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apple vs microsoftDo you like fixing your own computer? Avoid Apple products. A series of recent moves, from Apple-only screws to proprietary hard drives, makes one thing clear. Apple doesn’t want people fixing their own computers.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Microsoft was the evil empire and Apple the scrappy upstart, using open source to fight back against the market leader. In the 90’s Microsoft faced anti-trust lawsuits for abusing their dominant market position. The crime – bundling Internet Explorer with Windows.

In retrospect this seems like a minor sin. The iPad and iPhone not only bundles software-like browsers but it gives Apple the ultimate say on which applications can and cannot run on your system. Apple takes a cut of every sale and blocks other vendors from selling anything on the platform. That arrangement makes Microsoft look like idealistic Linux hackers by comparison.

Apple is moving toward a similar arrangement on their line of computers. While the Mac App Store today is only one way to install software on your system, don’t be surprised if it someday becomes the only official way to do so (again, with Apple taking a cut of every purchase).

But forget about long-term software plans; it’s only speculation. There is a lot of hard evidence, right now, that Apple wants complete control over the computers they sell. Don’t believe me? Let’s explore a hypothetical situation. The hard drive on your MacBook Pro dies. You want to open the computer, replace the hard drive and re-install Lion. Sound simple? Think again.

1. Special Screws

Do you recognize this screw head?


apple vs microsoft

If not, you don’t own a recent Apple product. In their wisdom Apple switched from the standard Philips (star) head to this special, Apple-only screw, a move iFixit called a “Diabolical Plan To Screw Your Phone”.

Only Apple products use this screw head, meaning you need to find a special Apple-only screwdriver to open modern Apple devices. That’s right: if you want to open your Apple product up and replace your hard drive, you first need to purchase a special screwdriver. To my knowledge Apple doesn’t sell it, so you’ll need to find it from a third party.

2. Special Hard Drives

Now that you’ve got inside your Mac it’s time to replace the drive. But don’t bother checking NewEgg or Amazon for a cheap replacement. If you bought that Mac in 2011, you won’t just need to spring for a special screwdriver to make the replacement. No, you’ll need to buy a special, Mac-only hard drive.

apple displaces microsoft

That’s right, standard hard drives do not work well in newer Mac models. Using one will result in your fan being on all the time, because the temperature in the drive won’t be regulated properly.

So you order your proprietary screwdriver and proprietary drive, and manage to get your new drive into your Mac. Now all you need to do is install your OS. Should be easy, right?

3. Lion: No Included Installation Disk

Think again. If you bought your Mac with Lion on it, you have no installation disk. Sure, there was a repair partition on your hard drive, but you just replaced that hard drive with an empty one. What do you do now?

apple vs microsoft

Well, it’s possible to put Lion on a flash drive and install from there An Extensive Guide On Upgrading To OSX Lion & Making Installation Disks [Mac] An Extensive Guide On Upgrading To OSX Lion & Making Installation Disks [Mac] With OSX Lion in the App Store awaiting you, I’m sure some of you have some concerns about the upgrade process, so today I’m going to walk you through some of those concerns, give a... Read More , but doing that requires you have access to a computer running Snow Leopard or Lion. If you don’t have that, you’ll need to head to the Apple Store and buy a $69.00 Lion Flash Drive. It’s that or use BitTorrent to download an operating system you already own.


This all points to one conclusion – Apple wants you to get your computers fixed by them. Better yet, they want you to forget about fixing your machine and to simply buy a new one.

I write this not as an Apple hater. Actually, I’m writing this on an Apple computer. But lately it seems like Apple is doing everything in their power to assert control over the products they sell. Sometime between now and becoming worth more than Microsoft, Apple lost their scrappy upstart ways and became the evil empire.

Naturally a lot of you will disagree, so feel free to comment below. I’d like to hear a variety of viewpoints, though, so don’t only comment if you’re angry!

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  1. Nanda Linn Aung
    November 8, 2011 at 9:13 am

    great article and awesome comments, I am not relying on any OS or applications, it's quite important you haev freedom to choose and freedom to switch.

  2. Blythie
    October 6, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I completely agree with pretty much every gripe the author and those who commented have about Apple, but we really are missing a very important point.  Apple makes elegant, easy to use products for people who don't want to be bothered with messing around on their computers.  Apple customers would far rather pay premium prices for someone else to do the work for them and produce a reliable product.  They are the Honda Accords of the computer industry and there is a huge market of people who are willing to buy them.  They aren't perfect, but they are about as low maintenance as can get.

    • jhpot
      October 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      A great counterpoint; I thank you for making it. The Honda Accord comparison is apt.

  3. Fanboynot
    October 3, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    I'm writing this on Monday, Oct. 3.  The new iPhone will be introduced tomorrow, Oct. 4.  And you know what it won't have?  It won't have a user replaceable battery, a dongle-free USB port or a microSD flash memory slot.  And those are the same things customers have been asking for since iPhone 1.  That's really what makes Apple evil:  a total disregard for the wishes of its customers.

    • jhpot
      October 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      Another great point, Fanboynot. Thanks for posting it; I just might need to write a follow-up article.

  4. Matt
    September 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I can't stand iTunes! I use SharePod. It does everything I need. Here's the Makeuseof review:

  5. Suhel
    September 27, 2011 at 5:40 am

    I'd rather stick to Microsoft, but am still sure someone somewhere would be working on all this points. nowadays you get people who hack anything and everything, anyways in India Apple is way too costly and I'd rather not waste my money on something on which I cant mess around

    • jhpot
      September 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      Linux is great if you like messing around too; there's even more room for customization than with Windows. But yeah, Apple hardware is expensive and I'm sure not very common in India.

      • Suhel
        September 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm

        yup I've already installed Ubuntu as my dual boot and am spending hours and hours trying to get a hang of it (got dark circles due sleep deprivation lol)

      • Anonymous
        September 28, 2011 at 6:34 am

        Customisation, control, efficiency, programming, FLOSS philosophy, free, free (that is three separate things: using Linux just because you like its philosophy and don't like to do business with corporations whose motives are always questionable, obviously, when you can do something community-driven ; freedom to change, improve, etc. ; finally, free as in price), compatibility:

        Ease of use, programming, graphics, sleek looks, #1 support team, awesome size, weight vs. power ratio for laptops and the AIO iMac, great software and a culture of quality:
        Apple ecosystem

        Awesome solitaire animation you get when you finish the game, reluctantly gaming, though if you don't want to customise your games, then a console is MUCH better, dicks like Intuit, INSERT REASON HERE, INSERT REASON HERE, INSERT REASON HERE, INSERT REASON HERE, INSERT REASON HERE:

  6. brad
    September 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I used to enjoy the days of ripping open Macs and the like removing the memory and hard drives and transplanting them in windows pcs. Seem like a secret at the time but it worked a treat. Never found a positive use for their fans and power supplies.

    Way to jack up the price the parts. Just like trying to buy a car from it's pieces perhaps someone should try and price a Mac from replacing piece for piece.


  7. Chase Vandiver
    September 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    And with the ipod nano 6th generation they deleted the feature of watching videos (wanting you to buy an iPod touch maybe?).

  8. Dawson Witter
    September 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Indeed, as an ex-Apple employee we have always hated the average person messing around inside or for that matter outside of Apple "property". In fact many people will be surprised to learn that if you admitted to Tech support that you changed or hacked your system in any way at the time of your call to support it was noted in the database that was kept to log all support calls. After being logged your warranty was void. Sure Apple would not tell you this but then again Apple admitted to very little and still keeps very quiet when things go wrong. Remember the Performa line of computers? They were so buggy and shipped with software that was not even meant to run on the computer, but the word when people called in was not to mention anything just make it appear that the problem is related to "Third party software" and of course once support deemed it was because of "Third party" we would refer them to whoever we could think of usually Adobe or of course Symantec. There is one practice that all Apple employees - both current and ex adhere to and that is - NEVER buy anything from Apple that is of first generation because we used to be in such a hurry and still are to release the end product that quality control was a joke. So it's not that Apple is becoming the NEW evil empire but have ALWAYS been an evil empire and certainly a company that attempts to take very little responsibility for its mistakes.

    • iDigress
      September 26, 2011 at 3:20 am

      OMG, I had a Performa when I was like 4 :) AFAIK these were the Apple LC series re-branded and "crippleware'd" for the emerging "family/consumer market." My folks bought mine at Sears just to play games and stuff. They used to have a simplified desktop for kids and other computer newbies called At Ease, which we had to pay $300 for a tech guy to clear out because silly me, I had set it up and forgotten the password. Of course, being the precocious wannabe programmer that I was, I ended up begging mom to get the Mac Secrets book and totally hosed the thing fooling around with ResEdit from the CD. (Then, of course, I fixed it myself.) :) I had more copies of MacWorld than Highlights for Children or Ranger Rick in my room, and wanted to pull a Ferris Bueller in Kindergarten to go to the MacWorld Expo in Boston. Good times, good times...

      But maybe that was the beginning of this, when they started subsidizing their interests to major corporate retailers. HP does the same with Wal-Mart (the ones sold there have a "W" at the end of the model number). I'm typing this out on a Pavilion 6000w series desktop and lamenting the fact that there are no internal speakers in this thing. In which case it's probably not long until we get the wPod. ;)

  9. Anonymous
    September 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    What do you mean, "lately"? This has been true forever, Apple locks their stuff down. It may just not have been practical earlier on to actually use custom hard drives and custom screws and the like, but the Apple culture has always been about total control over the ecosystem to the greatest extent possible. If you're an Apple user, you may as well give up on the notion of doing it yourself, and if you want to do stuff yourself or do things like assemble your own computer, you'll be more happy with Windows. Or a Hackintosh, for that matter. 

  10. Cell Travis
    September 25, 2011 at 6:40 am

    The term "Apple screws" takes on a whole new meaning after reading this article :)

  11. iDigress
    September 25, 2011 at 1:39 am

    But wait, there's more! I can expand this list to a Top 10...

    4. Add to this list the difficulty many people have managing their iPod with anything but Apple's proprietary iTunes, which has only become more and more bloated with every version they release. I found an old download of 64-bit 7.7.11 that I use on 64-bit Windows 7. Software like QT Lite/Alternative, Floola, the ml_ipod plugin for Winamp (which is also an AOL drone, sad to say), Foobar 2000, and Songbird help alleviate the situation, but for some people they're not as comprehensive in features as iTunes is.

    5. Apple bundles software like Bonjour, Mobile Me, and Safari with the standard iTunes installer or nags you about it on Apple Software Update. The average Joe iPad doesn't know off the bat about passive MSI installs and probably wouldn't even know to look for such a thing. I use either that or the switchless repack from MSFN favorite Ajua Online, but again, this wouldn't be an obvious option for the average consumer.

    6. I have an iPod Classic 5.5 Generation, one of the few models on which you can't install RockBox firmware. Most others, you can; this is what I guess would be considered jailbreaking the standard iPod. Add to that there's currently no way to put an iPod Touch or iPhone in disk mode, as with most regular iPods; sooner or later, they'll remove this feature from future iTunes versions, and release a mass firmware update to remove the feature from old iPods that some people (like me) might still use.

    7. Battery life is a major PITA too. They could open this up a bit by using a standard watch battery to replace the dead one once it dies in your iPod/Touch/Phone. In order to get a new battery replaced, you either have to ship it to Apple or a third-party repair dealer, or just get a new iPod even though your old one works fine otherwise. (I doubt if a lot of people are going to crack open their iPods.) Fortunately there's this site called Rapid Repair based in Missouri that does not only repairs and replacements but hard drive upgrades; I've been thinking of replacing my 80GB one with a 240GB (whoa!) -- another feature not offered by Apple, but made possible by using a 240GB 1.8" ZIF HD, which is what Apple uses. Sure, the repair job is about the price of a new iPod, but this leads to...

    8. 240GB iPods don't actually exist, not on the market anyway. (It may seem overkill but I'm in the process of converting full TV series episodes from DVDs to iPod MP4 video.)

    9. Don't forget that while Macs can run Windows (via Parallels, another VM like VirtualBox or VMWare, or even multi-booting), most PCs can't run Mac OS out of the box and Hackintosh-building requires special technical knowledge (and a LOT of help from the OSX86 forums).

    10. Finally, I lost all respect for Apple when they DRM'ed the Beatles. Everything John Lennon used to "Imagine" about a global community of peace-loving people "sharing all the world" was basically shot out the iWindow with that one. Whatever happened to "I don't care too much for money"? :-(

    That said, iWish iCould afford an iMac, or that iCould upgrade my iPod, because iBroke and iCan't. (Semi-OT, is it just a coincidence that the American Jobs is in poor health and American jobs are in poor health at the same time?)

    • Tina
      September 25, 2011 at 8:39 am

      Thanks for this elaborate comment. iLike! :)

    • Anonymous
      September 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm

      Nice comment! But I have to correct the last point, The Beatles' music does not use any form of DRM. Apple abolished DRM sometime ago now and this article confirms that The Beatles' music is DRM-free:

      "Neumayr answered the first and second (without specific end date) questions and confirmed that the Beatles music is DRM-free."

      • iDigress
        September 26, 2011 at 3:23 am

        Thanks for the clarification about 1 Infinite Loop vs. John Lennon.
        (Bonus points if you know what documentary film this refers to.) I guess
        I should then amend #10 to be about one of Apple's most lamented
        versions of "crippleware" they packaged with these so-called consumer
        PCs. It was called HyperCard Player, essentially a "lite" version of the
        famed programmer's tool for non-programmers, Apple HyperCard. Wikipedia
        has an article about the lightweight but powerful database authoring
        program and its freeware successor -- which, according to the article,
        was itself used to create the first example of what we now know as a

        Hm, maybe yesterday doesn't seem so far away after all:

        "A number of commercial software products were created in HyperCard ... [including the] multimedia CD-ROM of ... The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night."

        • jhpot
          September 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm

          If we ever need a full time "Apple is evil" columnist, you should be the guy we call.

        • Anonymous
          September 28, 2011 at 6:13 am

          I guess you could kind of compare Apple to a gangster. Evil, but not just for the sake of it. If they could do something without killing someone, or in Apple's case, leaving someone behind, they'd probably do it. But they have a goal and will try almost any means to get to it. Apple's goal is complete control of the ecosystem. Whether they want this to maximise profits or for the good of its users is up to each individual to work out. Personally, I choose to believe the latter.

          P.S. No, I don't know which documentary you are referring to. Sorry?