This is great! It's like I'm back in my teens…

Twenty years ago I was having religious arguments with my friends about MacOS versus Windows. Some of these arguments even degenerated into snarking at each other in HTML comments inside school websites we were building… Fun times.

The thing is, for some reason we felt, in line with more professional and supposedly mature pundits, that the debate was about far more than which was the correct number of buttons on a mouse, or whether menus should be attached to the top of the screen as opposed to the tops of windows. No, we also had to pull in numbers, and not just megahertz or megabytes, but user numbers. Of course, as a Mac user, I felt this was unfair, because usually the Mac came out well behind in all these metrics. Subjectively, the 200 MHz PowerPC 604e machines I was playing around with at the time, running MacOS 7 and 8, certainly felt faster than the 200 MHz Pentium boxes with Windows 95, but that's hardly a benchmark. Still, it was funny that we were all so invested in our choices that instead of saying "huh, you like that flavour? good for you!" and getting on with it, we had to argue the point endlessly. Admittedly, cooperation was made harder by trying to develop websites together, because stuff that worked at home would break on my friend's machine and vice-versa, and not just when he used that blasted marquee tag either.

Now the same thing is going on again, except now it's iOS versus Android. Plenty of people seem to feel the need to pile on any mis-step by Apple or by iOS developers and point out the superiority of the "open" Android platform. I don't get this reaction at all. For one thing, many of these Issues, which look potentially fatal to Apple at the time, are tempests in tiny teacups. See for instance Mapsgate. I never had any problem with the new Maps, but then again, I'm hardly a power user. I did check out a few points of interest at the height of the brouhaha, just out of curiosity, and I didn't see any issues. Metro stops were in the right place, villages were correctly labelled and had all their streets, and directions were sensible.

If anything, the new Maps app was an improvement in the one area for which I rely on it most: traffic. See, in my commute there are a couple of points where I can go one way or another, depending on traffic. If traffic's moving, I just stay on the ring-road, but if it comes to a halt, it sometimes makes sense to take an alternative route via surface streets. The alternative routes can also get grid-locked, though, so what I do is to bring up Maps and check what traffic looks like in my immediate surroundings. The old Google-powered Maps app would take so long to load data that even the crawling traffic would carry me past the relevant turns, so I had to guess and hope. The new Maps app loads up almost instantly - on the same phone, with the same carrier - and lets me make an informed decision.

So one reason I'm still on the Apple side of the barricades twenty years and two platforms later (Classic MacOS > OSX > iOS) is that my subjective experience is still better than the alternatives. The funny thing is that this feels very familiar in another way too. For all the Sturm und Drang in Gizmodo comment threads, I only know one (1) passionate Android user. I know many who don't even know that their phone is running Android! I think this also explains those statistics that show that despite representing a relatively small percentage of the market, iOS devices still account for the vast majority of web traffic: iPhone and iPad owners bought their devices deliberately and use them a lot. Many Android users simply wanted a phone (often not even a smartphone) and ended up with an Android device by default. They never connect their phone to wifi, or install apps; they might use built-in Facebook clients and what-not, but many don't even do that.

Android and iOS simply serve different markets. As I suspect that I would not be happy with Android devices (especially to replace my iPad), many Android users have no wish to spend several times more to get an iPhone which is (for their use cases) no better. Can we just move on now, instead of hyper-scrutinising every breath an Apple executive takes and every move Apple's stock makes?