In my March column, I explored why tech gadget firms draw such rabid partisanship. Certainly, in the gadget flame wars, there’s something for everyone these days. Here’s an assessment of the latest companies people love to hate.
Apple is Evil.
The haters’ beef: Apple stuff is too expensive. Apple is a totalitarian control freak that limits what we can do with our gadgets. Apple is smug and elitist.
Yeah, but: So why the rage? Why isn’t there equivalent rage toward other companies that sell expensive, stylish goods, like BMW or Bang & Olufsen? Why not just not buy Apple stuff if you find it so offensive—why is it also necessary to denigrate people who do?
Microsoft is Evil.
The haters’ beef: Microsoft owns the computer desktop without having any ideas of its own. Bill Gates didn’t write the DOS operating system—he bought it and rode it to incredible wealth. And everything else Microsoft has ever sold—Windows, Zune, Pocket PC, XBox, Internet Explorer—was built on stolen ideas.
Yeah, but: There are alternatives to everything Microsoft sells—nobody’s holding a gun to your head and insisting that you use Windows or Office. Besides, Microsoft doesn’t always play me-too. The Kinect is all its own. So were Smart Displays and the Spot Watch. (Yeah, they flopped, but they weren’t copycats.) Windows Phone 7 is a copycat concept—it’s an iPhone wannabe—but its design is totally fresh.
Google is Evil.
The haters’ beef: Google is too big, too powerful. It has access to all of our phone calls (Google Voice), email (Gmail), mobile transactions (Android) and Web activities (Google search). The people behind Google are reading our private transactions—how else could they display ads appropriate to what’s in our email and Web searches?
Yeah, but: There’s never been any evidence that Google humans are, in fact, snooping through our stuff. And if you’re going to worry about Google intercepting your communications, why aren’t you also worried about all of its rivals—Yahoo, Microsoft and so on?
Facebook is Evil.
The haters’ beef: Facebook now stores the personal data of over half a billion people—all within the hands of a 26-year-old college dropout with no adult supervision. Facebook is a privacy disaster; it’s selling our information to advertisers, sometimes in sleazy ways without our permission.
Yeah, but: Um, how did Facebook get your personal information? You supplied it. You expected to reap the pleasures of a global directory, so old friends and new ones can find you. If that concept gives you the heebies, why sign up?