July 28, 2010

Apple religion - the abusive relationship that spells the end of technical objectivity

Okay, on any normal day, I wouldn't be caught dead getting sucked into any of the religious debates that are rife in the technology industry. But today, it's starting to get a bit much for me.

The technology industry used to be a community of critics, objectivity and experimentation - tinkerers who were never satisfied with the gadgets in our arsenal until we'd eked every last morsel of functionality out of them. It used to be that journalists actually understood what they were writing about, held their objectivity and clarity above all else. Today though, it seems that Apple's marketing machine [which is never anything short of impressive] has sucked the world's journalists into the techno-lust of their religion and I'm hearing press-release grade reporting on the radio. What the **** is going on with the world? We need some Larry King grade reporters in this industry to get some of this marketing BS back in check. Reporters should understand what they're reporting about!

Everywhere I look, I see articles about how Apple is the harbinger of the end of the mouse era because of their magic touch pad. I'll admit, this sleek looking silver wireless touch pad that sits so alluringly at the side of their equally sexy slimline wireless keyboard is nothing short of gorgeous, a work of art for which I must tip my hat to their hardware designers. But where has everyone's objectivity gone?

Wacom have been making tablets for years, and they too have a range, called Bamboo [check them out at http://www.wacom.com/bamboo/], which is far more versatile and in the exact same price bracket as Apple's magic pad. They've got one that's just touch, one that's just pen and one that's both and all for under $100, they support multi-touch, gestures, their pen supports pressure sensitive graphics apps and a heap of other stuff too. So why then have they not received the acclaim that Apple's getting for this... knock off?

It may indeed be that this is the beginning of the end for the mouse, but please people - get some objectivity. Apple's offerings may indeed look gorgeous [so gorgeous], they may be perfectly usable but this religious attachment to their products is impairing your ability to see through their marketing crap and realize that all they're doing is packaging ideas that are already available [in some cases for quite a while], making them look sexy [which I've gotta admit, they're really good at], making you believe they're more usable and more stable [which in many cases, they're not], marking up the price by 20-50% and telling you that their products are changing the world.

...and you're hanging on to their every word like the nerd at high school hangs on to the pretty girl's every last word in the misguided hope that one day, she'll love you back. Apple are never going to love you back, they care about two things: How much money you have, and how to get you to give it to them. So far, their marketing machine seems to have you in their clutches.

One thing I have got to concede is that Apple do have an uncanny ability to understand what the market is ready for at any given time. They have an almost surreal knack of delivering a product that's dumbed down so far as to be usable by the average 5 year old, and only crippled so far that we will still buy it despite bitter complaints. We will continue to use it, all the while complaining that it doesn't have the quite feature set we really want [AD2P/Tethering/iTunes - quite possibly the shittiest music management system ever released, their BS walled garden app store etc.] and just as we're about to leave and go somewhere that promises us a better life, they give us a few more features - just enough to keep us from leaving, but not enough that we're truly happy about it. It's a classic abusive relationship. "He says he loves me and that he's sorry and he'll never do it again. I can't leave him, how will I support my family?"


  1. I am not sure how they to it, but I am pretty sure Apple will be a case study for commercial educations in the decades to come. I think Apple has a very good grasp of the 'Zeitgeist'. For the last decade or so it has become VERY important how things look, and the last few years it is utterly paramount. Politicians get elected because of their PR capabilities. Plastic surgery shows a rampant growth. People just want, nay, NEED to look good, cool and/or sexy. Apple convinced people they look cool with their stuff.

    Yes, there is stuff out there that works just as good, is cheaper, and does not bother you with walled gardens. But is doesn't have the Apple-factor. You don't belong. You are not cool. Case in point: iPhone used to be a chick magnet. In my twitter timeline: someone pulls an iPad from his bag and instantly has 20 people around him. THAT'S what its all about.

  2. @Loc#alJoost - I think this says a lot about the psychology of the consumer. If your self esteem can be purchased from a marketing department whose sole purpose is to part you from your hard earned cash, then what does that say about you as a person? [Of course, I mean you in the metaphoric sense, I'm not directing that statement at you personally]. But then, I guess that's why penis enlargement pills is a billion dollar industry...

    One day, people will snap out of this stupor and realise that self esteem, comes from within, it's not a gift with purchase... I hope.

  3. Apple's stuff is mostly for the fashion conscious, for people who want to shout their identify loudly. It's why there's a large glowing Apple logo on the back of Macbooks.

    I don't particularly mind that there's a hipster media that wants to report about what Apple's up to, page after page of tedious rumours about what they're likely to release based on the most tenuous of information.

    It's that I can't find more of a cold, rational, informed media for people who care a lot less about fashion and who mostly want functionality and value.

    That doesn't just mean "geeks". Most people don't buy Macs. They look at the price of a Macbook and a Dell Laptop and for what they need, the Dell will do what they need for half the price.

    There should be more tech media for the people who want to choose between a Dell Inspiron and a HP Pavillion. There should be more tech media that are prepared to use arguments to burst Apple's balloon, to point out the alternatives, to show where others have been there before.

    Yeah, and iTunes is horrible. The upgrades are crap. I get 15 minutes of "updating iTunes library". How about writing your software to be a bit more backwards compatible with previous library versions, Apple, rather than pissing me off?

  4. @Joseph Takagi:

    I agree, I'm a researcher by nature I guess. I research all equipment purchases before I buy. I have to admit, when I got my iPhone 3G, I loved it - but even that was researched well before I parted money for it, it came down to that or the Blackberry Bold at the time, and the iPhone won out just from a usability standpoint. The device still serves me well; the iPhone 4 looks like it'll serve me well too. However, as more and more comparable Android devices surface, the more inclined I am to jump ship.

    I'd have loved an HTC Evo 4G, but it's not been released in GSM markets and doesn't look like it's going to be any time soon - plus, it's not yet available in Canada, which makes that useless to me, as gorgeous and compelling as it is.

    The Droid X has all sorts of variables I haven't yet finished considering including the rumored fuse that bricks the phone if you tamper with it, which doesn't work for me - I'm a tinkerer.

    The Dell Streak looks like the best alternative but hasn't been released in Canada (yet), but looks like 5" of sleek, slim coolness.

    Now I'm told that HP is coming out with something to compete with the Dell Streak and iPad too.

    All in all, it's looking like Apple are probably going to lose me to Android. Not that I don't think the iPhone 4 is gorgeous, I do. I've loved my iPhone 3G as long as I've had it, and it will probably continue to suffice until there's a truly comparable alternative to the iPhone 4 available in Canada. At which point, I can leave this abusive relationship and finally get back a bit of freedom.