Saturday, January 30, 2010

On iPads and Mao Zedong

Let me get this out of the way: I haven't touched an iPad, I don't own an iPhone, have never owned an iPod nor used iTunes, but I am writing this on a MacBook. So there.

That being said, I have more than a slight bit of disdain for Apple. It's not entirely justified, but at least I can admit this much. If you've read my scatter brained review of Up in the Air, its pretty obvious that I struggle at distancing products from reviews and hype. And so it is with the iPad, which seems like a great little toy that I might even want to buy if it were not for the fact that I'm being assaulted from all angles with undying praise for Steve Jobs and his new earth shattering product.

My number one complaint is that I don't understand how no one seems let down by this thing. We knew Apple would release a tablet, we knew it would be a giant iPhone, but seriously, didn't we expect it to to at least have maybe one feature aside from its size that isn't on the iPhone? The iPhone has been absolutely revolutionary, so I struggle to see how the iPad will match this kind of impact when it does nothing new.

My much more biased yet substantiative complaint is that the media fawn over Apple in such a way that makes Obama look like he's Joe Lieberman. So many companies have tablets in the pipeline, and so many others have been doing similar things for years but nevertheless the coming tablet revolution is accredited solely to Steve Jobs and his Jesus tablet. This device might change what an operating system looks like, and who knows, that idea could even stick. But knowing that devices take years to develop makes it pretty obvious that Apple is not some kind of isolated visionary on any of these issues.

How they have built up such a reputation is the source of my disgust, and that is: marketing, marketing, marketing. I have zero reservations in complimenting them on their genius marketing and advertising skills. I doubt they're forcing every publication in the country to sing their praises. Rather, it just comes naturally from the reputation that they have built not by producing the best most innovative, high quality devices, but by producing pretty good ones and marketing them like a snake-oil charlitan all over the world.

I really don't dislike most Apple devices that I have used, and on the contrary find them to be above average products. But no Apple users think they're using an above average product. To the ever growing and highly vocal Apple elite, they're the best products ever made and I just frankly fail to see it. They have become the Burberry of computing. High quality products to be sure but known far more for their prestige. This creates a self perpetuating positive feed back cycle that adds no technological value to the product but greatly increases perceived value.

Their secretive nature and control issues are laughable and I still think it kill the company in the long run if they don't relax a little bit and loosen the death grip that they hold over all of their proprietary software and hardware. Apple is the business incarnation of Maoist communism, with a tight top-down control struture that regulates all aspects of development, production, pricing, distribution, and sales.

This is perhaps most evident in their ridiculous agreement with AT&T which for some unknown reason they are actually going to continue with the iPad. It really makes no sense why they wouldn't relinquish a bit of control and let Verizon and T-Mobile customers reap the benefits of their hardware in the true spirit of the competitive marketplace.

Would I like to play with an iPad? Sure. I might even think about buying one a few years down the line. But someone has to be the one to say that it's just not that big of a deal. Their products just aren't that amazing. Rant complete.

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