(An article I started in May of 2015)
“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
— Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
In 1992, one of my first postings on Usenet was an article on
comp.sys.mac.* titled “Zen and the Art of Buying a Macintosh.” As someone whose first computer was an Apple ][+ in 1979, used Macs since they came out in 1984, and owned them since the “Fat Mac” in 1985, I was the very definition of an Apple-lover. In writing that post, I wanted to express the confusion and helplessness I felt when recommending a Macintosh to anyone. There were PowerBooks, Performas, LCs, Centrises, and Quadras, some of which were the same exact computer with different names. If a Mac fanboy like me couldn’t make heads-or-tails of it, something was seriously wrong for the Macintosh. It was clear to me that Apple had lost the very quality that attracted people like me to it in the first place. That post became popular enough that a number of Mac user group newsletters asked to republish it.
That Apple, the one that made infomercials, is no more. Steve Jobs retook the helm in 1997 and radically simplified its line into a quadrant based on two questions: Do you want a laptop or desktop computer? Are you a professional or consumer?
Those days are gone, but I can’t help but feel that Steve Jobs embedded in the DNA of Apple something to ensure they’d never again lose the very quality of “Apple” that would take it in a wrong direction. Apple became a company that stopped making something just because some business analyst said that they need to because it was “disruptive” or ” would protect their market share,” but rather a company that would only introduce a product when they had an idea who that product would be for.
Now to you kids, I want to tell you this: not every Apple product is for you.
When Marco Arment wrote ”Mistake One” about why the retina MacBook sucks, I said to my girlfriend, “Marco’s ‘mistake one’ is writing this article to give ammo to those who say millennials are entitled.” What sort of douchebag talks about numerous $2000 “impulse buys” and then proceeds to rant for ten pages deflecting their own stupid mistake onto Apple because they didn’t make a computer, clearly intended for someone else, just for the pleasure of Marco mother-fucking Arment?
If Marco had sold his company five years earlier, I’d have been reading then how the iPad sucks because it didn’t come with a built in keyboard case, or said keyboard case doesn’t allow it to stand on its own, or some actions require you to touch the screen. Because that’s exactly what a lot of journalists were criticizing the iPad for when it came out—they were not realizing that the iPad was not for them.
Apple’s sales of the iPad made them all look like idiots. I’m sure Apple’s sales of retina Macbooks makes Marco look like an idiot today.
Instead, when Apple came out with the retina Macbook, I asked myself the same question Apple asks themselves before they start making something, “Who is this for?” For the retina Macbook, like the first MacBook Air, it was clearly for a professional who carries their laptop with them all the time and has all their work bundled in cloud services—a sort of netbook for rich professionals. For an already-got-my-internet-payout white guy whose morning commute is from his bed to the coffee table where he spends the majority of his time bloviating on his blog it is not for. That’s what the Mac Pro and panoramic 4K+ monitors is for. Go buy that.
For me? While I’m highly mobile, I don’t have a commute to speak of, and while most of my things are in the cloud, I also process photos and have sometimes been known to program—the Retina Macbook is not for me. Instead, ever since 2010, I juggle a Macbook Air or an iPhone/iPad for mobility and I use a desktop for photography.
Ask this same question of the Apple Watch which came out around the same time. Who is the Apple Watch for? It’s for someone who does (or can do) nearly their entire business on their phone. If the convenience and peace of mind in having essential notifications noticed without having to break a social conversation to dig your phone out from your purse or bag (or pocket even) is greater than the cost of some real-estate on your wrist, then the Apple Watch is for you. Well them and those rich fucks who don’t have a mechanical watch fetish and get a small high from everyone stopping you ask about your latest Apple bling. (Yeah, I’m totally cool with that too: I had the first iPod, iPhone, and iPad on launch day, so I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise.)
As for me? I have always felt that the wristwatch is one of only two forms of socially-acceptable wearable-technology and the last piece of acceptable men’s jewelry outside of marriage. Furthermore as an engineer, I just can’t be bothered coming in to work or showing up to meetings on time let alone care if someone cares how quickly I’ve responded to a text, e-mail or social update. “Be glad I’ve overcomed my Asperger’s enough to respond at all, fuckers!” That’ll be my e-mail signature someday.
The Apple Watch is not for me…yet.
Marco wrote recently that the Apple Watch got him hooked on mechanical watches. And while I’m happy he found a hobby that makes him happy, I’m sick of WISers saying there’s a revival in mechanical watches because one rich millennial bought a Nomos Tangente. (I specifically linked the Hodinkee article to show you what a rabbit hole Marco is going into when the $2300 watch his wife bought him is considered a “value proposition” to the Kevin Rose’s of the world.)
The very next week after Marco wrote this mash note to mechanicals, the market was contradicting both WIS hopes of mechanical watch revival and Marco’s claim that the Apple Watch is a “confused,” “misguided,” “poorly-executed” product.
(And because in his article, Marco did that same bullshit snide piss-on-the-hard-work-of-your-betters review of the Apple Watch that he did with the retina Macbook, if you like the design, I will point out that GearPatrol recommends you save 10 Benjamins and buy the Stowa Antea KS over the Nomos, with just as much claim to authenticity too. And for the rest of us, this Chinese “homage” is priced so low it’s almost criminal.)
Sometimes I feel the reason the AppleTV is such a “meh” product through all its iterations (including this one) is that, even having owned three generations of them, I can’t rightly state who the product was designed for. Does Apple even remember who they at this point?
My girlfriend runs her own PR agency that specializes in technology. It was so obvious to me that the retina Macbook and Apple Watch were for her that I told her to pre-order them and then mercilessly teased her for not doing after we visited Apple Store to check it out and she put herself on the wait list for them.
When she got the “Mistake One”, she had none of the troubles that Marco mentions. Yes, she does notice it can be slow when she has 30 browser tabs open. On the other hand, she finally gets why this photographer spent three years drooling over, but never purchasing, the retina MacBook Pro—spoiled for six years on the MacBook Air, I couldn’t justify the weight tradeoff for something I don’t use for photography. In the end I scratched that itch with a retina iMac.
The Apple Watch was an even bigger revolution for her. The ability to not miss an important text or e-mail from her clients all the while doing other small things like checking the weather and exchanging penis drawings with her Apple Watch-wearing buddies. Plus, since she didn’t wear watches regularly before this, it tells time! It even informed her almost immediately when her gold iPhone 6 Plus and retina Macbook was stolen at Tropesueño. Now if I can just get her to stop eating at overcrowded mediocre hipster-restaurants where their idea of good service is treating people worse than the cattle used in their meat.
And yes, my obsession with cheap mechanicals still has some utility in the world of Apple Watch chic: her favorite band by far was the one I made for her on a whim, and for less than any of her Apple or 3rd party ones.
Not every Apple product is for you, but when Apple comes out with something, don’t piss on other people’s parade when it “just works” for them.