Content in Apple’s Garden
I wouldn’t change a thing
I have been an Apple user since purchasing my first iPod. I saved up for months, went to my local Best Buy, found the first attendant I could, and asked for a black iPod Nano, first gen – 4 GB. I was so excited. I rushed home, installed iTunes on my computer, and jammed for hours. The experience was magical, fulfilling, and most importantly, it just worked.
My Apple Journey
While my iPod experience was amazing and truly a pivotal moment of my journey with technology, the next was getting my first Mac.
Throughout the 90s I drooled over Apple computers. The first computer I ever used was a Macintosh Classic. The public school I went to in Brooklyn had a dozen or so of them. Later, my family purchased a Hewlett Packard, Windows 4.11 machine. It was great, as it was my first personal foray into computing, but it didn’t have the magic of a Mac.
In my early college years, my Windows laptops were endlessly dying. I wanted to make the leap to Mac but I couldn’t afford it. So I threw out the idea to my parents that I’d love some money as a birthday gift, that I could use towards a Mac. Surprisingly, they ended up buying me one. I did not come from a wealthy family, so this was shocking. It was a second-generation Macbook Air 11”.
The second-gen Macbook Air was a pivotal computer, as it was one of the first mass-produced solid-state laptops. It was small! This was the time of netbooks – super-underpowered, tiny laptops. The Macbook Air was tiny, but it was fast (for its time). It had 2 GB of ram and 64 GB of storage. Unboxing it was just as amazing as my iPod. It immediately became mine. It felt personal, it was fast, and it was dependable. It lasted me 4+ years. I only outgrew it due to needing a laptop that could handle Photoshop, as I was a photography student. It could have likely lasted my 5-10 years of normal use.
I could go into every computer, iPhone, or iPad since, but my point here is that Apple did something for me that no other technology company had done up to that point – it made an emotional connection with me. These tools were more than tools, they were part of my identity.
The Walled Garden
Fast forward 15-20 years. I am writing this letter on my couch, using my 11” iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard. This iPad is the same size as my first Mac, though it is way faster and more capable. Since then, Apple has stretched its legs, not only being a hardware company but also being a world-class software and services company. These three things – hardware, software, and services comprise the Apple ecosystem.
Some people scoff at this ecosystem. They don’t like the idea of using one group of tools and services. The long-lived concept of the walled garden. As someone that has been on the brink of technology for 30 years, I have used tools and services that fall within and outside of various walled gardens. I have fought the “man” and tried to carve out my own personal systems. I have convinced family members and friends to use x, y, or z tools. But throughout all of the trying, staying out of the garden never felt right. It never felt magical, it didn’t just work.
Today, all of my personal things live 100% in Apple’s garden. I use Apple's services, all of their hardware, and basically all of their software. I only use third-party tools for things that I have to, and almost never for personal things. Even if the feature set is smaller, more manual, or friction-filled, I stick with Apple’s solution. Not because I am blindly following in the footsteps of a mega-corporation, but because it feels right, it is still magical.
Some magical moments while using Apple’s ecosystem:
Typing a note in Notes and knowing it will save without any intervention – even offline.
Getting a FaceTime call from my nephew and having it show up on all of my devices at once, so I can choose where to answer it. He likes to game, so setting up my iPad is easiest.
Getting tapped on my Apple Watch when completing a movie purchase on my Apple TV. Typing in passwords with a remote is not fun.
Telling my HomePod to add something to my shopping list and it is on my iPhone when I get to the grocery store. I can’t forget oat milk.
Being on my Mac and controlling my iPad with my Mac’s keyboard and mouse. Seeing the mouse cursor pop onto the iPad screen is still shocking.
These little moments keep the Apple magic going. They keep adding to my first iPod purchase and first Mac unboxing.
Yes, Apple’s software can be a little rough around the edges at times. Yes, their hardware is expensive. And yes, some of their services are not as good as the competition. But I know they have my privacy and security in mind and that the overall experience will wow me when I least expect it. All of my devices and services feel like they are mine, not just something I bought in passing.
I have been in this garden since my first iPod and I will stay in it, happily. It is magical and just works.