Jake O'Kane: Something's rotten at the core of Apple - so why can't I stop buying their products?

I'm trapped in what's called the 'Apple ecosystem'. Possibly the most brilliant of all Steve Jobs's ideas, it turns customers into slaves, forced to purchase expensive and under-performing Apple products

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

The late Apple founder Steve Jobs with a MacBook
The late Apple founder Steve Jobs with a MacBook

AS I sat happily typing nonsense on my trusty Apple MacBook Pro, suddenly its screen shuddered and the display died to the blackest of blacks. Unless you rely on a computer as much as I do, you won't fully appreciate the trauma of such a disaster.

I suspected a virus but, as a 'Mac' user, my brain quickly processed this likelihood as being minimal. I knew no physical damage had been done as I carry my laptop in a bag so cushioned a Faberge egg would be safe in its interior.

My initial port of call was, as always, to my mate Stevie at Tech Stop; he wisely advised me to bring it back to the Apple shop in Belfast but added that, from what I'd said, he thought my problem was likely to be a failed processor.

My heart sank – this is similar to a doctor saying they can't find any brain activity on an EEG. At the Apple store, a small army of staff funnelled me to their Genius Bar, which I've always thought to be a somewhat ostentatious name for a service desk.

I've always had the best of service at Apple. The staff are invariably knowledgeable and friendly, as was the man who this time examined my machine. After pressing combinations of keys on my dead laptop's keyboard so complex a Freemason's handshake would seem simple in comparison, he gently broke the sad news: my processor was indeed dead and what sat before us was the world's most expensive block of aluminium and toughened glass.

Crestfallen, as I walked down the shop's iconic glass stairs while valiantly trying to conceal my technological grief, a member of staff wished me a 'good day'. I've always found this Americanism saccharine, and considering I was holding a failed Apple product, this was definitely not a 'good day'.

In computer parlance, I'm what's called an 'early adopter', having been hooked on personal computers for over 30 years. I still remember my amazement seeing the first version of Windows and reading early reports of a thing called the Internet and what it might offer humanity. I went online when connections were so slow you could take a week's holiday waiting for a file to download: if you tried to download a picture you could up that to two weeks.

While Microsoft founder and Windows man Bill Gates became famous as the world's richest man, it was the charismatic founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, who embodied the innovation and imagination of Silicone Valley.

Jobs founded Apple along with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne on April 1 1976, building their first computer – the Apple 1 – in a family garage. Ronald Wayne sold his 10 per cent share in the company back to Jobs and Wozniak for $800, without doubt the worst business decision ever made, as that 10 per cent would today be worth $100 billion.

Not that all went well for Jobs: having hired John Sculley as CEO of Apple, his appointee ousted him from his own company in 1985. What he achieved when he returned in 1997 was nothing short of miraculous. Having restructured Apple, he forever changed not only personal computing but also the movie, telephone, watch and music industries.

Sadly, Jobs didn't live to see the fruition of all his ideas, dying of pancreatic cancer in 2011.

It's with some sadness I report something today is rotten at the core of Apple. They sell extortionately expensive yet unreliable products which leave many customers feeling more trapped than excited about owning an Apple device. And yes, it is self-contradictory that I'm writing this article on my new Macbook Pro, but others who've drunk the Apple Kool-Aid will understand. As the owner of an Apple watch, laptop, desktop computer, phone and AirPods, having invested thousands in Apple-based software, it would be financial insanity for me to move back to a PC.

Like many of you, I'm trapped in what's called the 'Apple ecosystem'. Possibly the most brilliant of all Steve Jobs's ideas, it turns customers into slaves, forced to purchase expensive and under-performing Apple products. While I'm lost, I'm making sure my children do not follow my path: they've been warned that one bite of Apple can lead to a lifetime addiction.

And, as I write this, I'm certain that somewhere – be it New Delhi, Beijing or Ballymena – two computer nerds are working in a garage to produce a computer which will usurp the Apple empire and free us to once again, as the Apple slogan goes, 'think different'.