Saturday, 10 November 2012

So my life is a bit of a mess at the moment. I'm in the middle of a Computer Science degree at a pretty decent UK University, having an incredible streak of bad luck and generally feel like my life is just going off the rails. Next to no one I know reads this so I guess it makes no difference to just rant to the internet here. No one ever explained twitter to me, and I'm the kind of person who likes to write things out in full, somehow I suppose micro-blogging just isn't for me. Suffice to say, i'm not the most succinct person you'll ever come across.

Thing one. I've built my desktop PC to be pretty damn good. It's far from the best these days, it's been neglected for some time, but every time I use it I get a real sense of pleasure, even if it's just to do some trivial task. You know why? Because that piece of technology is hand crafted to be exactly what I want it to be. If there was a single component on there that wasn't doing exactly what I wanted it to be I would probably change it. There are some minor things (for example an Antec 140mm fan that whines as it starts up) but all in all the machine just fits like a glove. Particular highlights are my Mouse, SLI GTX 480's and IPS Display

Which brings me to my laptop. Now for all intents and purposes my main Asus laptop is a pretty damn awesome piece of kit. It's got a pretty nifty spec for an Ultraportable laptop and the fact that it can game as well as it can is in itself pretty noteworthy. However, the display(for example) is a pretty basic 1366*768 TN Panel. It's thin for sure, but it lacks the punch of my desktop display which makes me want to stop and stare every time I look at it. Right now I'm sat typing on my laptop with my desktop to my right and I keep looking over and fixing my gaze on the IPS panel. It's just better, and I'm happy to have it.

But the thing is, not everyone needs an IPS display, most people probably don't know what one is or can even conceive of why it might be nice to have. These days IPS panel prices have gone through the floor, presumably as a result of the bucket loads of cash going into the development of panels for mobile devices, but still not everyone will buy one. Because no one glove fits all. While I enjoy the heightened experience my tailored hardware brings me it may not be ideal or necessary to everyone in every usage scenario.

And this is where I take issue with some of the modern hardware/software companies. Namely Apple and Microsoft. Apple have for some time had a very much one size fits all strategy, especially with their mobile lineup. It's been heavily criticised by a million different people over and over again and I'm not going to bother adding to that particular rubbish heap. Microsoft on the other hand have really surprised me of late, And I think the problem is that Microsoft (or rather it's directors) feel that they need to be more like Apple. And so we have Surface. And Windows 8. A desktop OS with a tablet interface. That's like saying you *can* use it for whatever, but we're going to tailor it to work best on this platform because that's what we want you to use.

It's an arrogance that's becoming increasingly common with large tech companies who feel that as a result of their size or industry dominance they can just do whatever they please and forget the first rule of business, the customer is always right. If you're running a small business and a customer comes in and asks for a service which you imply to offer (like idk maps on a phone?) and you then fail to deliver that customer will a) be unhappy because you failed them and b) take their business elsewhere. These days however Micropple and Dog will a) brush off your indignation, carry on unabashed and b) lock you into their ecosystem so deeply that it's not worth the effort of leaving.

It's getting to a point where ecosystem lock-in is so bad that it rivals the bank system. The FSA and the like have been going on for years about the fact that even unhappy bank customers nine times out of ten don't bother to change their bank because it's too much hastle. If you buy a Mac today you are buying into the apple ecosystem in a way that for a lot of people will be very difficult to leave. One example off the top of my head. You buy a mac and reconnect with a very close friend who uses facetime as their way of video calling. You buy a PC now and you can't talk to that person in the same way. And I disagree with that. I think the world benefits when we have open standards, strong cross platform interoperability and strong partnerships between companies. Open source is right in the right places but open standards to me is that thing that really kicks it home.

Open standards that is, that reach across software and hardware. Say I buy a new tablet from manufacturer A. And decide that for my usage model it would benefit from a higher resolution screen, rather than having to sell or retire a product I can just swap the screen. It's cheaper, it's more environmentally friendly and it gives the end user a tailored user experience. Seems obvious, people do it for desktops all the time. But there's no standards for mobile devices. And that lack of standards is in my opinion a real choke point on modern electronics.