I’m a little late to the party but I’ve just finished reading Steve Jobs’ autobiography by Walter Isaacson.
It’s a fascinating read.
One of the things that struck me the most was the big ideological battle between Steve Jobs’ idea for a close operating system with end to end control by the manufacturing company and Bill Gates’ preference for an open system that allows multiple end users to tinker with and make changes to the basic operating system provided by Microsoft.
I’ve never owned a single Apple product in my life (*GASP*) because even though the products look absolutely gorgeous, the tight control by the Company feels a tad too Big Brother-ly for my comfort.
While we were in Yuan Yang (元阳), we stayed in a place called Pu Gao Lao Village (普高老寨 )(yes… Pu Gao Lao) in the Duoyishu area (多依树)(yes… Duoyishu).
Beside sounding like a sailors’ favourite adjective, Pu Gao Lao is a place that people in Yuan Yang find “remote” and “difficult to get to”. To put things in perspective, Yuan Yang is four hours of bumpy/windy mountain road away from the next nearest township.
While we were in Pu Gao Lao, everything we ate/drank/shat/slept (吃喝拉睡) was pretty much controlled by the two Guesthouses in the village – Sunny Guest House and Jacky’s Guest House. (We eventually chose Sunny through a very deliberate and extensive research process of walking into the village and stumbling upon it first)
I know it’s a bit of a stretch to compare computer operating systems and the workings of a tourism spot, but I think that the two Guesthouses having a monopoly on the end-to-end experience of its tourists is comparable to the Apple philosophy. The user has no control and no alternative, so the service providers don’t need to give a flying sh*t what their customers think.
Luckily for us, they did.
Even though we asked for the cheapest private accommodation, we were given a room with a gorgeous view of the rice terraces…from the side. The owners were lovely and never behaved like they were the only ones that could provide us with a bed for the night. They could, but they didn’t.
One of the biggest (and most important) things the Guest Houses control was definitely the food.
We were told that the Guest House serves dinner, but it was not compulsory for us to eat there. Seeing that the alternative to that was to chew on raw (and unripe) rice stalks from the terraces, it wasn’t that much of a choice to us.
Dinner at Sunny’s was served at a communal dining room. Again, they could’ve charged us the moon and served us whatever food they wanted (including raw and unripe rice stalks). We’d have no choice but to eat it, but again, thank goodness they didn’t.
Instead, for a princely sum of 30Rmb, the owner took to the kitchen and churned out dish after dish after dish of wickedly tasty food using herbs and vegetables plucked from his own backyard. (Yes, the rice was from his own terrace too. Yes, they taste superb. No, there was no taste of feet from the thousands of tourists trampling over them)
He was still merrily preparing dessert when one of the guests shouted that his stomach was going to explode from all the food.
My key take away is that this demonstrates a closed system can only work if the owner of the system cares enough to give a flying sh*t about what his customers want instead of just obsessing about the bottom line.
Having said that, I still believe there’s a lot of room for abuse in a closed system.
Exhibit A: The only bus service that could bring us the full 13 hours to Xishuangbanna (yes..Xishuangbanna)
No, I am not using this post to make a commentary on the public transport system in Singapore.
Or am I?