Keeping up with the geeks (and a bit of sexism)

Bashing Microsoft has long been a popular internet sport. It’s on par with blood sports in its viciousness, although perhaps not as nasty as Apple-fanboy baiting has become. Wild-eyed, rabid, iPad waving crazies hunt in packs, congregating in their thousands on message boards, staking out swathes of the internet just waiting for someone to criticise them for stroking Steve Jobs’ tablet.

I heard a remark the other day that made sense in an odd sort of way. It was that for all of its mismanagement, for all that it has been left behind in the race for being synonymous with the tablet PC, or the smartphone, Microsoft has actually been keeping pace with the majority of people and doing rather well by this (intended or otherwise) strategy.

Apple has been chasing ahead, and while most PC owners are happily getting by with an operating system over a decade old, Mac users have had to put up with whole swathes of computer architecture abandoned at a stroke. The library iPods, updated to the latest firmware using windows XP and a PC built in 2004, are rejected by iTunes running on a Mac with Tiger OS. Lo and behold, the latest version of iTunes also refuses to work on this operating system. To add insult to injury the latest OS refuses to work on the (perfectly serviceable) computer because it’s equipped with the wrong processor.

But I accept that this is the cost of maintaining an Apple system. It’s rather like maintaining a high maintenance mistress. There’s a high price to be paid in that she needs new accessories on a fairly regular basis, and there are certain things that are just not done unless you start paying for extra services.

A PC, meanwhile, is like the missus. Despite some fuss and hassle and odd bit of unfriendliness and a few days of refusing to do anything, and despite the temptation of the flashier things out there,  at the end of the day you can really depend on her for a good few years before you need to make an effort to spruce up your relationship.

Yes, most of us will look longingly at the flash git with the latest model, but we know that he’s lumbered with something very high maintenance that’s not really much more fun than what we’ve got.

And that’s at the root of the problem here.

Middle Class Angst Over Technology In The Early Years

Sue Learner
The Guardian, Tuesday 7 June 2011

Perhaps these parents can see technology in the classroom for what it often is – a marketing drive on the part of the likes of Apple? I believe that the middle class parents highlighted in the report are actually the ones who are more familiar with the technology being given to their children – familiar and more aware of not just the strengths but the limitations of the likes of tablets and smartphones. After all, these are the people who will most likely be using this technology on a day-to-day basis. They will also be continually referencing their own upbringing. On the other hand there is a perfectly valid (and, I’m sure, controversial) argument that those from disadvantaged backgrounds may find it easier to break the conventions of learning given the nature of their own education, and they may be more enthusiastic for their children to have access to benefits that were not there for them.

Whatever the reason, though, we are naturally uncomfortable when the world advances too fast for us and when our own values are torn down and replaced as outmoded.

Others, with nothing to lose, will take on new opportunities wherever they can, gambling that they will be backing a winner.