The Apple of our eyes?

The death of Steve Jobs has created an avalanche of eulogy in the media. Entrepreneurial genius, technological visionary and design guru he may have been; he was also filthy rich (with a personal fortune, so I read, of more than $8billion) and it’s certainly an achievement to have brought Apple Inc earlier this year into first place as the world’s most valuable company. So credit – really quite a few bob of it – where it’s due.

I just find the praise a little fulsome. It falls short by failing to mention so many of those people who put up with Mr Jobs – genius is never easy to live with – and just got on with the work. In Product Design, unlike Graphic Design, it’s not the concept that matters quite so much as the execution.

Jonathan Ive, as Apple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design clearly has a gift and he’s shared it lavishly with every Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad buyer. I think of him more quickly than I think of Mr Jobs when I unpack my latest Mac. Mr Ive was born in Chingford, by the way.

Ive’s work has allowed Apple to sell its products at premium (you could say inflated) prices, often more than twice the price of its rivals – as if it had any; and that premium has been justified, arguably, by delivering computers that are a pleasure to take out of the box, set up and use. Even the packaging is a pleasure. But all that pleasure masks something I don’t entirely care for.

As a dedicated Mac user of well over twenty years, I’m beginning to find Apple’s hegemony increasingly hard to take, if not a little sinister. Remember that famous Apple commercial, in which a 1984-like world of computer slavery is shattered by a hammer-wielding blonde athlete? It feels now as though the roles are being reversed: Apple is becoming Big Brother and I know that I’m being manipulated by them the minute I log in, restricted in what I can do unless I – guess what? – upgrade.

And I’m only using Macs: my iPod has fallen into disuse since I found Spotify, I don’t want to buy an iPhone and I don’t know what I’d need an iPad for, even though I think they’re pretty. And clever.

But if Apple is becoming the 1984 figure, with its restricted product releases and its resolute silence on product failings, of which there are plenty, who will be the new Apple now? The fact that there isn’t one may be another of Mr Jobs’s crowning achievements. But if there was, I might be one of the first to sign up.

You could say that Steve Jobs, much like a Mac, has been overtaken by his own built-in obsolescence. I find myself wondering if the same metaphorical cancer might not take Apple out as well. After all, that’s how Capitalism works and Jobs, whatever else he might have been, was a supreme capitalist.

No comments: