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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Philosophy of Computing Platforms (part 6)

The Way the World Is

I was asked "Why is the Mac immune to criticism on Application Integration at the Operating System Level?" this question over at twitter by @digitalfilipino in response to my posting this link by on Windows 7 development. Which led me to ask myself this question: Is the fundamental difference between platforms all about philosophy and human nature?

We took a journey down memory lane, into part of the past 30 years of our technological era. We began with a small company called Apple in 1976 that was started by two guys named Steve. We saw the rise of a pure software company, called Microsoft that was Bill Gates' and Paul Allen's and through events that favored them, became the sole provider of an Operating System for IBM's Personal Computer. And as they say, that was that.

Fast forward to 2007, Steve Jobs is one of the most admired, if not the most admired CEO in the world. Bill Gates is ending his tour of duty at Microsoft and is one of the richest in the world. We talk about the Philosophy of Computing Platform and when we look back at the last 30 years, it was shaped by these two men. 

Jobs' sense of perfection, his nature as a charmer, his salesmanship, his taking technology to an art-form, his driving belief of minimalism and simplicity and his role as the patron of the arts for our technological epoch drives Apple. His vision of a universe of integrated hardware and software whose marriage forms art is Apple's soul. 

In the same way, Gates is the vision, the pure geek energy, laser focused, calculating towards software that drives any computer in everyone's home is the source of philosophy ingrained on PC and by extension every Microsoft product the world over. 

Similarly, this Gates philosophy extends to Linux because if there is something similar to how Windows and Linux do things is that they are reflections of geek-engineering culture. Such culture, such philosophy is this technology savant imprint, a kind of rough around the edges, almost brute-force-like feel that calls for every user to be familiar with technology.

The scorn and hatred Microsoft got at the end of the 1990s haunts them to this day. It is this mistrust, this sense that Microsoft can do evil is the very fuel, the very thing that blocks them from furthering their vision of the future. It is this wall that forms criticism around everything Microsoft does. Which isn't really fair to Microsoft but is the price of being found guilty. 

At the same moment, the very nature of the PC, an Open Architecture on the hardware side is in direct conflict with a proprietary platform such as Windows. The PC world is a world where everyone can and must interact. And Windows as gatekeeper of this dynamic, Frankenstein-ish world plays a balancing act to keep legacy and future applications running. Perhaps, one day it will collapse under the weight of its own complexity or perhaps, one day it will allow itself to be transformed.

How ironic that it is quite the opposite for the Mac. The Mac is built on the same commodity parts that PCs use but engineered by Apple. Its software is based on Open technology: BSD Unix. Yet what Apple has done, it has taken this pedestrian technology and made it extraordinary (something that Linux can learn from). 

The Integration, the marriage of Hardware and Software is at the very heart, the very philosophy of Apple and in everything they do. Mac loyalists are willing to let Apple be the gatekeeper of their machines because it is no long just a mere computer, it is a consumer electronics device, sensual to the touch.

The differences between PC and Mac is the very Philosophy of their creators and their nature. PC needs to be open, needs to be a platform where anything goes (even transformed into a beauty like Mac) and accessible to everyone. In short, it fulfills the do-it-yourself mantra of hackers everywhere. Mac on the other hand is like a piece of art like that Ferrari or like a thoroughbred, gorgeous, perfection and powerful. The fundamental nature of computing platforms is the philosophy and nature and ultimately whatever the end-game of their individual creators.