iPox

Oh deep joy.

Apple has released another iPhone. Excuse me while I yawn.

And then please don’t send me to prison for the murderous thoughts I then bestow upon all the tedious devoted Appletian extremists who can’t wait to crap themselves stupid in their rush to thrust yet more cash into the hands of that benighted corporate greedmeister.

A long time ago that lovely Mr Charles Arthur (the only man, bizarrely, to have been named twice in this blog – there’s an honour) let me wonder publicly why on earth every household item seemed to have to be updated to include a port for an iPod.

And that was when I quite liked and admired Apple products.

More recently Apple has moved from being a company I actively dislike to one I actually despise.

And it’s bizarre! I mean, it is actually quite mental to have any kind of feelings at all for a faceless corporation. I do understand this.

I spend almost all my waking life bashing away on my Dell computer and I feel nothing for them. I lurve my Galaxy SII, and I also have a Samsung telly, but I could give two hoots about them. I own Bosch and Canon and Olympus and Acer and Motorola and Hotpoint and Zanussi and Sharp and Panasonic and LG products, and they all play quite active roles in my home and work life. But I could give a crap about their companies. I love my Kindle, and I like the Amazon website but when I think about them as a company? Nope, zip, nada, not a thing. *shrug*

So yes. I do realise that having such strong feelings about Apple is quite weird.

And yet, I’m not the only one am I? Apple apparently inspires quite strong feelings – often positive ones – in an awful lot of people.

I had a reasonably long chat with Mr Arthur via that fine medium of Twitter the other week about my hatred of Apple. It was quite odd. I think we both wound each other up slightly at first, but it all ended amicably.

It kicked off after I revealed my hatred of them to him when he posted a link to something he’d written about the Apple / Samsung suing saga. He then pointed me in the direction of a few features that he thought might help to explain my feelings for them.

They did not.

He never actually asked me why I hate them. Instead I threatened to blog about why, but having been ridiculously busy with actual paying work I never got around to it. But then they released this new phone and my Twitter timeline lit up with people banging on and on and on and on about it, and – surprise, surprise – falling over themselves to pre-order it, and, well, I’m a web hits whore so I thought I’d write about it to get some people clicking on my site. (Not many people ever do that.)

So I have been annoyed about Apple’s litigation against Samsung. “If someone copied your work, wouldn’t you be upset?” asked Mr Arthur. (I’m paraphrasing. Unfortunately I didn’t ‘favourite’ our Tweets and I don’t think my own timeline will let me go far enough back to find our conversation.)

Well, yes I would if they plagiarised me word for word. But if they used the gist of my words and re-jigged them to come up with their own reasonably unique feature then I wouldn’t really have much to complain about. Words and the way they are ordered are hard to argue ownership over. And the re-jigging of stories into another story is not uncommon.

I will admit that Apple does have some grounds for complaint, but I think their lawsuit is heavy handed and vindictive. I think it is about attempting to destroy the competition that got better than you by throwing bricks at them, rather than trying to be clever and destroy them in the marketplace through innovation. I think it’s lazy and spiteful and based on the umbrage they feel at not (temporarily) being the market leader in smartphones. And ultimately it’s all about money. They can do it because they got so fucking rich off of the suckers who rush out and upgrade every nine months even though their iPhones 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S all work just fine, and because they can’t bear to see anyone else profit from what they perceive to be their niche. In my humble opinion.

But the lawsuit is just what turned my active dislike into actual despising. I was already starting to hate them well before they began using their mighty fist to hammer their competitors.

Mr Arthur pointed me at a feature called ‘Why do some people really hate apple?’ in which he spoke with a guy called Don Norman who speculates on the reasons why people like me may feel the way I do.

Norman follows the physicists rule that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. He says that because Apple design products that people like to caress and cream their crackers over, that means there will be just as many people who think ‘hey, Apple fetishist, stop jizzing on your laptop and go and get a life.’ (I may be paraphrasing again there slightly.)

But he really does talk about the importance of touch in relation to the way people feel about their phone and that they are actually sort of stroking it. (Oops, I just realised me and Mr Arthur made the same physics comparison. I hope he doesn’t sue me!)

Anyway, Norman says that the strength of feeling people experience – either positive or negative – is because of the design of Apple products. That because they’re very stylised and striking, many people will fall in love with them, but just as many people are likely to hate them.

Well, maybe that’s true for some people, but it’s not true for me. So, I am not a lover of labels. I think fashion is money for nothing. I dislike being used as an advertising hoarding, and I do not follow the crowd. Ever. I just don’t do labels. And Apple is a label. And because of that apparently they think – like all fashion brands – that because of this they can charge you well over the odds for buying into their little coven. But you would have to be a fool not to appreciate their design. For a very long time their computers have been sleek, stylish and desirable. Their gadgets are useful and clever, and whoever designed the clickwheel is a fricking genius. You have to admire them. You have to. Hell, an iPad is probably top of my current gadget wishlist.

So why is it then? What on earth is it about this company that has inspired such strength of feeling?

Well, there’s lots of things. I dislike what I perceive to be their arrogance. Yes, their products are extremely usable (though I would argue that whilst the phone / PC interface of the Galaxy is immensely flawed compared to the iPhone, that the phone itself is more user friendly) but only on their terms. Not only are their phones sealed units that won’t permit you to change a battery or add memory, so their operating system is similarly sealed, permitting access to only those it deems worthy – and are prepared to pay. So your website uses Flash? Well screw you because we don’t think we’ll bother letting any of our users see your site. You’re not worthy.

And of course there are other examples.

Their arrogance I imagine is modelled on their founder. God always creates in his own image.

And I do find the godlike worship of Steve Jobs (and Apple) to be quite disturbing. I don’t understand it, and that Apple actively encourage it is equally troubling. If not completely understandable since creating these levels of veneration has made them the richest company in the US.

But, you know, lighting candles outside your local Apple shop when Jobs died? That is seriously weird. On so many levels.

And I don’t even get why people love him so much. They call him an ‘innovator’ but although he ruled the company (and obsessed over minute design issues) with an iron hand, so far as I can work out he didn’t actually design any of their remarkable features. He controlled their immensely successful marketing campaigns, and was therefore directly responsible for how the company and its products are viewed by the populace, but did he create anything? Other than an enormous, monstering, power-hungry corporate monolith? And is that really something to revere?

Truth be told Jobs sounds like he became a pretty unpleasant guy. There are numerous quotes attributed to him that reveal him to be aggressive, controlling, bullying, inordinately egotistical, vindictive and selfish.

People say he and his products ‘changed the world’, well no, actually they’ve only slightly improved the lives of the maybe, what, 10% of the global population that can afford them? And seriously, let’s not have the talk about computer magnates changing the world, because while Jobs was busy squirreling away billions of dollars of the money he claimed not to care for, there is one former PC innovator who actually is putting his money where his mouth is in that respect.

Jobs famously advised young people to ‘stay hungry’, well guess what, many thousands of Americans are experiencing that for real right now, but it’s only since Jobs’ death that Apple is finally making charitable contributions that are actually noteworthy.

But in the end, perhaps the main reason I have come to hate Apple is because they are hypocrites. Now, I don’t often call anyone a hypocrite for the simple reason that we are all hypocrites in the end. No one is free from blame in that regard. Everyone says they’ll do one thing and then does another. I’m no different.

But with Apple I think it’s plain bare-faced lying.

The company is founded largely on Jobs’ post 60s revolutionary, drop-out, counter-culture, turn on / tune in ethos of doing things differently, being of and for the people, of going against the grain and revelling in it. They’ve marketed themselves in exactly this framework and two of their most famous TV campaigns are based on it. It’s precisely why they chime with the wealthy baby boomers and the privileged youth who buy and enjoy their products. Because they think it’s edgy and it speaks for them; it says something about their personality.

But it’s a status thing. The people pre-ordering their iPhone 5s aren’t doing it because they want to stuff it to the man. They’re doing it so they can be the first person at the pub or at work to slap it on the table and brag about it, and to reveal its inner-workings on Twitter and generally hope to induce envy in others.

And Apple need these people to keep believing. They want them to be filmed camping outside the Apple shop for two weeks before the phone comes out. They work the deifying of Jobs and of Apple as an entity because it keeps the corporation rich and the bucks pouring in and the next generation of youngsters indoctrinated in the hype. They are really not of or for the people, but only for their money, they are not counter-culture, they ARE the man. They are not going against the grain or encouraging anyone to go against the grain because that would mean not buying Apple. And yet they perpetuate the myth. And the people keep blindly sucking it up and reproducing the mythology in exactly the same way as any religion. And I deeply mistrust all religions. Because they too are ultimately self-serving and are not ‘for’ the people they purport to serve or assist.

So there we go. In 2,000 words. These are my completely rational arguments for my irrational hatred of Apple.

And to my dear friends who love Apple and have pre-ordered their 5s, please don’t think I think any the less of you. Like all good prejudices, it doesn’t apply to the people I actually know. 😉

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About Siobh

I am a freelance journalist and copywriter. My website will tell you everything you need to know. www.siobhan-oneill.co.uk
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5 Responses to iPox

  1. Charles Arthur says:

    Anyway, Norman says that the strength of feeling people experience – either positive or negative – is because of the design of Apple products. That because they’re very stylised and striking, many people will fall in love with them, but just as many people are likely to hate them.

    Tiny correction there – from my conversation with Norman (it’s in my book too, ahem, Digital Wars: Apple, Google, Microsoft and the Battle for the Internet) I understood him to mean that when people “fall in love” with their Apple devices, other people react against the other people, or their relationship – not the actual object itself. It’s pretty hard to hate an object; you have to have some association connected to it. There’s emotion associated with it.

    On the copying, of course we writers can paraphrase. The question in the trial was whether Samsung had “paraphrased” Apple designs sufficiently, or had gone too far into simple plagiarism. (You decide.)

    As to the idea that anyone thinks they’re buying Apple gear to “stuff it to the man” – 1997 called and wants its meme back. People might be buying it to be cool, sure. But anti-capitalistic yeah-whatever? Hasn’t been an idea since, what, 2001?

    It’s good to understand the things around the physical objects that make you dislike a company. Because the objects themselves usually aren’t the ones that generate emotion – as you say yourself at the top.

    • Siobh says:

      Thank you! Sorry, I must have misunderstood. I thought in your feature he was saying that because Apple set out to make a design that they love, ergo many others will love, that equally, many people would hate it.
      But yes, it makes more sense that the emotion would be directed at the people themselves I suppose.
      Thanks for the link to the Samsung trial. I meant to put that in too. It’s tricky isn’t it? I do see some of their issues, but equally, all LCD tellies look identical, so why isn’t Sony or Panasonic or whoever made the first one kicking that crap out of their competitors? Maybe because they’re busy trying to make better picture or sound or whatever for a better price point? And it’s not like Apple don’t have form when it comes to calling their litigation lawyers.
      Ha ha, re: dated ethics! You may be right but I think that notion underpinned Jobs’ view of the company and was his motivation for their design and marketing. Perhaps the ‘feel’ of Apple as a company will change as his presence becomes less keenly felt. But still, they are a bit weird. And reminiscent of a religious organisation. The Apple university and the ‘Genius Bar’ thing? Weird. 😉

  2. J Ong says:

    I want to offer some of my own thoughts.

    1) Locked in ecosystem= loyalty. In Apple-centric world, this might mean apps, hardware, way of working. Then the next step is buying into propaganda. “Don’t get PC viruses?” legally true, but dubiously obscure enough cause unease when witnessing recent Mac-targeted malware cause easy problems.

    And the response of Apple? Say nothing. Response of fans? Attack everyone else including stupidity of fellow users. Point out Windows have far more attacks and this is small fry. The peak of this rabid behaviour- John Gruber attack Ed Bott’s integrity online.

    2) When fans start defending dubious practices of companies that can be termed anti-competitive or (even downright) greed at the expense of the average consumer (and themselves) in the market, they become followers. Some case examples-

    New connector that wipes out connectivity with old accessories? E-Book exclusive rights with Apple that gets prices rising? Apps in market that don’t get approved then months later functionality appears in iOS?

    Let me also point out that it was very hard for any logical person to argue the validity of the patent for rectangle with rounded corners. Then the term “trade dress” came along and every Apple follower started using it.

    • Charles Arthur says:

      “Let me also point out that it was very hard for any logical person to argue the validity of the patent for rectangle with rounded corners. “

      Lawyers are pretty logical. Ruthlessly so. As are judges, if you’ve ever read a judgement. Trade dress patents have existed for many, many years; you can look it up on Wikipedia. The iPhone trade dress is not just on any old rounded corners, but a precise combination of certain radii and shapes. For example, the Google Nexus S does not infringe it. The Nokia Lumia 800 (lovely phone) comes nowhere near it; indeed, the Lumia has a very clear “trade dress” of its own.

      Quite possibly TVs do have trade dress patents (or maybe they’ve expired after 25 years from filing). More to the point, there might not be much value in suing for what’s seen as copying because it’s a low-margin market – unlike smartphones, where companies can make lots of money. Of course Apple is suing to preserve profits. But that’s sort of what lawsuits between companies are always about.

      It is worth reading up about trade dress; it’s a deeper subject than it appears. Samsung’s post-case comment about “patenting rounded corners” really was PR spin. They know trade dress exists and has force.

      • Siobh says:

        Thank you again for taking the time to add insight.
        I think from your feature there really isn’t any way to argue with the whole if you ‘viewed it from a distance’ thing. From one end of the garden if someone held up a 5 (which looks bigger than the 4) and a Galaxy I guess you would see obvious similarities.
        But I think it would be *really* hard to accidentally walk out of a shop with one thinking you’d got the other.
        Unless it was grabbed in haste and up your jumper.
        I guess my point with the TVs – although you are right about the value in suing – is that it’s hard to make them look any different. But you are right. There would be no mistaking the Nexus or the Lumia. (Since, as we’ve established, I know zip about tech, I had to look them up!)

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