Apple is a subject you’ll probably hear me talk about fairly often here and is one where my opinions will differ greatly from the mainstream. It’s kind of ironic as my main point of contention is how Apple is talked about too much, yet here I am doing it more. Funny that.
First let me make something clear: I don’t hate Apple or their products. There’s only one thing in the world I truly hate and it has nothing to do with technology. I think they make some really cool stuff. I think it’s largely well made stuff. It’s very pretty stuff. I respect their willingness to take risks and jettison what’s worked in the past in pursuit of a better future. I think in terms of a single company’s contribution to technology as we know it, they have had a massive, world shaking impact. They are right up there with the likes of IBM and Commodore in historical importance to the computing world. I think Steve Jobs is a once in a generation mind that had made a lot of people rich. The world is better for Apple existing.
I also think their products are overpriced. Their reliability and security are not nearly as good as claimed. They are useless in a business environment. Their patent enforcement policies are approaching troll levels. They treat their customers as if the products they paid for still belong to the company. They feel their job is to tell people what they want, not listen to what they want. Their vision is to lock people into a treadmill of forced obsolescence. They believe in moving their products ahead by putting a gun to their customer’s heads. And while Steve Jobs is an amazing individual, he’s also a colossal asshole whose real contributions are overhyped and at the expense of the army of smart people who make his ideas a reality.
All of these are points people can weigh themselves and they can choose to participate if they wish. That’s cool by me and it’s how things should work. I choose not to for my own reasons. What frustrates me about Apple is the growing army of people who need to defend them to the degree of a religious holy warrior. The tech press is as guilty of this as anyone which is the most disturbing. Flaws in their products are not talked about or glossed over. Everything that comes out is compared to Apple and considered a failure simply because it’s not from them. Apple rumours are exclusively given mainstream press coverage by outlets who should know that proper journalists don’t report on rumours. Critics are often shouted down as haters who just don’t get it or just want to be different and our often valid counterpoints are marginalised as a result. That Apple has managed to inspire this level of devotion in their fans and the press is one of their greatest achievements but it’s also disturbing.
I believe that while Apple’s current growth (especially in a down economy) is a wonder to behold, it’s also not sustainable. Apple has managed to take technology, something once though of as only for geeks and nerds and make it a mainstream fashion trend. Many of the people walking around with iPhones and iPads right now do so not because they like the experience but because it’s cool to be seen with those devices. Of course, many are buying them because they’re useful and that’s fine but that alone is not what’s fueling their current growth. All fashion trends eventually pass and while Apple products are here to stay and will always be a big part of the technology landscape, their growth will plateau and settle, especially once enough time has passed that people experience the treadmill I mentioned above.
Why I bang on about this trend is because I believe it has infected the press, mainstream mindset and Apple’s competitors as if it’s a permanent thing and I think that could do major long-term harm to the technology industry as a whole. Entire companies are restructuring their operations and pumping out rushed products to compete with Apple because they think they’ll get killed otherwise and the bar has been artificially raised to a ridiculously high level. I’ll be the first to say that the old relics of this industry need a good disruptive shake but altering your corporate vision around someone else’s fashion trend creates a financial bubble for yourself that will pop with nuclear force when that trend slows.
When you release a product that doesn’t sell as well as an Apple version, it doesn’t mean that product is a failure. You don’t always have to best Apple to be a success. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with liking something else more and publicly saying why. This level of evangelical devotion ultimately does everyone more harm than good. I said the same thing to Microsoft devotees who tried to defend Windows Vista’s numerous problems as hype from haters and I’m saying it now.
Expanding this argument out will take way more space than is reasonable for a single post so I’ll be going into it over time in multiple others. If you’re someone who buys into Apple stuff and enjoys it, I’ve no intention of converting you. However, one of the reasons I started Geek Bravado was to say things that need to be said and largely aren’t anywhere else. On the subject of Apple, there are many such things.