26 years ago Apple burst on to our collective consciousness with their famous Ridley Scott directed commercial ‘1984’. It an upstate rebel smashing big brother (IBM) who was the big, overbearing, clone sheep creating company who used their dominant market share to limit consumers to only their approved choices and bully smaller companies around. My how times have changed…
The launch of the iPad launched this great Apple and Adobe war of words and I have tried to walk the line to see both sides of the argument. With Apple’s actions last week to limit iPhone development to only their development environment they have clearly and finally shown they have completely forgotten their origins and their long time grass-roots customers in favor of one thing. That thing is not technology. It is not about HTML5 versus Flash. It is not about who has the video player for the iPad’s battery life. And I am here to tell you that anyone who thinks that’s what this is about has NO IDEA what the hell they are talking about. This is about Steve Jobs, the board of directors and senior management at Apple wanting to do nothing more than protect every penny they can of the revenue generated by the sale of iPhone and iPad applications and the $100 fee you have to pay to be part of the development community.
I have been a lifelong Apple user and I don’t say that with “life long” in quotes. I started my design career on the postage stamp sized, black and white screen of an original 40lb unibody Mac Classic running Pagemaker and Photoshop 1.0. With that length of history, I can see that Apple has forgotten their roots. Just look at the slow homogenization of their product line as they fold more and more of their previously creative professional target line of products into the mass market consumer line-up. Gone are the 30″ Cinema displays for a one size fits all model. Gone are any substantial difference in the pro and regular MacBook line-up. Face it folks, they could give a shit about the creative class now that they have what they have always wanted – money and power. Nothing says that more clearly to me, a creative professional, than this war with Adobe because being able to create apps in Flash would have made my life a hell of a lot easier.
This is not the brand I grew up supporting and loving with cult-like fervor. This is not the brand I have so strongly identified with so much of my life. This is a brand behaving like a spoiled, over privileged child with all the good toys and not willing to share them with anyone else. This is brand amnesia that is making a mockery of the Think Different campaign and the visionaries and cultural icons it featured like Jim Henson, Gandhi, and Rosa Parks. It is Apple becoming the IBM of old and creating 1984 in reverse.
More than that, I don’t think they see the slippery slope they are headed down by putting the all mighty dollar first. They have so thoroughly pissed off their life long supporters that you saw designers and developers selling their computers, their developers licenses and in some cases stopping their business all together so not to support this behavior any more. With the iPad you see for the first time in a long time with one of their major new launches Apple putting price ahead of any real innovation. Wake up, the iPad is the spork of the computers. Anyone who wants to argue how alienating your life long core customers in favor of hype induced newcomers and putting price over innovation is going to keep them in a leadership position please bring it on because I want to hear it.
A lot of my friends have made fun of me for making it very clear that I am not buying an iPad as a moral vote against the way Apple is behaving. I’m doing it because I have been in this business long enough to know that the only way to get the attention of a company behaving like that is to vote with your wallet. If you buy a new iPhone or new iPad you are voting yes for the new IBM. You are voting that you want them to continue to limit our choices as creative professionals for how we can create our work, how that work is distributed and who can see it inside of their closed system. I am not willing to be that sheep who blindly votes yes for something like that. My sincere hope is that if you have read this blog for any length of time then you have the intelligence to see what this means and do the same.