First Click: The Apple we love and the Apple we hate

March 22nd, 2016


After the first 20 minutes of Apple’s iPhone SE and iPad Pro launch event yesterday, I was enamored with the world’s most valuable company for the courage it was showing. Starting off his presentation with talk of privacy, environmentalism, and health, CEO Tim Cook was addressing real, substantive issues that the tech industry often disregards or pays mere lip service to. He used Apple’s big stage to ask pointed questions about government intrusion into private lives, the polluting effects of tech manufacturing, and how the future of medicine might be shaped by the quantification of health metrics. It was beautiful and important. It was mature.

But my good vibes did not last until the end, as once the product announcements began in earnest, Apple returned to its familiar shtick of immature trash talk. Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime marketing chief, dusted off a 15-month-old statistic from Intel’s CES 2015 slide deck, noting that there are more than 600 million Windows PCs that haven’t been upgraded in the past five years. He called that situation "really sad." Here’s the thing: Microsoft and Intel can use that number to motivate themselves to do better and give people a reason to upgrade, but when Apple cites it, it just comes off as a smug sideswipe at people who either can’t afford to or don’t need to upgrade. In either case, Apple is the one that comes out looking worse, as Charlie Custer of Tech in Asia lucidly explains.

The knight in aluminum unibody armor should cut the trash talk

Apple began by telling us about its concern with climate change, but halfway through its presentation, it decided that perfectly competent PCs were "sad" simply because of their age. Wouldn’t a true environmentalist celebrate the 600 million number rather than lament it? One of the great things about desktop PCs is the fact that you can upgrade components rather than the entire machine — a gaming PC built in 2011 needs only a graphics card update today and it’s ready to play all the latest games. In any case, Apple’s hypocrisy goes deeper when you consider that the company’s own iPad line is dominated by models that are a few years old in their own right. Most iPads, like PCs, are simply good enough, and that’s a good thing.

I still admire Apple for using its considerable influence and reach to talk about important issues that concern the entire technology industry. That’s the best of Apple, a company that makes its money through selling things, but concerns itself with matters far beyond the initial sale. But Apple can’t be the leader that it wants to (and should) be so long as it alienates the people it’s trying to attract. The iPhone SE was designed specifically to attract new users to the iOS ecosystem, which is strong enough to succeed even without the help of cheap Windows jibes.

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