Personal Computing is Social, and Rotten Apples

    May 11, 2005

Apple was built on piracy. The first personal computer was social. Computer clubs sharing 5 1/4 floppies I, II, Lisa.

Like Post-It notes, the invention relied on innovative use by users.

Apple has grown out of the garage since then. Lately they have provided the simply the best in computing. But my recent experience is the epitome of Apple’s plight.

The casing broke on my 15′ Powerbook and I upgraded to the 17′. The one constant in computing is change, and perhaps the greatest user challenge is grappling with it — be it transitions, upgrades, positive and negative network effects. Apple does this really well. The transition was seamless, my desktop reappeared — even with unsaved email drafts as open windows. Sure, and other things were are slower with Tiger, you can sense the cruft creep — but it is one of the best experiences I have ever had as a prosumer.

That is, until, I started using iTunes. Paul Oakenfold’s Bunkka and other albums I purchased from the iTunes store now require DRM re-authorization. They reached back in to my otherwise personal computer to remind me that I don’t really own what I bought, can’t play it elsewhere and certainly can’t share.

Bunk. Immediately I remembered that Apple sues bloggers and my love for their innovation goes unrequited. Steve, my good neighbor, pay attention to this plight.

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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.