Sliding out of the Apple ecosystem?

in apple, Opinion, Tools
December 26th, 2016

A recent post on CNet describing the author’s Hackintosh build made me reflect on a few things that I’ve done lately that are slowly sliding me away from Apple’s ecosystem. Let me start by saying that I’ve been an Apple fanboy for many years; pretty much every piece of tech I use is either an Apple product or created by an ex-Apple employee. Though I do use a fair number of Linux machines for server-side work, there’s a big fat apple on everything else. Heck, I was the Technical Editor of inCider Magazine back in the mid-80s, writing articles about how to homebrew Apple II add-ons. I completely bought in to the Apple-centric world view of the past 8 to 10 years.

That said, I feel like the hold that Apple has on me is slipping. Here are three events in the past month that make me wonder what’s coming next:

Like Ian Sherr of CNet, I watched the October Apple product announcement very closely. I was ready to spend money on a new office computer and wanted to see what the new Macbook Pros and iMacs looked like before making a decision. To say that I was disappointed is an understatement. The touchbar on the new MacBook is interesting, but the rest of the specs are horrific given the price point. If you separate out the operating system, MacBooks look a lot like laptops from other manufacturers, except that the MacBooks use very conservative CPUs, graphic cards, memory, and the like.

After watching the announcement I order the parts I needed for a high-end Hackintosh, which was still $1,000 to $1,500 less than the MacBook. I tend to build a lot of Hackintoshes, but in this case I was willing to see what Apple had in mind. There was no upgrade to the iMac, no upgrade to the Pro, no upgrade to the Mini. Hackintosh it was.

Next up was the Amazon Echo Dot and the Alexa service. Now, I love using Siri on my phone and watch (and now my Mac) but it only took a few days of using Alexa to realize that Amazon had completely eaten Apple’s lunch on voice-enabled apps. There’s just no comparison; Alexa is a generation ahead of Apple’s Siri. There are a lot of things that Alexa can’t yet do, but once those few things are in place Amazon will own this space. I’m using Siri less and less and finding ways to replace Siri with Alexa in my daily workflow. As an example, I used to use Siri as the primary way to manage my grocery list. Now, Alexa handles creation of the list because it is so much more efficient, and Siri (via IFTTT) is just used to display the list on my watch at the store. At this point Siri is nearly unused.

The final bit was today. I wanted to be able to query Alexa about my schedule, but my calendars were hosted on iCloud. I couldn’t sync the iCloud calendars with Google Calendar, which is what Alexa needs. I just spent about 15 minutes moving all of my calendars (about a dozen) to Google, off of iCloud, which is one more step away from Apple’s ecosystem.

I’m not abandoning MacS or iOS (or WatchOS or tvOS or any other Apple OS); I really do believe that they are technically superior, and I trust them more from a privacy standpoint than any other solution outside Linux. And I do understand that by handing Google my calendars I’m also handing them any personal information that might be in those appointments. (Which is why I keep a non-shared calendar locally for sensitive items). But I’m also not going to blindly follow Apple down whatever path they are heading when there are better solutions available.


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