Apple’s choice of “the bitten apple” as its company logo seems to have been prescient in the extreme. Why? Because like the apple of Edenic lore, Apple the company has been the most powerful purveyor of conspicuous consumption at the intersection human lust and technology.
Plainly stated and in the present tense, the genius of Apple is that it makes products that are near impossible to resist beyond being functionally superior. The fact that they cost more just adds to their mystique and cachet of value. Yes, Apple gadgets are expensive, but that may just be because they are an uncommon amalgam of functionality, reliability and drop-dead aesthetics. Think Galileo meets Van Gogh, or something to that effect.
Take the 20″ Cinema Display that I am looking at right now. I bought this as a monitor to pair up with my bedroom PC computer and fell head over heels in love. I am not alone in this. Right now I have the Apple flat screen next to a brand new Gateway HD 1080 flat screen for which I paid the same price as the used Apple monitor. The contest is not even close. The Gateway monitor, which is not a dog by any stretch of the imagination, is still encumbered by a plasticky-cum-garish patina. Not so the Cinema Display in its studied minimalism and near flawless sublimity. I cannot stop staring at the Apple monitor and would work exclusively on it if I had the choice. The feather-touch on/off switch and brightness controls on its right right side stunned me the first time I figured out how they actually worked i.e. with touchscreen mojo. No calloused stubbly fingers need apply here when it comes to these “precision engineered” 😉 gizmos. It’s little things like that that open a newbie’s eyes to Apple’s technological genius and attention to detail.
I am a PC stiff by default, but can feel myself being pulled towards Apple’s kingdom as if towards the proverbial light, even with its intermittent PR/marketing and business machination problems.
This seduction is something hi-tech hacks have been aware of beyond the allure of Apple technology, architecture and overall functionality. The attached review of the Apple 30″ Cinema HD Display is a very telling shibboleth of the Apple magic working beyond the liminal. It is there in the Macbook (Unibody) Pro at your nearest Apple store. It is there in the iPod of yore – a minimalistic iteration of a gizmo that had carved out a defined niche well before Apple made its game-changing splash. And yes, it is there in the iconic iPhone, spec warts and all.
Enter the iPhone 4 Non-4G With PR Guns Blazing:
Nobody knows how to work the consumer lust bone more than Steven P. Jobs – his iPhone 4 presentation at the Moscone Center being a case in point. Every word, every image and every reference was calculated to – by imagistic association – create a torrent of longing and desire that bypasses critical faculties like McLuhan’s “subliminal pills” for the mind. Check the lingo for the advert Kool Aid quotient – the words designed to press buttons in the limbic center of the brain. There is nothing equivocal about them:
For 2010, we are gonna take the biggest leap since the original iPhone. (Applause) So today we are introducing iPhone 4. Fourth generation iPhone. (Applause) Now, this is really hot. (Laughter) There are well over a 100 new features and we don’t have time to cover them all today. So I get to cover eight of them with you. Eight new features of the iPhone 4. The first one, an all new design. (Giant image of iPhone corner showing precision engineered edge) Now, stop me if you’ve already seen this. (Extended laughter & applause)
Believe me. You ain’t seen it. You’ve gotta see this thing in person. It is one of the most beautiful designs you have ever seen. This is beyond a doubt the most precise thing – one of the one of the most beautiful things we have ever made. Glass on the front and rear and stainless steel running around. And the precision of which this is made is beyond any consumer product you have ever seen. Its closest kin is like a beautiful old Leica camera. It’s unheard of in consumer products today. Just gorgeous. And its really thin. This is the new iPhone 4. (Applause)
This was the semanto-morphological template out of which Apple’s entire ad campaign was fashioned. Check out the verbatim copy from Apple’smain website:
Engineered Glass – All the breakthrough technology in iPhone 4 is situated between two gloss panels of aluminosilicate glass – the same type of glass used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains. Chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic, the glass is ultradurable and more scratch resistant than ever. It’s also recyclable.
Stainless Steel Band – Created from our own alloy, then forged to be five times stronger than standard steel, the CNC-machined band is the mounting point for all the components of iPhone 4. The band provides impressive structural rigidity and allows for its incredibly thin, refined design. It also functions as both iPhone 4 antennas.
Forty Days & Forty Nights:
The nature of this seduction has been thrown into sharp relief by the Cupertino giant’s headline foibles and curious product cycles; the iPhone being a good example of how Apple treated early adopters in the shabbiest of ways. And the lack of candor surrounding Steve Job’s health took a lot of sheen off the Cupertino giant. Many people were left wondering if stock holders had been royally shafted. (Check out this New York Times column.) The disclosure, after the fact, of Steve Jobs’ liver transplant has Warren Buffet more than wondering.
And most recently (by way of a March 2011 update) the curious launching of the iPad 2, has left many fans and prospective adoptees scratching their heads. How could the most brilliant computer/marketing company botch a product launch like this given what people have come to expect of Apple: annual launching schedules that come and go with the precision of a metronome?
What these foibles have done is to make PC-hacks-by-default like me pause before jumping head first in into the Kingdom of the Bitten Apple. The road to Steve Job’s castle is lined with caveat emptor signs which do not necessarily diminish his, and Apple’s mercurial legacy. It just makes fence-sitters like me take note and consider straddling the divide for a little longer if not forever. I doubt that I am alone in wanting to denounce the droll commercialism of Redmond, and come into the kingdom of The Bitten Apple faithful with head bowed and eyes averted. But there is probably something very wrong with this consumerism-as-religion kind of thing. But come to think of it where would religion be without the possibility of seduction – the desire to possess and be possessed?
“I’m not the only one for whom the iPad appears to be a gateway drug.” Adam Lashinsky (Forbes)
“You know what’s wrong with this company? The products suck. They’ve got no sex in them.” (Steve Jobs at first come-back-from-exile meeting at Apple Campus as quoted in Bloomberg Game Changers: Steve Jobs)
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How Steve Jobs and Apple Turned Technology into a Religion (L.A. Times Article by Chris Obrien)
Apple iPad withdraway: Why I want my tablet back now (Jason Perlow, ZDNet)
Woman gets $900 for spot in iPad 2 line (Chris Matyczczyk, CNET) $900 is more than the price of the iPad 2.
Confessions of a Mac switcher (Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, CNN Money)
How Steve Jobs out-Japanned Japan (Jeff Yang, SF Gate)
iPhone Addictive: Survey Reveals (Dan Hope, Technical News Daily)