My wish list: Jesse Brown on technology

Down with Apple, on with the Android-pad, and more leaks!

Macleans.ca has asked its leading bloggers, pundits and critics to weigh in with what they’d like to see in 2012—in politics, television, film, books, wherever. The wish lists will run throughout the month of December and will be archived at macleans.ca/wishlist.

x-ray delta one/Flickr

(1) Dear Internet, please fix travel: We’re still flying blind when it comes to planning flights. Want the cheapest fare? Good luck. Each airline has its own bizarre and opaque pricing system. Book too early, and you get hosed. Book too late, and you get hosed. What’s the sweet spot? They’re not telling. There are dozens of factors that determine what a seat costs, and they change by the minute.

Search engines (yes, even Google) stink at connecting people with the specific travel info they’re seeking, in large part because relevant keywords bring up a flood of advertising and SEO’d (search engine optimized) sites disguised as relevant data. A perfect travel search would tell you not just what the best fare to Chicago is right now, but what it will be at the precise moment when that flight will be offered at its cheapest. Add a “reseve this rate now” button for a one per cent fee and you’ve got a lucrative business model. I’m sure that greater minds than my own are working on this, and I’m hoping that 2012 will be the year when they finally get there.

(2) $100 Android tablets. For real: Not a marked-down (and doomed) RIM tablet. Not a $200 Kindle tablet that you can’t buy in Canada and that wants me to buy everything through Amazon. Not a $30 tablet you can only get in India or a $100 tablet that sounds great if you happen to live in China. But a cheap, functional Android slab sitting on a Walmart shelf in Canada. Whoever gets there first gets my shiny plastic Borden.

(3) More leaks: Wikileaks was supposed to usher in a new age of whistleblowing and transparency. Every country and company would have a secure site for anonymous data dumps. Volunteers would sort through the information while “old news” journalists would find new purpose in verifying, editing, packaging and publishing the newsworthy parts (vulnerable names redacted). The result would be disruptive and difficult, but incredibly positive–those with power at any level would have no choice but to assume that they were leading in open sight.

It hasn’t happened. Instead, we get the tawdry saga of the persecution of Julian Assange, who by now should be little more than a symbolic figurehead of the age of transparency, shuffled off to the talk show circuit. Maybe this year.

(4) Apple cult deprogramming: Unless 2012 brings with it the second coming of Steve Jobs, Apple fanboys and fangirls will probably gradually awake from years of collective consumer hypnosis. The scales will fall from their eyes as they realize that the pretty gadgets they cherish so are just things, and problematic things at that. Instead of dropping hundreds for Siri on the iPhone4s, when their 3Gs die on them, these zealots might consider buying a phone with a true killer feature–replaceable batteries.

(5) (Legal) OTTI want to be a nice boy who doesn’t pirate video. Really I do. But until I can watch ad-supported video on Hulu, subscribe to the real Netflix, and rent content through iTunes at rates that aren’t 400 per cent higher than what Americans pay, artists won’t get paid when I watch over-the-top TV. Sorry!

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown




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My wish list: Jesse Brown on technology

  1. So anyone who has a preference for Apple products is a cultist? Apple is somehow become the most profitable tech company in the world by selling crap to people based purely on hype? 

    Jesse, you’re a good tech writer when it comes to everything but Apple. I’m not saying that you have to like or love them, but it’s pretty funny to see you claim that people who like their products are the ones with the objectivity problem. Maybe you need to do some more work to find a better explanation for Apple’s success than slick advertising and dumb consumers, because that’s really weak.

    None of my Apple products are “problematic things.” My MBA and iPod Touch are both spectacular devices that perform wonderfully. Yes, they don’t have user replaceable batteries, but I’ll take that if it means longer battery life. Even if it ends up costing me a bit more to replace, if Apple doesn’t just do it for free for me like they have in the past when I was a full year and a half out of warrantee, the devices are still a great value proposition as a total package for me.

    That doesn’t mean that everyone has to have the same preference. Value propositions vary based on users and budgets. If paying less for a smart phone and/or getting one that has a replaceable battery (or whatever other reason you have for wanting an Android phone) is more important to you than having a malware-free, responsive, and more secure OS, etc., go for it. I don’t think it makes you dumb, it just means you have different priorities than me.

    You can do better than this, Jesse.

    • Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you Exhibit A.

    • Hey JChip, 

      I never called Apple customers dumb (I’m one of them) or called their products crap (I’m typing on one).  But they are problematic.  They only play nicely with other Apple products and Apple-bought content, and they are built to be thrown away every two or three years. Apple gets away with it because they do make fantastic products, but ultimately I think committing to their whole ecosystem is a raw deal for consumers that will only get rawer as Apple’s rate of innovation slows and other company’s products get better and cheaper. 

      • Thanks for replying. This is the section that I took issue with:

        “Apple fanboys and fangirls will probably gradually awake from years of collective consumer hypnosis. The scales will fall from their eyes as they realize that the pretty gadgets they cherish so are just things, and problematic things at that.”

        My reading of this as meaning that Apple fans are stupid maybe a bit harsher than you intended, but it certainly means that we’re deluded.

        If Apple stops innovating and other companies offer a better value proposition, of course they’ll start doing worse. I just haven’t seen any other company doing much more than following Apple’s lead. I’d love Apple to have some serious competition on the innovation front, and they do in a couple of cases (Kinect is one notable example), but they still look like the leaders in a lot of areas to me (have you seen this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SHoukZpMhDE ?).

        I’m not sure what you mean when you say that Apple products only play nicely (I appreciate that you used the ly there – so many people leave it out these days) with other Apple products. If someone can give me some examples, I’m genuinely curious. 

        I’m also perplexed by your assertion that Apple products are made to be replaced in 2 or 3 years. First of all, most consumer electronics are made that way these days. Secondly, I’ve never had an Apple product only last for 2 or 3 years. I just replaced my first-gen MBP with a MBA, and the only things wrong with it were my fault (a scratch on the screen, etc.). My wife is still using her 4 year old MBP as her primary computer, despite having dropped it more times than I care to count. And my 5th gen iPod still works perfectly despite heavy use. Everyone I know with iPhones that needs to have the latest version passes their old one down to a wife or child, and they all still work perfectly. Hell, my old G3 and G5 towers still work as well as the did they day I bought them!

        Compare that with my Windows-using friends and colleagues, who bought laptops with “the same specs” as a MBP, but found that after a year their battery held no charge or wouldn’t stay in at all, that their screens quickly lost their brightness, cases cracked and broke, etc. You might be aware of this phenomenon if you’re typing on Mac!

        So again, I’m not sure what you mean when you say Apple products have a short lifespan. If you’re referring to the need that some people feel to upgrade to the latest and greatest all the time, that has more to do with consumer psychology and effective advertising than hardware design.

        Anyway, I appreciate the response and apologize for the length of my reply!

  2. What exactly is wrong with the PlayBook in your eyes? Everyone I know that’s given it a chance likes it, myself included.

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