Open source benefits from 7th circle of Apple hell

Summary:Apple is back in the same box Steve Jobs put it in 25 years ago.

A friend had trouble with their iPhone yesterday and enlisted me in a trip to the Apple Store.

(The Apple store in Lenox Square Mall, Atlanta, from Apple.com.)

Three hours later I realized that Apple is back in the same box Steve Jobs put it in over 25 years ago.

To continue the morning's baseball theme, It was deja vu all over again.

My friend's WiFi was on the fritz. The battery was losing power faster than a politician under indictment. No problem, he said. I have an appointment.

The store was tightly packed with people, even though it was Monday afternoon. We were called at 3:18 for an appointment scheduled for 3. After examining the unit our hyper-friendly Apple geek suggested a reboot. No good. Sadly he suggested reloading the operating system. Some 15 minutes later, still no good.

OK, he said, we can fix it, but it will take time because it's a hardware problem. Wait, my friend said, that's my home phone. Can't I just buy another?

Sure, the geek replied. Just get in this line here. How long is this line here, my friend asked. About an hour-and-a-half to two hours, came the reply from the line monitor.

Some 45 minutes later, while my friend frantically used his AT&T data minutes to try and order a new phone online while standing in the Apple phone ordering line, his girlfriend arrived like cavalry to the rescue. She wasn't under Apple's spell. She pulled us out and said my friend could buy something later.

Suddenly, in the mall parking lot, a miracle occurred. There, right across the street, was an AT&T store. A company-owned store, its happy little death star sparkling in the sunlight.

Eureka, my friend said. They sell iPhones. So we went over.

It was night-and-day. By which I mean the AT&T store was nearly empty. The help was not overwhelmed. They were waiting for us. We were taken to a man named Scott, who engaged my friend in earnest conversation while I perused the inventory.

Look, I said, this Samsung CaptivaCaptivate costs just what the iPhone would. It's an Android phone designed to look just like the iPhone, and it seems to have all the same features as the iPhone. Hint, hint. (Thanks to ITGuy08 for catching the misspelling.)

Well, Scott replied, we don't have any iPhones in stock, but I can get you into a Captiva right now. A half-hour or so later my friend was a happy Android user, asking me if I wanted an iBrick.

There are some important lessons here:

  1. Apple claims to be unworried because it is selling iPhones as fast as it can make them. Even faster.
  2. Apple is not scaled to meet demand for its product, and certainly not for its retail services.
  3. Alternatives with the same look-and-feel are available now.

Back in the 1980s, PC users had to live through 6 years of FUD, waiting for Microsoft or IBM to get their act together and deliver a graphical user interface similar to the Apple Mac, introduced in 1984. Apple had 5 years to own the market, yet its insistence on complete control meant it couldn't meet demand. Microsoft won.

It's happening again, Steve. Only it didn't take Microsoft 6 years to match you. Open source did it in two. And that's why Android phones now out-sell the iPhone. They're not better, they're just available, and you don't have to go into the 7th circle of Apple Hell to get one.

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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