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Tall Apple Syndrome
'There's a shitstorm coming. You'll see it coming soon.'
- P Garrett
The Guardian is one of the world's leading English language news sources. Their self-effacing editorial style coupled with their subtle British wit and coupled with the demise of the Times as a widely read news site establishes them at the top. Marina Hyde might be the best of them all but the others are still close contenders. They're a far cry from their colleagues across the pond whose work often reeks of supercilious grammar and indulgent self-importance. The Guardian is a site to follow and be enriched by.
John Naughton published an amazing piece today. As per usual, it's short on direct biting attacks and does its business in a sophisticated indirect manner. The piece is about Apple and what may be called the 'Tall Apple Syndrome'.
Anyone who's been down under knows of the Tall Poppy Syndrome. The Wild West expressed this as 'too big for your britches'. And people in Scandinavia have their Jante Law, formulated by Aksel Sandemose in 1933, which says one shouldn't stick up one's nose and act as if one is superior to everyone else.
The Tall Poppy Syndrome is a social phenomenon: people are attacked, criticised, and cut down because they've become 'outstanding' in some way. One needed only watch the Aussie Tweets when Jessica Watson approached Sydney Harbour to see the syndrome in full action. It wasn't pretty.
Just Another Company
What John Naughton of the Guardian is predicting is that Apple are going to get cut down. They're going to get cut down because they're no longer the little guy. They're going to get cut down because today they're acting like the Man - and already getting roundly criticised for it, by Jon Stewart amongst others.
The media are going to discard the rose-tinted glasses they used the past dozen years when regarding Steve Jobs and Apple. Today, writes Naughton, Apple are 'a looming, secretive, manipulative corporate giant'.
Naughton goes on to suggest it's Apple's own perception of their place in the scheme that needs a major overhaul. And he cites the iPhone antenna debacle as a case example, describing Apple's first reaction to the antenna complaints as 'patronising', a 'smokescreen', and 'a spectacular (and misleading) misjudgement'.
Naughton describes Apple's press conference as 'an instructive shambles'.
'In summary the message was: Apple is good and makes great products; all smartphones have reception problems; Apple loves its customers, which is why it built all those cool retail stores for them; the iPhone problem can be fixed by fitting a rubberised 'bumper' over the bezel; and Apple will give everyone a free bumper, so what's the problem?'
'The press conference was instructive because it provided such a vivid demonstration of how inexperienced Apple is in its new role as just another company - and how inept Jobs is when faced with the hostile scepticism that is the routine experience of other CEOs.'
Lost Their Cool, Lost Their Charm
Oh if ever. Apple have been able to rely on their small 'Sea Org' platoon of rabid fanboys. And on their John Gruber who's always been able to write a 7000 word essay to prove the impossible, to whitewash Apple no matter what. And the fanboys flocked to such sites, fearful the sky was falling and their cult was disintegrating.
But that doesn't work anymore. A strange thing is that Gruber himself has seen the Naughton piece in the Guardian, seen the same writing on the wall, and still doesn't get it. So incredibly enough he comments the following.
'But what exactly does Naughton think Apple should have done differently? What are the negative consequences they'll face from the way they handled Antennagate? He doesn't say.'
He doesn't need to say. It's bloody obvious outside the RDF. So if Apple are out of touch then Gruber is even more so. He then turns on his famous arrogant charm.
'Anyone who thinks now that Apple is a big company that they should start acting and behaving more like other typical companies - well, they're going to be disappointed.'
Yes they will be. And the pundits have already predicted it. But you got the inside scoop from the fireball, folks. And that's precisely what Naughton and Winer and the others predict Apple are in fact going to do - resulting in what Winer accurately calls a 'shitstorm'.
'I'm not sure there are any companies that reach this size that are typical anyway', reflects the Gruber. But then the Gruber has only a degree in QuarkXPress. So what can he be expected to know?
'When it comes to responding to hostile or sceptical media coverage', writes Rex Hammock, 'Jobs & Co seem to be like a presidential contender who's been able to skip the primaries and go straight to the general election - missing all the vetting and the hundreds of debates that help to surface any weakness or issues of concern, providing time to develop the skills necessary to respond to any situation.'
'Jobs demonstrated what I've never seen him do in front of an audience before: he not only lost his cool - he lost his charm. He was a like an arena rock star who can't perform acoustic.'
Right now all the fanboys are losing their cool and losing their charm. Apple just expended quite a lot of energy whacking at the Droid X - trying to point out its weaknesses almost before the thing hit the market. As Susan Watts of the BBC pointed out, you can't have minor flaws in iconic devices. Apple don't realise this, scrap like felines when their backs are to the wall, line up on stage to intimidate in pure numbers, and then do the unthinkable in ethical business: attack the competition.
'Apple fanboys', writes Hammock, 'have done all they can to prevent Apple from developing the skills necessary to respond to the type of skepticism and negativity every other company or cause must face on a daily basis. Steve Jobs and Apple, because they have such loyal fanboys and tech media lapdogs, have never had to actually pitch a story like every other company has to do. They don't pitch - they decide who gets what.'
'Friday made it clear he hasn't developed even the rookie skills necessary to play in front of a hostile crowd. Like Nixon and Clinton and a parade of others should have taught us by now, it's more often the response to a 'gate' that brings one down, not the 'gate' itself.'
'Anyone who has raised a child can recognise the behaviour Steve Jobs displayed last Friday when he started describing articles in the New York Times and Bloomberg as 'a crock' and 'bullshit' - it's called being spoiled.'
'I will never let my love of those products and my admiration of the artistry of Steve Jobs interfere with my ability to recognise a train wreck when I see one.'
All Apple had to do - all they ever had to do - was be honest, feet on the ground, no RDF at all, and just respect the people around them. But that's something they don't want to do. John Gruber says he'd rather have been born in England so he could be a snob about language instead of computers - the point being that he really needs to be a snob. Precisely as all the fanboys out there. Precisely as Apple and Steve Jobs.
Last Friday Steve Jobs was not insanely great in front of an audience of hand-picked journalists, bloggers and fanboys.
- Rex Hammock
NY Times: Fallout From the iPhone 4 Press Conference
RexBlog: Before moving on, just one more thing about that press conference
The Guardian/John Naughton: If Apple wants to be a major player it needs to start behaving like one