Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's not just Lion!

I have not yet installed the upgrade of OS X Lion to 10.7.2.  I figured that I had better get some of my important writing out of the way first, particularly after having read the BBC News story this morning about problems with the latest upgrade to iOS 5.  When I first tried to analyze the reasons for all the trouble that Lion had been giving me, I was struck by Ted Landau’s opinion that the whole Lion mess amounted to collateral damage in a process he called “iOS-ification.”  This was Landau’s epithet for a series of interface decisions designed to make the OS X desktop look and act more like the surface of an iPad, which was, at the very least, a slap in the face to those of us who work our desktops really hard for any number of reasons (my writing habits being my own case in point).

This morning’s news now obliges me to think twice about that hypothesis.  If upgrading iOS is turning out to be as much of a mess as upgrading OS X, then the problem runs deeper than the possibility that Apple is now putting its best minds on mobile products leading to neglect for the older stuff.  Now the hypothesis is the one I advanced on Tuesday, which amounts to the possibility that “best minds” are just not as good as they used to be.  Ultimately, we are destined to play out the logic of E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops.”  As our support technology degrades, we choose to live with its shortcomings, rather than try to repair them.  Eventually, however, the degradation will be such that nothing works any more, at which point we shall come face to face with our inability to deal with a reality that is no longer mediated by technology.  Is that the future Steve Jobs wanted us to have?

1 comment:

Inigo Jones said...

There is a deeper problem. Planned obsolescence is coercion.

Most software purchases are the result of coercion rather than expressions of preference in the market. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that relatively few changes to software systems reflect the genuine needs or desires of consumers, given that the price system is not in this case functioning as a way for individuals to coordinate their behavior.

Piracy is one response to this neglect of consumer preference in the market. It is a fair and rational response to intractable market conditions. The open source movement is another response to the neglect of consumer preference in the market; yet open source software has hurdles to more wide-spread adoption, mainly, vendor lock-in.

Whereas businesses in the 1980's saw substantial benefits to adopting computer technology, the computer market today is characterized by diminishing returns. But you never hear about diminishing returns in the technology reporting, because all the journalists are blinded by the myth of progress -- they assume both that what is newer is better and that what is newer must replace what is older.