Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Post II (I've eaten)

I love reading Roughly Drafted. There. I said it. Daniel Eran Dilger seems to know what he's talking about. He does research. He speaks in measurable data and verifiable facts. Just like I would if I wanted to do something other than poke fun at the whole world. He almost seems like a political conservative sometimes. He doesn't really try to be funny much, but he seems to skewer the Apple-ignorati and the punditbots on a regular basis just the same.

I mention that because of all the Artie MacStrawman candidates out there, he seems like an unlikely candidate. He seems to get picked on that way fairly regularly, though. But he never seems to wax emotional. Just the facts. Not that there aren't some folks out there who do fit the strident, screaming, self-righteous, born-again Apple fan profile – but he isn't it.

Anyhow, this little post is just to set the record straight a bit about what Apple really wants to do. They want to make as much of your money their money as they can manage. In that, they are no different from Microsoft, Universal, or The Hallmark Shop over by Safeway.

Here's the difference between Apple and the media companies. The media companies want to dictate the terms under which you may enjoy their wares. In fact, they want to dictate everything about what you watch and how you watch it. They're against "censorship" in the form of telling you what you're getting when you buy their crap. I remember not too long ago when the war was on about "censorship" of CDs. The censorship the record companies were against was printing the lyrics on the covers of their CDs so parents could know what their kids were buying.

Censorship isn't Mom telling her teenager she can't listen buy Too $hort CDs because he can't get through the intro to a love ballad without saying Bee-Otch. Censorship is the government telling him he can't make those CDs. HUGE difference.

Apple, on the other hand, wants to figure out what system is going to work best for you so that you have an easy and enjoyable time transferring your funds into their bank account.

The media companies (and Microsoft) are sure you're trying to rip them off. To avoid that, they rip you off in obvious ways – DRM, exploding media, overpriced crap, extra money for a special edition that adds nothing of value, outright lies about what you're getting – then they X-Ray your frigging luggage on the way out of the store.

Apple sells you everything with no strings attached. I hear the chorus of "Bricked iPhones" building as a rebuttal argument. Don't even try. Apple sold you the iPhone with no strings attached. If you want Apple to continue to upgrade it free-for-nothing, you have to keep it in a condition that allows that to happen. If you didn't follow the terms of the EULA, and did a bunch of unauthorized things to your device, you boned yourself. It's like going in to Denny's, peeing on your table, and then bitching that the table isn't sanitary or dry.

Apple sold me a Family Pack version of Leopard and put nothing in it that would prevent me from installing it on every Mac on the continent. It doesn't check in with the mothership to see if it's registered properly. It wouldn't quit working if it wasn't registered. Apple trusted me to install it on only five computers. Guess what. I didn't even have five computers to install it on, but I had more than one, so I paid for it.

That doesn't make Apple noble or grand or special. It makes Apple smart. Apple has figured out what makes a consumer company great: Make the customer feel special. I know of few companies that have done that. The only one that springs to mind is Nordstrom's (NYSE: JWN). Look 'em up. The Nordstrom's in downtown Seattle used to (I haven't been there for a while to know if they still do) have a pianist in the lobby. The pianist had nothing to do with their business, except that it gave the place a nice ambience. They charge a bit more for their wares, but people pay it instead of shopping around because of seemingly meaningless little details like that.

All the meaningless little details about Apple's products and service – the seamlessness of Software Update, the clean lines and classy design of their hardware, the easy transition to a major OS upgrade, the simplicity of setting up a WiFi network at home, the excellent customer service at Apple stores, to name but a few of the big obvious details – are what will keep Apple going at the pace and the direction it is.

So, I guess I just didn't want to just sit here and make fun of everybody all the time. I'd like to make fun of people who think that Windows is good enough, but I can't. They're right. It is. I use it at work all the time. It's good enough. It isn't good, though. Just good enough.

As with all things Microsoft, Windows lets me do things after I pay the necessary dues of aggravation at log-in, waiting through an ugly startup sequence, and herky-jerky fits and starts of networked applications looking for servers. Like waking up next to Rosie and getting my own bowl of soggy corn flakes and a slice of white toast. It's good enough.

I'm sure my Mac does all the same things as it wakes from sleep, but it hides the ugly stuff from me. It looks like a beautiful transition from sleep to start. All the hitches and glitches are hidden from view. Like waking up next to Elle McPherson (in make up and all the blemishes PhotoShopped out like in the ads) and being served coffee and eggs benedict before, and a mimosa after a roll in the hay.

If you don't think that sounds better, stick with Windows. Really.

No, I'm not drunk. Dammit.

Oops. One more thing. If you think Apple stock is expensive at $190, wait until it doubles again in '08. And again in '09.