Jobs Knew How Right P.T. Barnum Was

P.T. Barnum is said to have coined the famous phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” My guess is that Steve Jobs understands this more than most. How else can we explain his ability to package old technology as new, and have the press and podcasters (P&P) trip over themselves to praise it? The press has gotten so good at Apple polishing that Jobs was able to get the vast majority (with the exception of a handful of journalists) excited over the iPhone without them ever having tested it. In fact, the closest they got to the device before its release was when they drooled over it while it was inside a glass display case! Even with these restrictions, they still wrote raving pieces about it, and gave such loving and gleeful podcasts in anticipation of its release that you would think they were getting paid to do so.(For some time I wondered if anyone else found this relationship between Jobs and the press as odd. Thankfully, Jack Shafer provided me with a nice confirmation regarding the P&P being hypnotized by Jobs and company. Right when I was starting to wonder if I was the only one noticing the psycho fawning over Apple by the P&P, I ran across his June 20th piece in Slate. It’s worth taking a peek at, if only for the sake of seeking some sort of balance during the current iPhone madness.)

This current iHype period we’re in has caused me to think back to earlier this year when I made the switch to Mac (a move I still highly recommend, mind you!). Of course, I excitedly listened to the podcasts and read about folks recounting their switching stories. It was nice knowing I wasn’t alone in my new found world of very cool usability, intuitiveness, and the best looking computers around. There were many like myself who had to admit that Macs really did just work. In fact, that number continues to grow. However, I also came across some folks who were flat-out hostile towards the PC world and all things PC [Note: I’m referring specifically to Windows PCs when I write “PC”]. These were people who would get so upset with anyone who dared to compare a PC with a Mac that it was disturbing. “Okay”, I thought (and think), “I disagree with the PC folks when it comes to Macs and PCs, but I’ve never really felt the need to belittle them like the Mac-O-Fascists do”. Well, I can’t help but detect the smell of hypocrisy lately.

As mentioned above, I came across an endless number of Mac-O-Fascists on the Internet who were hair-trigger quick to point out the technical superiority of the Mac. In the blink of an eye there would list the many ways in which Macs are more “stable”, “secure out of the box”, and “more intuitive”, as well as “gorgeous to look at” (some actually resort to calling what in the end is simply a box or component with circuitry and machine parts “sexy”, but I absolutely refuse to lower myself and the rest of mankind to such pop-culture drivel). In my experience, every single one of these points were and remain spot on regarding Macs. Compared to PCs running Windows, my experience with my Mac and OS X has been far more enjoyable. It is easy to use, and the security OS X provides is quite a nice feeling that has become an afterthought, and this should be the norm and not the exception. But, getting back to my point, if an honest person is to make is to take a good look at the iPhone and other smart phones on the market, it doesn’t take long to see that this particular product from Cupertino, California fits in the same category as a Windows PC compared to a Mac OS X.Yes, by now we all know the iPhone is “pretty”, but take away the interface and you’re left with the equivalent of a MacBook Pro (the best looking laptop around in my humble opinion, thank you very much!) running Windows 3.11. When Apple wants to put out a fantastic computer product, it can. But, as far as the iPhone, good looks and a slick interface seem to be the only things going for it. As far as it being “revolutionary”, a word Apple often uses that seems to cause a bit of a Pavlovian response in the P&P, Slate’s Tim Wu does a superb job of proving just how not-the-case this is, so there’s no need for me to add my two cents.

BTW, for the nitpickers out there, I’ll be the first to admit that the Sony VAIO laptops are very nice on the eyes. I don’t think anyone can truthfully say otherwise. However, when it comes to the complete package, the MacBook Pro is in a league of its own. But it’s not just good looking. The amount of engineering genius put into it is stunning. The built-in iSight camera is exactly where it ought to be; the MagSafe power cord has never failed to impress even the hardest of the hardcore PC folks I’ve shown it to; the trackpad that allows me regular mouse pointer functions with one finger while at the same time allowing me windows scrolling and right-clicking with two is itself worth a visit to Apple store. Those are just the tip of the iceberg that is an Apple computer, and this is also what brings me to the only conclusion that makes any sense, thanks to the astute observation of my good friend Elvis.

While Steve Jobs unquestionably knows computers, he doesn’t know much about mobile phones. When Elvis mentioned this yesterday it made all the sense in the world. It’s a simple statement, but the truth in it is both powering and sobering. It appears that in all the iHype no one, myself included, seemed to even consider this. Everyone automatically assumed that the genius from Cupertino must know what he’s doing. Even worse, and I speak as a professional in the business, it’s as if folks assumed since telephones and computers have so much in common, there can’t be much of a difference between the two. Well, I believe as the smoke starts to clear, the honeymoon between Apple and the P&P ends, and the iPhone is placed under the proper scrutiny of other mobile phones, things will change. People used to a certain amount of technological capability will soon tire of their “pretty” mobile phones, and will want phones that can do what their older phones did. Oh, the irony!

Well, seeing as Apple has inked a deal with AT&T for five years, this makes the things quite interesting. I have my doubts as to whether the genius from Cupertino will be able to make things better than they are, I really do. Folks are now forced to see what some of us are complaining about. It’s no longer just obscure blogs like mine pointing out something’s amiss. MSNBC, Slate, and other heavy hitter tech section are in the fray now. So, maybe it’s good that Steve Jobs and all the iPhone folks in the U.S. have five long years with AT&T to figure things out.

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One thought on “Jobs Knew How Right P.T. Barnum Was

  1. Pingback: Say What You Like, Apple Has Changed the IT Industry | The Harlemite

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