And now the other side…

Since A Fire in the Head mentioned it, I thought I would take a moment to explain what is going on with my iTouch. In the description of BarkingShaman it says among other things that I am a small business owner, a subject and perspective that I don’t write from or about very often. My perspective as both a consumer and a business owner shapes my experiences with the iTouch.

I know that the last thing the interwebs need is another damn iPhone review so I’ll keep the review thing short and sweet: the iTouch is a spectacular piece of technology. Not only is it both useful and entertaining, but as a multi-touch interface (if only a 2-point) it is a glimpse into where computing may be going (for a more dramatic example see this post). What complaints I may or may not have about the iTouch itself are not worth mentioning here, I’m unlikely to say anything new.

My problems, such as they are, have much less to do with the hardware or software of the iTouch itself, but rather with the institutional mindset Apple seems to have taking during its development.

Let me explain why I bought the thing in the first place. When I leave the house in the morning this is the list of things I need to remember to bring:

Cell Phone
Heckler & Koch P2000 and its holster
Pocket Knife
Pill Case
Pocket Sized Digital Camera when possible
Restoration Device (depending on what I’ll be doing during the day)

(I also carry a back-up gun and back-up knife a lot of the time)

This list pushes me to the very edge of what I can plausibly carry and wear on my person. I don’t carry a purse or “man-bag” because steady pressure on my neck or shoulder would be too painful to be practical. Already having to carry this many things doesn’t leave me mental attention or physical space for the PDA that I need to have as well. This is why I bought the iTouch.

Since I am already carrying an iPod, I figured I could switch to an iTouch and have a combination PDA and iPod, although I’ll grant that it means doing so in a larger package. I also considered getting a Blackberry and having a combination cell phone/PDA but I didn’t like the interface at all. My plan would have worked perfectly but for one fact:

I am a Windows user. This is a fact that I am tired of apologizing for, whether to Mac users or Linux users. My business uses powerful CAD software that is not available for the Mac. In fact, I know of no industry standard CAD software that runs on a Mac platform. And I do not have the time or know-how to run Linux.

Since the business has to have Windows, I also have a cheap ($600) HP laptop that I use for my personal computing. This is where my iTouch problems started.

Apple doesn’t really plan well for the possibility of having Windows users who buy their products. The place where this is most problematic for me is that the iTouch calendar can only sync to Outlook or iCal (the mac calendar program) and there are major problems with Outlook syncing. This is weird since it will sync to my Google contact list, just not my Google calendar. My calls to Apple support to try to find out if support for Google Calendar or Windows Calendar (the vista calendar program) would be forthcoming was met largely with the auditory equivalent of blank stares. I was also told by several support personnel (I talked to a number of them) that I should just use iCal, which is not available for Windows computers. Overall, I’d say that each support person (even the one who was able to helpfully tell me that Apple had no intention at all of adding support for anything other than Outlook) was puzzled by the fact that I didn’t own an Apple computer. Non were any of them aware that new PC’s shipped with Vista rather than XP.

This represents a level of institutional myopia that cannot be healthy for a business. I think that there is also an unhealthy self-confidence out of keeping with the fragile hold that anyone can hold on a market segment today. The idea that I’ll eventually break down and pay $100 for a Vista version of a product so crappy that Windows replaced it for their new OS just so I can use my iTouch’s calendar doesn’t seem strange to Apple. They seem to think that I’d do that and more for the privilege of using their product. Or even worse, perhaps Apple believes that if they make great products which interface poorly with PC’s more people will set their PC’s aside and buy Apple computers.

This is stupid. Apple should be doing everything in their power to make me happy, including having their peripheral devices like the iTouch work perfectly no matter what OS I use. This way when it’s time for my next computer purchase I think of them. Ditto with their tech support. If you make a product that is PC compatible you need to be up to speed on how it interacts with said PCs if you want customers to feel that you care about them and are knowledgeable, key factors in the decision to change brands.

I need a PDA combination right now. If I could wait six to nine months I’ll bet someone would have something that would fill my needs as well as the iTouch does (I unfortunately thought the Samsung Instinct was a piece of shit). Somehow I doubt H&K will be releasing an combo PDA/9mm semi-auto.

The sad thing is that by itself the iTouch really is amazing. But when I connect it to my computer and try to use iTunes to do things like update my contacts I am very aware that I’m using a music player for something it was never really intended to do. I wonder it that isn’t a good metaphor for where Apple’s going

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