Minimally Minimal: Nokia Lumia 920

From a recent post on Andrew Kim’s Minimally Minimal:

Switching from a Apple centric life proved to be a bit of a pain in the ass. iCloud services like iMessage, contacts and calendar are simply not supported outside of the Apple world. So I decided to go Google. I am now using Google to sync things like calendar and starting to rely more on Gmail. Initially, I thought I was compromising but I now realize that I’ve gained freedom. I can now move to any platform I want to, and my data will be in sync.

It’s easy to skim through the posts on Minimally Minimal and marvel at the excellent photography, but this paragraph really irked me.

Yes, Apple’s iCloud (previously MobileMe, etc, etc) does offer several convenient services, but to say that they restrict your freedom is absurd.

In no way are you forced to use any of Apple’s own services and in fact, you can just as easily use Google Calendar/Gmail/Contacts, Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Exchange or even Aol. Don’t like iMessage? Use Whatsapp, AIM, Trillian, Google Hangouts, Skype, or any of the other hundreds of chat applications available. Some of these services even work on the desktop through a web interface or a native application.

The strange thing is that Andrew has simply switched from an Apple-centric platform to a Google-centric services platform. His reasoning behind a lack of freedom on iCloud absolutely applies to his use of Google’s services. Even Windows Phone is “less free” compared to an iPhone as it won’t even allow you to change the default search from Bing to Google.

Say what you will about the reliability of iCloud or Apple’s track record of offering online services (which historically isn’t their strong suit), but if Apple in any way had somehow managed to trap users and take away their freedom of choice, then they’ve probably overachieved any goal for iCloud they ever conceived.

I respect Andrew and the opinion he presents on his website and Google offers competitive and excellent services. But of all the things to say about Apple’s services or devices, I find this entire experience bizarre. The freedom to use whatever service he wants was always his choice, he just forgot. The false sense of liberation he is experiencing is simply realizing that Apple doesn’t support iCloud on non-Apple devices.

First-party online service integration is important. Ask any Android user and they’ll tell you that Google’s integrated services work the best for that platform (Google Now being a prime example). On Windows Phone, you’ve got Hotmail/Outlook, Skydrive and Office 365 — and they all work great. These services add to the richness of the platform experience, which ideally is in the hands of those who designed the device in the first place.

Apple never locked anyone into using only their online services, just like Google never forced you to use their search or mail. Microsoft is however the oddball out in this area, as they have throughout the past twenty years gained a monopoly and used that power to crush Netscape, Apple, WordPerfect, Novell and plenty of others. Thankfully things are different now.

The good news is that today there is plenty of choice. Use whatever service you feel works best for you. If one day you want to jump ship, you are free to move on to something else, but it’s important to understand that these services are not your own and that you do not control their destiny. How much you should rely on them is entirely your choice.

-Wes