A Sour Apple Note
don't know, is the daily newspaper that serves the Silicon Valley.
While the paper does what almost every paper does regarding news,
weather and sports, the Mercury News devotes a considerable amount of
ink to high tech related stuff.
This is the week that reporters wanted to know about Apple's latest
"coup", signing on Bono and U2 to help them hawk Apple iPods. And of
course, everyone asked about it was quick to toady up to Steve Jobs
and kiss his golden keister. Well, almost everyone.
Although I'm sure that others will speak to it differently, I'm
willing to go on record and tell you that the current campaign is a
mistake in the long run. And I'm not just saying that because I find
Bono to be among the most obnoxious musical personalities since
Barbara Streisand. I can forgive the stupid eyewear and the inflated
sense of self-importance. I can even overlook the fact that, like
Streisand, he can't seem to get through a song without yelling. What
I can't forgive is how his presence demeans the Apple brand by
treating it as a fashion statement.
There's no question that the iPod has had a great halo effect on
Apple a a whole. A substantial portion of Apple's revenues are
derived from iPods. You know it's a runaway hit when the likes of
Hewlett-Packard license it for their own. But hand-cuffing an entire
brand to the leather belt loops of a musical celebrity is playing
with fire, for a bunch of reasons.
First, whenever your brand panders to fashion/trendies out there,
your brand itself is in danger of becoming a fashion statement. And
if you know anything about fashion, you know that what's in this year
is out the next. Or, in the immortal words of Jerry Reed, "when
you're hot, you're hot; when you're not, you're not." How long until
the iPod is junked for something trendier?
Second, while iPod's halo effect has brought in a significant number
of Mac converts, this move places way too much emphasis on music and
will probably hurt the overall brand as a productivity tool.
Look, I'm a Mac guy myself, but I've got to call 'em like I see 'em.
I've suffered the slings and arrows of all those other Gates-driven
PC cranks who continually sneer at the fact that I require no virus
protection programs. I suffer through their mockeries as they claim
"there's no software for the Mac" (there is - tons of it). Or that
Macs are too expensive (not true, especially if you add in how often
PC users have to add on to stuff built in to Macs). So the last
thing I need is for Steve Jobs to wheel out an aging, over-rated,
pony-tailed knucklehead wailing some anthem about how cool iPods are.
What Jobs has overlooked is that the Mac is already the cool of
computers. It always has been. Up until now, it's been cool
precisely because it's been able to outperform its competition where
it matters most: in computing. In fact, one could argue that by
over-emphasizing music, Apple is actually risking the perception that
its capabilities are becoming limited, when just the opposite is true.
Time will tell whether Bono will add any more value to the Apple
brand. Personally, I don't think it's quite the boon that all the
media lemmings think it is. As far as I'm concerned, there's only
one thing Apple could add to increase their sales now.
A pair of really sturdy ear plugs.