In for a penny, in for a pound…

Jar of pennies.

“Three liters of pennies! 12.6 kg total mass.” — (c) Michael Pereckas

I historically eschewed Apple products because of the closed ecosystem and what I felt was an oversimplification of their software products. Everything “just worked”, but in mysterious ways. For example, just playing a media file on an Apple computer put it in your iTunes library– convenient for the average user, but as a power user I like to control where things are stored and how they are organized. That way I know how to back them up. But Apple’s got an app for that, too– Time Machine. Just turn it on and it takes care everything. I was a little bit too “Type A” to surrender to the simplicity and hope for the best.

My wife is a teacher, so whether she’s liked it or not, she’s used Apple products for many years. But she has liked it, so we got her a an Intel Core Duo Mac Mini back in the day. It’s still running, now as our simple home file server. That was the only foothold into our household Apple had for some time. As a primarily Microsoft ecosystem technology professional, all of my experience had been with Windows. I even used a smart phone with the much maligned Windows Phone OS (the Samsung Saga, which had a physical keyboard and a touchscreen back when folks thought those were mutually exclusive concepts). Then I won an iPad.

I had no plans to purchase a tablet, especially an expensive iPad. I thought the OS was crippled and it was useful mostly for surfing the web. If I needed to work on something away from home, I could just use my laptop. I was fooling myself. My old eMachines plodding tank of laptop barely got an hour on its aging batteries. I had no real mobility. I never took it anywhere but bed or vacation to offload pictures from my camera. With the iPad, I suddenly had something I could tote around as an afterthought. I started taking it to conferences and found that I could actually type really well on it. And it didn’t make a racket– no fan noises, no beeping with a failing battery, and my fingers made an almost-pleasant, muted tapping sound instead of the disruptive clacking of a keyboard. I was a fan.

It’s true what they say about the Apple ecosystem. When it was time for a phone upgrade, the iPhone– something I’d previously derided for its lack of a physical keyboard– was the default choice. I could buy an app on one device and use it on all my iOS devices for no extra charge. Plus, while my wife wasn’t interested in poking around on a half-size screen with a stylus, the iPhone’s consumer-friendly experience and polished media player which integrated with iTunes on her Mac Mini was enticing.

And the dominoes kept falling. iTunes was managing our media with our iOS devices and feeding the Apple TVs and Airport Expresses we’ve acquired, but that old Mac Mini couldn’t run the newest OS with the latest iTunes, and it was a big pain to increase the memory in that model. So we upgraded. That clunker laptop needed replacing– with a sleek MacBook Pro (Retina, because I love all those sweet, sweet pixels). And we recently upgraded from the iPhone 4S to the 5S.

We keep pouring money into Apple’s coffers. And while each product is excellent in its own right, if a bit expensive, the integration is a big driver. Reminders, calendars, contacts, and media (oh, yeah, we have iTunes Match, too) sync across all of the devices. We can throw audio and video from our portable devices to speakers and TVs throughout our house. When we buy an iOS application, all of our mobile devices can use it. When we buy an OS X application (on the App Store), all of our OS X devices can use it. For those most part, “it just works”.

And that’s the kicker. While it’s possible to get most of that working with Android, Windows, and/or Linux devices it’s not as easy or seamless– at least as far as I understand. It can be fun, to an extent. I get it. I used to assemble my own computers. I was impressed when I met my wife back in college and she was swapping out a replacement motherboard Gateway had sent her. I remember messing with IRQs and DMAs. I used to use ANSI drivers to make my MS-DOS prompt pretty colors. I played the game of loading things into extended memory to preserve that precious “conventional” 640K.

But that was then. I have a job now. And I have a family. Time on my hands could be time spent with them. So I pay a little extra to grease the gears of technology.

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