It isn’t just the smug, self-satisfied, near-cultish, outsider mentality that they foster for themselves and their fans. It isn’t that this outsider mentality is based on almost totally false pretenses. After all, the iPhone is the best selling phone in history. And when most people think of MP3 players, they think of iPods. In fact, “iPod” has almost become to MP3 players what “Kleenex” has become to facial tissues. It’s impossible to be the underdog when you’re winning handily. About the only place where they’re not dominating the market is computers so all you corporate monkeys out there who think that your cool Apple product makes you independent and artistic should take a look around and see how many other corporate monkeys are sporting that oh so recognizable logo.
No, that’s not what’s really sanding my craw. What annoys me about them now are the commercials for their computers and iPhones. You know, the old “Hi I’m a Cool Kid” “and I’m a Stodgy Middle Aged Guy” commercials and the “you need to change the tire on your car? There’s an app for that!” commercials. These commercials depend on a type of advertising that I despise, namely that the general public is too stupid to actually pay attention to what’s being said and think critically about it. (Like the old Ivory soap commercials that claimed that their soap floats because it’s so pure. What does purity have to do with buoyancy? Pure lead doesn’t float.) Basically, it assumes that we just automatically believe what’s said on TV, especially if it’s presented in a catchy, entertaining way. (Of course, the fact that this is, generally, the case doesn’t make me happy either, but that’s a rant for another time.)
Granted, some hyperbole is to be expected in all commercials. After all, the whole idea is to convince people that your product is so much better than all the other products on the market that they should buy yours without giving the others any thought. They went a little too far with one, particular commercial, though. It’s the one where there’s a long line of suits behind the PC to represent all the different options a PC user has and a nice young lady is there to pick a computer. She goes through a few criteria that eliminate some of the PCs and then says she wants something that doesn’t have any bugs or viruses or crashes and all the PCs leave. But…the Mac, the miracle of stable, bug free platforms stays. And there’s my problem with the commercial. While it may (and it’s a big may, I’ve never seen any thing but anecdotal evidence) be true that PCs crash more than Macs and while it’s certainly true that more viruses affect them, I give you my personal guarantee that every computer is going to crash sooner or later. Either that, or it never worked in the first place.
In fact, I worked at an Apple tech support call center for six months and I assure you that a.) not a day went by when I didn’t receive phone calls and b.) no one who called me dialed the help number just to say how awesomely smooth everything was going. No, pretty much everyone who called was some level of upset about how their computer was crashing or otherwise misbehaving. Then there was the time when through a relatively innocent sequencing mistake, I fried somebody’s motherboard. Not a mistake that was that hard to make.
One of the worst days to work in an Apple call center is the day after Christmas. Why? Because all around the country, people open up their lovely packages on Christmas morning and there’s a shiny Mac inside. Imagine their joy. Now imagine how irritated, disappointed and mad they are when that shiny Mac won’t start up. Or when they’re playing with it for a few hours and it crashes. Or when they add a program to the computer and it makes it go all pear shaped. Perhaps the busiest day I had when I was doing that job was the day after Christmas and there wasn’t much comfort and joy going around.
Not to mention the fact that there was a Mac all in one that was built on an angle so that the screen was easier to read. Unfortunately, this little piece of engineering genius eventually made the motherboard slide out of place.
Theoretically, I was one of those Mac Geniuses they show in another of their commercials. Granted, I did the job about a decade ago, so things may have changed, but pretty much all I knew about working a Mac at the time I learned from one of those “… For Dummies” books and the two weeks of training they gave us before we started answering the phones and I assure you, I was NOT the least knowledgeable person there. In fact, as far as I could tell, many of the people there had taken the job just because it paid more than McDonald’s.
As far as the viruses go, I will grant that Apple suffers from fewer viruses than PC’s, but the reason for this is nothing to be proud of. I don’t believe that the Apple system is any more stable or less vulnerable to viruses and malware than the PC system is. Instead, I’m pretty sure that the hackers and virus designers out there simply don’t waste their time developing programs that target Apples. After all, if you come up with an awesome PC computer virus you could potentially take down the phone company or the electric company or maybe even the pentagon. If you come up with an awesome Apple computer virus you could potentially take down Happy Bob’s Flower Shop and Macramé Emporium. No one is going to give you 1337 Haxx0r Pr0pZ for taking down Happy Bob’s Flower Shop and Macramé Emporium. Like it or not, PC is the favored computer platform for businesses and until that changes, no one’s going to bother going after Macs.
When it comes to the iPhone commercials, I won’t begrudge Apple the fact that they’ve developed an impressive multifunction platform and it is the logical extension of the path that all electronics have been heading towards for years. After all, you can make things smaller and smaller and smaller almost indefinitely but eventually you reach the point where they’re too small to be of any use to humans (at least until evolution catches up and we all grow tiny little tentacles on the tips of our pointer fingers.) So once you’ve made something smaller than is useful, the only thing left to do is add something else you’ve also made small to it.
I also don’t begrudge them the fact that there is, probably, an app for just about everything you could want any piece of electronic hardware to do (and probably hundreds of more apps for stuff you don’t particularly want a piece of electronic hardware to do.) What does bother me is that their commercials make it seem like Apple is responsible for that and that it’s unique to the iPhone.
To my knowledge, Apple actually makes very few of the apps that can be put onto the iPhone. In fact, as far as I know, there’s a cottage industry of software programmers and developers who make their living creating killer apps and then selling them for a dollar a pop to the iZombies of the world. This is somewhat akin to the guy who invented the microchip saying “hey, there’s a program for that…” Sure, his work laid the ground work, but it was other people’s hard work and brain power that actually created what was useful.
Then, there is the fact that all the latest generation phones have the capability to download apps and the features built in to make the apps useful. Granted, it would be dumb for Apple to say “there’s an app for that and you can get it on an iPhone or an Android,” but in many cases it’s the truth. Still, to listen to the commercials, the iPhone is the only cell phone in the world that can download apps.
Ironically (and brilliantly) enough, where they’re dominating the market (in phones,) they pretend like there isn’t any competition and where they’re consistently behind in the market (in computers,) they pretend like it’s cool to be the underdogs. It’s all very Sun Tzu, I have to admit, but like most of Sun Tzu’s philosophies, its success depends on being smarter than your opponent and in this case, the opponent is us (in that their goal is getting as much of our money as they can and our goal is getting as much for our money as we can.) Therefore, each of these commercials is basically Apple saying that they’re smarter than we are and I, for one, don’t appreciate that.
So, in the end, I guess what I’m saying is, don’t believe the hype.