Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is Apple the new [Insert Here]?

Jason Kottke suggests that the Apple = new Microsoft rhetoric is coming. I have no reason to disagree, but I like a different metaphor, and not only because it's October; is Apple the new Red Sox?

Lemme 'splain - I believe that the Red Sox will win the series. I believe it despite the removal of Wakefield from the roster, despite the Cinderella streak the Rockies are on, despite my general love of the NL. Having won two in the last four years, the question then becomes, "who are we kidding with this lovable underdog nonsense?" They're as big as the Yankees, their budget is as big as the Yankees. They're an 800 lb. gorilla. But the questions surrounding the public shift in consciousness about their massiveness are bigger and more varied than "are the Sox the new Yankees?" The human takes on popularity, mind and market share, and cultural shifts are interwoven.

So back to Apple. Yes, they're the Red Sox. They are flying high on devices that make all the spouting about portable tribes a reality. They have incredibly beautiful computers (well, they always did) that put the "you" in Unix, and can even run Windows if you must. They are an 800 lb. gorilla. The reaction one way or the other is going to depend more on the service culture they generate than anything else (though I concede that there are many, many anythings that will impact this). Apple is currently famous for cool, but one of the things I've always liked is that they're growing famous for service and support. They don't just design products that are (to me) intuitive, they help people who don't find them so intuitive. Just ask my mother, who started with an iMac (at my insistence) and now has a little MacBook for travel.

Red Sox won the Series, and Apple launched the iPod. The fans cheered and hooted and raved, and then there was a small moment of "omg, now what" among Red Sox/Apple Nation - we're not the underdog! The curse is broken! What the heck do we do with ourselves? What they did, by and large, is stay the course - Sox are awesome, and so is Apple. Win a second series/release the iPhone? You're still awesome, and the fan core still thinks so; it's the rest of the world that will swirl, the people who saw an iPod and said, "yeah, that's neat" or who read an article on the 0-3 comeback and thought, "those scrappy millionaires, look at them go." NOW you're, how you say, hegemonic. Now there's an outsider looking in, hoping for a shot at the big time, dreaming of wrestling the Badass Motherf*cker wallet from your iron grasp.

Microsoft, as you may have heard, plans to solve their own nipped heels problem by buying everything in sight. Apple probably won't do that - doesn't fit the model. They'll have to differentiate the old fashioned way - by earning the respect and trust of an ever-growing clientele. Shocking, I know. I wish they could just synergize some mindshares, or something. Sounds better, less "brick and mortar."

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