Windows was always a hassle to deal with. Aggravation was my normal impression of Windows machines.
After I bought my first Macintosh (a PowerPC based Mac Mini), I fell in love with the Mac. In less than 3 months, I'd gone from never having used a Mac in 15 years, to buying a small Mac, to spending $1800 on a full blown, dual core PowerMac G5. That's what I'm writing this blog on now. I plan to upgrade to the new Mac Pro at some point. I'd been a fan of Linux for some time before this, but Linux had always annoyed me due to the fact that it was very difficult to set up. The Mac, is based on FreeBSD, which is a variation on Unix. Linux is also a variation on Unix. I love the design of Unix, so the Mac ended up being the best of both worlds for me. It had the graphical, easy to use nature of Windows, but with the stability and all around better design of Unix. I am so enamored with the Mac these days, I'd seriously consider abandoning the last 12 years of Windows programming experience I have, in favor of a job programming Macs. A life free of Microsoft and Windows would be heaven indeed.
Why do I call it the Apple 'Curse'? Because, ever since seeing how well Apple designs things, I just cannot accept badly designed products anymore. When you see how well Apple does things, you just cannot tolerate anything below those standards anymore. For every MP3 player that comes out, such as the Zune, my first thought is always "Is it as good as the iPod?" Inevitably, the answer is always "no". Am I blinded by my like for the iPod? No. If there is a product out there that is genuinely better, I'll drop the iPod in favor of it. Competition is a good thing. I always try to give every iPod competitor a fair chance to win my heart away from the iPod. I just haven't seen anything that can do that yet. Are there other devices that have more features than the iPod? Yes. (such as the Zune). But features aren't everything. It's the 'whole package' that matters to me. Sure the iPod lacks a build in FM tuner. So what? I can get an FM tuner add-on for it, if I want it. The lack of an FM tuner doesn't out way the MUCH easier to use, much more compact and much lighter iPod. I won't give up the iPod for a case of 'featuritis'. The Zune has a great UI and some nice features... It's *close* to beating the iPod, but it's just not there yet. It's too bulky, it's PC software sucks, and it's online store implementation is atrocious and downright offensive. Maybe in a couple of years, when Microsoft gets is right, the Zune will be an option. Until then, the iPod still wins for me.
This whole increase in what I expect out of a product is also why I ultimately rejected the Sony Reader, which I wrote about in my previous blog. It was close, but not quite there. Prior to my experience with Apple products, I may have bought it anyway and just put up with the few things I didn't like about it. Not anymore.