Steve Jobs had the charisma to make a MagSafe power adaptor sound sexy.
Steve Jobs had the charisma to make a MagSafe power adaptor sound sexy. – File photo by AP

I have witnessed four distinct shifts in consumer technology. The first came with the launch of Macintosh in 1984. It ushered the consumers and the market in a new era of personal computing. A radical departure from the oppressive Disk Operating System (DOS) command line interface, it liberated us from the shackles of Big Brother and gave us the power to be our best. In 2001, the iPod came along and turned the music industry on its head. The iPhone in 2007 dramatically altered the smartphone industry. As a matter of fact, Steve Jobs reportedly even said that the iPad, launched in 2010, was the most important thing he’d ever done. These innovations, while not entirely original, changed not just product categories but transformed entire industries and have made a massive impact on popular culture. Apple has even managed to transform the traditionally staid retail industry with its massively successful Apple Stores.

Apple’s relentless commitment to innovation, Steve’s magnetic, often abrasive personality, his famed Reality Distortion Field (it’s real!) and the company’s cult of secrecy has given rise to an unprecedented hype machine. It is further powered by bloggers, pundits, rumour mongers, tipsters, and know-it-alls.

It is a known fact that Apple never, ever declares anything. It’s their thing. Usually, all major product launches happen at Macworld in January, with occasional announcements at Worldwide Developers Conference(WWDC) in June. However, in 2009, Apple decided it wanted to set its own schedules. Now, whenever it’s ready, Apple sends out media invites designed to titillate and tease. The rumours and predictions reach a fever pitch leading up to an Apple event. Must-have feature lists, concept videos, ‘leaked’ photos, and ‘confirmed’ specs start doing the rounds at breakneck speed. And before you know it, the hype machine alters ‘reality’. Now that Apple is cash rich and no longer the underdog, millions of people tune into their live blog of choice waiting for THE ANNOUNCEMENT – the sum total of the hype machine’s frenzied fantasies.

Steve Jobs had the charisma to make a MagSafe power adaptor sound sexy. His famed keynote speeches could make even the die-hard critics lust for an Apple product. Tim Cook, operations whiz, and now CEO, hugely responsible for making Apple Inc. one of the most valuable companies on the planet, doesn’t have what Steve had. Phil Schiller, friendly and lovable, also lacks the personal appeal Steve had. Jonathan Ive, industrial designer par excellence, doesn’t interest like Steve used to. Steve Jobs was larger than life and now that he’s gone, there’s a gaping void at Apple.

Apple Inc. is no longer the little upstart it used to be. The company is practically the anti-thesis of what it claimed to be in the 1984 commercial. The gnawing lack of Steve, the hype machine’s often flawed machinations, the haters; the Android fan-boys have made the task arduous for the tech giant. Add to that the labour activists, the media hounds and a voracious consumer marketplace that wants bigger/better/faster at an alarming pace contribute to a level of expectation that borders on the ridiculous.

When the iPhone 4S was released, the world yawned. They wanted an iPhone 5. When the iPad 3 came out, the world decided that innovation at Apple was dead. When the company announced what it planned to do with its pile of cash, the pundits decided that Apple should buy Twitter because they don’t know how to ‘do social’. People decide to be demanding and over-critical all the time, with Apple.

To support my argument, here’s how an iPad 3 post-launch conversation with a friend went: X: Yaaaaar, yesterday’s iPad 3 launch was such a bore. Total meh! It’s all over. Android has won. Me: Rolls eyes. X: You’re such a fangurrl. Me: Don’t be silly. I’m the first one to call Apple out on ‘bad things’, especially App Store policies and bizarre design choices. I also don’t like the iPadification of the Mac but I know why it’s happening. X: Rolls eyes. Whatever! Don’t get all political on me. The iPad 3, like the 4S, is so disappointing. I was totally expecting something radical and they just don’t deliver anymore. Me: Look, Apple never said it was releasing an iPhone 5. The iPhone 4S was an incremental upgrade and it wasn’t meant for people like you who upgrade every few months. It was targeted at the fence sitters; people who’ve never had a smartphone before. Also, for the users of the original iPhone. X: Yes, yes, but Apple is supposed to be a trailblazer. What was innovative about the iPad 3? Me: What are your benchmarks? Innovation doesn’t mean creating something 100 per cent new, using ideas and never-seen-before technologies every 6 months. Apple iterates fast and releases consistent, steady improvements year after year. This is part of an incredible process that Apple has championed and it’s integral to their culture – and their success. X: (Groans) Me: The new iPad is about three things: Pixels, speed, battery. You cannot even begin to imagine the Retina Display until you see it. X: Ummmm… Me: The thing is, to understand the new iPad, you have to critically analyze and understand Apple as a company – its vision, its philosophy and the big picture. People expect a radical new product every time Apple launches something and when they don’t get what they’ve been fantasising about, they complain about the death of innovation.

Everyone was expecting a bigger screen on the iPhone 4S. However, Apple won’t do that. At least, I hope not. The current iPhone screen size is perfect. You can reach every corner with one thumb. That’s huge, from a usability perspective. If you want a bigger screen, use a computer or an iPad. Each device has a purpose. Why lose sight of that by trying to make the phone bigger and the tablet smaller?

X: OK, this is getting boring now. I just want something cool and new and shiny. Me: So you can show off and impress your friends? The new iPad is a reflection of Apple’s priorities. The company has laser sharp vision and focus. Wall Street and the consumer cannot influence what Apple does. The new iPad is all about how content ‘looks’ on the screen, how content ‘feels’, and the smoothness of the overall experience.

Because you guys didn’t get what you wanted, before you have even seen the iPad, you’ve trashed it. With Apple, what you pay for is the experience. And no one, even today, does it like them.

Sabeen Mahmud wrote this article for the April 2012 issue of Spider Magazine.

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Comments (15)

Afflicted
April 27, 2012 8:32 pm
In reply to Wali: Mate, it's called the 'new' iPad!
raazia
April 27, 2012 6:23 am
on face of earth, there's no phone like iphone. apple gets better with every new version they launch. apple never failed to amaze me!
im_0316
April 27, 2012 5:34 pm
"Apple Inc. is no longer the little upstart it used to be." I am not sure what part of the world you are living in. Apple has become the 6th company in history to be valued more than $500 Billion. Not looking at Apple's other products, the iPhone alone makes more money in a Quarter than Microsoft's "all" products combined. All this data is available in Financial docs/news. If anything has changed after Steve Jobs, is the fact that Apple grew even bigger. Tim Cook is capturing markets that Steve wasn't interested in, and that is the Corporate market. Besides many corporate switch overs, the latest one is Haliburton, one of Blackberry's biggest client, who are now in the middle of switching over to iPhone. Morgan Stanley is another one before Haliburton that shifted number of users from Blackberry to iPhone. Most of the Fortune 500 Companys are now with iPhone. I dont know why and who were expecting iPhone 5 when 4s was released. Not many for sure. The pattern, as one can see is, 3G then 3GS, 4, then 4S. Next one is 5.
DPD
April 27, 2012 8:12 am
your "four distinct shifts in consumer technology" didn't list the launch of Windows 95 as one. After all Win 95 more than Macintosh made the PC really "personal" to the common man and reduced it from a "geek toy". But I guess anything that isn't done at Macworld is necessarily not a groundbreaking shift in consumer technology? Well heres some groundbreaking news: you are a part of the hype machine.
Adeel
April 27, 2012 10:02 pm
"Jonathan Ive, industrial designer par excellence, doesn’t interest like Steve used to" I stopped reading after this.
S.S.J
April 26, 2012 9:35 pm
If it's such a lousy rant why'd you read it ?
Srini (San Jose,CA)
April 27, 2012 9:10 pm
I bought ipad 1 couple years ago when it was released and bought another for my wife the new ipad (ipad 3). We (and the kids) use ipads extensively and we love the ipads. You will need to separate the hype from facts. For years, I thought apple products are too hyped, and expensive. However when I first used a Mac, I was blown away by the experience. Then i had iphone and ipads.New iPad has excellent resolution, great for so many things.magazines look better than real with lot of interactive features. Kids books on iPad are amazing. netflix movies are great. List goes on. Price is justified if you compare the same to the competition and the qualty,design and the whole experience. Mostly what I notice the main difference is apple products you want to use again and again, because of the comfort,experience. I had a vaio laptop with top-of-the-line spec, but rearely used it and eventually sold it off because it was too bulky, or the mouse was clumsy or keys are spaced too wide. Bottomline : if your usecase is similar to mine, and can afford, it is worth the money. Improves overall productivity at home and work. My two cents.
Dalbir
April 27, 2012 12:27 pm
I am using a blackberry phone for the last three years . I got one Ipad (3) fr my wife about a month ago . I am so amazed by its results that I am planning to use Apple products for my entire needs for the whole family . The experience is out of the world .
Sajid
April 27, 2012 9:22 am
haha right, apple ranting should be stopped, they do make good products but you should not become their believer and forget all others... There's so much to be seen if you take time out of the touchscreen world!
Daud
April 27, 2012 10:24 am
I think that author haven't really used the ipad 3 or read any credible reviews in relation to ipad 3 since its screen was stated to be "revolutionary" due to its resolution. I wonder why this is not considered to be "innovative" by the so-called-expert-author :)
Faheem
April 26, 2012 8:30 pm
I agree that the magic is not there anymore on the stage but that doesn't mean the company is not doing good. At this point, Apple is not only the wealthiest company on this planet but also the smartest one. About iPhone 4S, Apple sold more than 37 million iPhones in Q1 and out of those 37 million iPhones 90% were iPhone 4S (the phone people thought wouldn't sell). In Q2 Apple sold more than 30 million iPhones and again (not surprisingly) 90% of them were iPhone 4S (the phone which people said "killed" innovation). The number are even better in case of 3rd Gen iPad, so it doesn't matter what people (unfortunately most of them are goofs and started using Apple products because they saw SOMEONE else using them) say about Apple's product strategy. It's really simple, if people like their products they will buy it and if they don't like them they won't. Aforementioned numbers show that people are buying their products and they love them. Side note for "people": Buying an iPhone doesn't make you an Apple analyst, if you don't like their new products don't buy them (it's really simple).
Sobriquet
April 26, 2012 8:22 pm
What a lousy rant
mohsin
April 27, 2012 11:26 am
i shifted to iphone 4S from blackberry after its hype... but i was utterly disappointed by iphone...one is so restrictive and cant change things... android gives you freedom... apple is nothing but an expensive box and media hype
Wali
April 27, 2012 11:45 am
There is no iPad 3. It is just called the iPad.
fry10d
April 28, 2012 9:31 pm
You have forgotten the Apple II which led directly to IBM trying a version which became know as the PC
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