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Friday, June 25, 2010

Strange Fruit

You have to admire Apple. There's marketing genius at work here and it has been troubling me since iPad Day that I couldn't find anything in my analogy locker to describe how it all works. Now, as the same people queue up yet again outside shops to get an iPhone 4, I have gained understanding.

Apple treat their customers like spoilt, greedy children and give them several Christmases a year. The secrecy, the suspense, the mystery ... I know people who seemed genuinely aggrieved if they can't have their Apple stuff on the day it is released. Like Christmas morning when everyone is outside on their new bike and you're not. Boo hoo. Unlike the real one, Apple make their Christmases moveable feasts and tease their children: "oh dear, we left the new 'phone prototype in a bar". Genius.

There would have to be compelling reasons for me to queue up outside a shop to spend some hundreds of pounds on a gadget on the day it was released. They would include, but not be limited to, the gadget:
  • enabling me to fly like a bird;
  • making me irresistible to women;
  • enhancing my car's performance to Bugatti Veyron levels;
  • conferring immortality; and
  • granting me free drinks in any bar, simply by showing it to the bartender.
I don't see the new Apple products dealing with any of these. In fact, as far as I can tell, the iPad is a laptop without a keyboard* and the iPhone 4 is a mobile telephone that does a few webby things. I have an iPhone, it's a perk of my employment and I like it. In these harsh economic times I would not burst into tears if they took it off me. With the ghost of my dear old socialist dad sitting at my shoulder I'd say it would be better to keep a working man in a job for an extra week than gratify my desire for shiny toys. But liking the product and being turned into a fiery-eyed evangelist for the Church of Steve Jobs are two different things entirely. And that's what they do, by sucking customers into the 'club' and turning them into salespeople. From the outside it looks strangely like an addiction, the nervous avarice of Christmas coupled with a bunkered 'chosen people' mentality Jim Jones would have recognised and applauded.

Maybe I don't understand after all. I wouldn't buy a phone because the camera on it is better. I'd buy a camera. If I want to read a book, I'll buy a book (and enjoy owning it and not worry if it falls in the bath). Apple fanpeople are probably already slavering over the next pointless thing that will fail to make their lives any better or easier, and despise me for not 'getting it' in the meantime.

Ah well.

*iPad users - there is bad stuff in the world Apple didn't think you're smart or sophisticated enough to see: men kissing, women's breasts etc. It has been explained to them now, so now you can.