Apple TV Not “Finished”
Today’s entry is a partial response to a comment on a recent 9to5Mac blog post. The commenter was reacting to the the fact that, the Apple TV, the latest one, is being delivered without Siri being able to search music, and the poster categorized Apple as being a joke because of this. I think the poster is on to something, but it’s a little bigger than maybe he realizes.
I don’t think that Apple’s presenting an unfinished product makes them a joke, exactly, I think it makes them a symbol of the need for some general reforms that are needed throughout the computer software and hardware industries. (Especially software.) You see, the problem is that, we’ve all acclimated to receiving, using and re-buying, products that aren’t finished. Additionally, we buy products that in some way(s) or another become foundational to our daily existence, and there is little legal or ethical culpability from the companies that develop and sell us these products. Anything that can be construed to be a “computer” running “software”, inevitably comes with a warning that basically says, we [the company] are not responsible for anything that goes wrong in your life’s journey as a result of using our unfinished product. These were really the first independently funded, kickstarter-like campaigns.
This hand-washing was started with the advent of software development and was a way to ensure that the industry could self-perpetuate by radically reducing the possibility that a single large incident, or a bunch of smaller ones, could create a scenario that would shut down further development. Said a little more succinctly, all users agree to become perpetual beta testers and nothing has changed since the software development paradigm was begun. (Initially I think most were aware of what was going on and were willing to go along because many realized the potential impact for good of software development over the long haul.)
If this isn’t enough, we technically don’t own the software we use, we just have a license to use it for or own purposes in the context of what the software was created to try and do for the end user. As a consumer, professional and personal, I want to buy computing products that are completed – finished. I’ve seen this happen a couple of times and it feels weird because there’s no communication from the developer when development is completed, and no big news splashes on TV or in the blogosphere. It feels like I’m missing something I’m owed, but alas, the product is complete, even if there is something more that can be done there really is no purpose served, and in the end, it doesn’t feel weird because it is, it feels weird because I’ve been conditioned into this merry-go-round of upgrading.
We consumers have enabled a system that allows developers and manufacturers to compete with each other at our expense and with virtually no culpability. Change is long overdue and by now I don’t believe that the industry would really suffer much at all by the occasional and inevitable law suite. It might also lead to more time between new releases [as opposed to never-ending upgrades], but again, our universal dependence on computing technology, by now, will ensure the continuation of hardware and software advancements, and perhaps, at a slightly less insane and sometimes, expensive, pace.
Actually, it’s not a joke, it’s a rather serious matter and Apple is only following business-as-usual practices that it, along with many other, big and small developers, created at the advent of the computer/software industry, to help ensure that personal computing would continue to develop and become ever-more entwined in the fabric of our lives. That part has obviously worked very well, but maybe, just maybe, it’s time we started advocating for some foundational reforms in the way computing technology is delivered to us. After all, we pay for it.