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The difference between MacOS and iOS.

I had an interesting Twitter exchange with a friend a few days back that got me thinking about iOS vs MacOS and iPad vs iPhone. While I am still brewing a comment on the whole iOS ‘AppStore Subscription Policy’ bruhaha and I think, by now, my concerns about the Mac App Store are well documented.

The “why is my iPhone unlike everything else I’d buy from Apple?”  question I’ve had in my head is starting to gel for me.

My Macs are mine. I own them and I own licenses to all the software I run on them and I, almost rabidly, avoid software that’s a service as opposed to a product.

My Macs are means of creation as much or more than tools of communication. They are, in some measure like pocket knives, chainsaws or jackhammers.  They’re tools, potentially dangerous tools. They need to be treated with respect and care lest things go wrong and they fail me or become a means by which I harm myself or others.

To really use my Macs, I need to respect the freedom I have to do with them as I please . I need to know and revel in the risks my incompetence may make me have to cope with. I’m, in large measure, on my own and enjoy the freedom that comes with that risk.

True Personal Computers, by shear dint of their flexibility, the nearly infinite possible combinations of software and hardware, are both more powerful and more brittle and potentially dangerous.

My phone, on the other hand, it had better just work. It had best never surprise me. It had best demand no management time. Demand no thought on my part beyond remembering to charge it. I shouldn’t have to wonder whether an App I install on it is phoning home, logging my usage, or at risk of bricking my phone.

My phone, realistically, I rent it.  A phone has no value beyond the network. It’s a communications tool not a creation tool.  Sure, I’d buy an unlocked phone if I could.  I’d keep a coupla-three SIM cards laying about and swap as mood and locale dictated like most of the rest of the world can, but, even if I had that flexibility, the phone, absent a ‘service’ is useless.

Because I must accept the co-mingling of service, software and hardware to actually be able to really use it as a phone, I have some expectations about what I need to put up with to get the best experience of that I can. I need, to a point, to accept that carriers must impose limitations on me.

911 service has to work. I can’t be allowed to risk munging up AT&T’s routing. I can’t be allowed to hack my way past their billing. I suck it up and deal when I agree to a service because I expect a Telco to be regulated and I expect them to be reliable. My phone needs to be much more like a the old rotary dial/mechanical bell behemoth that plugs into the wall in my living room than I would ever let my computers be.

It works for me to have some constraints imposed on me, on the telco by the government and yes, by the OS vendor of the phone. If I get three updates a week among the twenty or so third party apps I use on my phone. Wahoo, they cost me a buck, maximum twenty apiece. I expect them to be disposable and most of them are. When they break? I’ll pick something that competes and figure the lost buck or two is cost of doing business.

I don’t make things on my phone. My work isn’t at risk. My access to a working communicator trumps my need to protect and control any ‘on the phone’ work product and, therefore, I do no actual work, creation of data, on my phone.

Yes, of course I have a Calendar, Notes, and Contacts on my phone but they’re the walk-around copy. Worst case? I lose a day. If I snap a picture of Big Foot? I’m going to email it to myself and sync my photos because no way do I risk losing that. Big Foot aside, data created on the phone is small, rare, and usually much less important than my need to know I can make a call, or send an email.

I also store nothing personal or truly private on my phone.  I could lose the phone. The lock code I set could be bypassed or the phone picked up before the 5 minutes elapses to set it down the road to self wiping.

My computer? No! It’s mine, it’s mine to break, to modify, to abuse, to hack at, to control, modify if I want to. What I do on my computers, I have  only myself to blame if I don’t have a backup.

My work, my photos, my writing, my music, the unreleased gems from bands I’ve worked with over the years. It’s mine and my need to control it, protect it, create it, destroy it, back it up. encrypt it, decrypt it, hack it wins out over all else.

I’ll set my own tie off points when I climb my digital Everest on my computers. I’ll fall, or not, on my own strengths and weaknesses because I own it, and the consequences of my actions. I will not allow my data to be locked away where I can’t convert it, transform it, reformat it, disseminate it, or destroy it. My computers are means by which I exercise and express my freedom.

iOS protecting me from myself on my phone? Fine with me. It’s a phone in the end.  I need a phone to be a safety net more than I need it to do my own weird bidding.

iOS on iPad? I don’t own an iPad.  Even the wildest, most optimistic speculation about the coolness of iPad 2 doesn’t have me itching to buy one.  Why? Because, in the end, very little I could make on it would be worth saving the burdens of cost, weight and shorter  battery life of a  MacBook Pro in my current lifestyle.

If I travelled more? If I gamed more? Sure, I’d love an iPad but then, I’d know I wasn’t ‘buying’ an iPad, I’d know I was renting one. I’d make the compromises that come with the ephemeral engagement inherent to renting rather than owning.

You rent a house on the Cape to spend two weeks a year care-free on vacation  every summer.  If it’s not available, you rent another one or decide it’s a Vermont summer and not a Cape Cod one.

If you buy a vacation home you do it, at least in part, to feel you have your own personal escape. The work involved in owning it, it’s part of the value. Beach erosion aside, what you invest pays back a return over your lifetime and maybe pays off for others.

I’m on something north of my twelfth personal Mac. 95% of what I put into my first Mac in terms of blood, sweat and tears is still there, being mine, on the Mac I’m using to type this. This won’t be true of iPad, iPhone or any iOS device unless Apple completely changes their thinking and that’s ok.

The rules of MacOS are not, and should never be the same as those for iOS and you should know which set of rules you’re buying into when you decide which, or both, to buy.

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