Apple vs Obama

A few people who read my letter to Apple assumed for some reason that I’m an Apple hater – or indeed that I had foresworn Apple products entirely.

They couldn’t be more wrong. I love Apple – always have and probably always will (though the affair is distinctly less romantic these days). As I made perfectly clear in my letter, I have had Apple products for years – since before it was particularly fashionable and people looked at you like you were a weirdo when you asked whether there was a Mac OS version of their software.

But the past few years have been disappointing, to say the least, and for the first time its rivals are able to offer products that are just as compelling, so it felt appropriate to have a separation – which is why I’ve ditched the iPhone in favour of a Samsung. Other parts of my technological life – perhaps even the Macbook I’m writing this on – could well follow suit.

Some have written in to thank me, to tell me that my letter has convinced them to make the move as well – as if they were trapped in a loveless marriage.

Others have abused me for, variously, my ignorance, self-obsession, poor writing, poor spelling and downright lunacy at abandoning Apple. Which is fine, though it might be worth clarifying that this is my personal blog (which I started up mainly to house my music mixes, which in the interest of politeness you should really check out), I don’t benefit from it monetarily at all, am not receiving any kind of kicks from any company, and am not in pursuit of web traffic (particularly since my ISP is threatening to charge me more because of the extra traffic recently).

On the basis of all the emails, tweets and comments, some people seem to have a tribal, almost binary approach to Apple – you’re in or you’re out. You love them or you hate them.

This is, to put it lightly, a bit odd.

It’s an attitude you frequently encounter when it comes to football teams or religion, but rarely to brands. People don’t curse, scream and abuse each other online because they like Pepsi rather than Coke. They might be a Mercedes or BMW fan but even when it comes to cars, all but a fringe element can take ‘em or leave ‘em.

This clearly isn’t the case with Apple: I’m willing to bet there are more people in the UK who categorise themselves as an Apple or Android person than who declare a confirmed political allegiance, be it Conservative, Labour or LibDem.

So why does writing anything about Apple seem to provoke such a furore?

I suspect there’s probably a whole combination of factors – although most of them probably come down to the fact that it is now one of the world’s biggest companies. Moreover, while part of its dominance undoubtedly derives from the fact that it makes better products than the majority of the competition, it also owes a significant amount to its mastery of marketing.

Like politicians, Apple has been selling us a dream for many years: that it can help enhance our lives, and make us cooler, through its products. And with some reason: many of its products have indeed been revolutionary. This has reinforced the cycle, and Apple has encouraged us, subtly, to consider it as something more than a mere computer company – Think Different, the keynotes and so on.

Apple Exceptionalism worked when the company was a phenomenon, but it’s far more difficult to pull off that kind of marketing when you’re the establishment incumbent. Ask Barack Obama. He was once a phenomenon: he promised America so much, he came to office on a wave of approval and then…

Like Apple, Obama campaigned for years as the alternative option, the plucky underdog, the slick, inspiring option towards whom we should make a leap of faith.

In both cases, the dream soured somewhat thereafter. Even the most passionate fans of both will, if they are being truly honest with themselves, admit that things haven’t gone all that swimmingly recently – whether you’re referring to Obama and the economy or Apple and the iOS6 fiasco.

Like Obama, Apple’s future depends to a large extent on how it reacts to this wave of disappointment. Does the company dust itself down, dive back onto the campaign trail and try to inspire us once again? Or does it continue to disappoint us?

Obama has shown it is possible to reignite that enthusiasm, even after past disappointments. I hope Apple follows the same path as I’d dearly love to stick with its products. But, for the time being at least, I’d rather be with someone else.


Incidentally, the Samsung is a pleasant change, but is far from perfect. I’ll blog a little bit about the transition soon.