Nose, Face, Spite. Fast-twitching.

Nose, Face, Spite. Fast-twitching.

2010-04-10

by Richard White

The curse of the fast-twitch response neural response (and I’m perfectly aware that I’m mixing a muscle property with brain activity in that metaphor, but go with me on this), is that emotions can blaze along as quickly as thinking does. I like to think that I’m relatively quick in grasping the fundamentals of a problem, or seeing through a tangle of talking points to a logical conclusion, but I occasionally find myself at the mercy of sudden and strong emotional responses to situations.

Ask teacher/fellow-geek Aaron about the little jaw twitch I get right before I freak out. He’s seen me in enough stressful situations to know the warning signs.

I’m not twitching right now, but I was a little troubled last night to read this bit of news from the well-connected John Gruber:

A few months ago, I heard suggestions that Apple had tentative plans to release a developer beta of Mac OS X 10.7 at WWDC this June. That is no longer the case. Mac OS X 10.7 development continues, but with a reduced team and an unknown schedule. It’s my educated guess that there will be no 10.7 news at WWDC this year, and probably none until WWDC 2011.

Apple’s company-wide focus has since been focused intensely on one thing: iPhone OS 4.1 The number one priority at Apple is to grow mobile market share faster than Android. Anything that is not directly competitive with Android is on the back burner.

Okay. That’s not good.

My deal with Apple is simply this: deliver products that are better than the competition by a factor of two or three, products that make me happily spend top dollar for their outstanding quality and Apple’s superior customer support. Do that, and I’m your fan-boy. Ever since I switched to Apple from the PC world almost 20 years ago, they have delivered on that promise.

And for the moment, I guess they still are, although the iPad isn’t part of that promise for me. Nor the iPod, nor the iPhone. For me, Apple’s superiority has been its hardware and its software, all built around the rock solid OS X, running on top of the Darwin flavor of UNIX. It’s been a great ride, and I owe so much of my own technological workflow to those, and the third-party apps built for that ecosystem.

If Gruber’s intuition is true, though, any significant growth or evolution in that ecosystem has been stunted, as all hands on Cupertino’s deck rush toward the various mobile platforms—iPhone and iPad. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t devote significant attention to that front: I’m an Apple stockholder, and while the rest of the world is struggling to emerge from that “economic downturn”, AAPL is doing just fine, thank you. When I wear my investor hat, I’m a happy man.

But put on my technology hat and I start to get a little worried. Development on the new operating system, as mentioned above, has apparently slowed or stopped completely. And the top-of-the-line laptops haven’t come out with a significant refresh in years. I used to be an an 18-month hardware upgrade cycle, based both on the release cycle from Apple and the amount of stress I put on my machine, carrying it back and forth to school, to classes, to office, to home… The machine I’m composing this post on is almost three years old. It’s serviceable, but… Apple’s development has slowed in this area as well. Let’s see, three years ago… that was just about the time that the iPhone came out.

Apple is currently struggling to serve two masters: the geeks and the public. Not all of the geeks are real happy right now, and some of them occasionally make noises about jumping ship in favor of other, more open, worlds: Google’s Android-based phone systems, Linux (including my personal favorite, the excellent LinuxMint), etc. Sometimes, they come swimming back to Apple, in a classic case of “I’m sorry… you were right… turns out that the grass isn’t as green over there as I thought it was…”

Regardless of what happens, it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

I’ve been told as an investor that I need to be smart, and not think with my heart. For years I’ve invested in Apple more as a result of my strong belief in their products rather than any deep financial analysis. I suppose it’s a bit ironic that, with their stock at an all-time high, I find myself believing in them a little less than I did before.

At least until the new MacBook Pros come out.

Me, next week, when that happens: “Oooooh! Shiny!!! I love Apple!!!”

Ah, the curse of the fast-twitch neuron.

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