On The Media segment looking at Apple’s ability to turn marketing into news.
This is what I was trying to say yesterday. Carrying Apple’s product announcements as if they were news is probably not good for reporters and bloggers, ethically. We’re making a big mistake if we accept the news about iPhone, for example, only from Apple. There are other companies already in this market. How about taking a close look at their products when Apple asks us to look at the category? When Apple boasts of patents, as if that were a feature for users (imho it’s a feature that’s actually against them), this begs for a closer look as well.
Now, that’s starting to happen, and that’s good.
Another example. I took my friend Rex Hammock, who was in town for the Expo from Nashville, to Fry’s in Concord, for a cultural exchange. When I visited Nashville a couple of years ago, Rex took me to a great BBQ place. Fry’s is the closest we come to culture here in the Bay Area (I also took him on a drive up Grizzly Peak Blvd, the roundabout way to Walnut Creek, with great views of the Bay and the city). Rex, who had attended the Jobs keynote the day before, suggested I might get one of their new fast routers. I took him to the part of Fry’s where they had a whole shelf full of “Pre-N” routers, all of which were exactly as fast as Apple’s (and cheaper too). This fact had not come out yesterday, in the rush of all the press coverage. To be fair, the router was almost an afterthought in the panoply of marketing that masqueraded as news, but it should have been mentioned, right up front — there probably isn’t anything special about Apple’s product.
We have a lot of catching up to do here. Apple has received an unfair advantage from the press, and also from bloggers. I’m not saying that we should give Microsoft a free pass, because they still control who gets their news, and that’s wrong, it compromises the integrity of every reporter that takes their offer. It can be hard for reporters to say no, but they must, if they want to deserve our respect.
Many companies have lost their businesses, and customers have lost a lot of choice because of this system. Well-intentioned people inside the companies are led to believe that their products don’t have to be competitive because they have the press in their pocket, and lawyers to protect them with patents. James Plamondon, a good guy for sure, should never have been able to think of developers as pawns. The only way it makes sense is for them to think of developers as competitors. That’s where respect comes from. When we get there, vendors will make products that we use, they will not be thought leaders, or gurus. This is what they demand in order for us to have access. But we’re not doing them any favors by giving them what they ask for, and we’re sure not doing any favors to the users, and to ourselves.
I don’t believe for a minute that Jobs’s closed-box approach to cell phones is the right one. Growth is driven by choice. The Internet grew because, for the 80th time, it was the platform with no platform vendor. The Apple II won, the Mac won, the PC won, even Windows won, because you could install any software you wanted on them. The iPod is a wonderful product, but damn it’s time we made one that could run our software, could run any software, so users have choice, and so you don’t have to buy new hardware to get software features, and so the market can grow at the rate of innovation, not at the whim of one marketer.
Apple is now bidding once again to become the total control platform vendor that they have always been inside. When they introduce the phone software to the Macintosh (seems inevitable, doesn’t it?) will they shut down developers there too? I am writing this on a Mac, because it’s much better than Windows. Apple didn’t need any patents to get me to buy their system. I don’t even like the company, I think they’re brats, small thinkers. Even though I don’t have to, every year I spend thousands of dollars on their products. That says all I need to know about what kinds of locks you need on users. The only lock you need is to create a better product. The rest of it is nonsense.
Sylvia Paull, who worked at a Mac software developer when NeXT was rolling out, explains how they fooled reporters into thinking that there was working software for Steve Jobs’s new computer. Great story.
She invited reporters to look under the table where there was a Mac that was actually running the supposed NeXT app, but they wouldn’t look. If they reported the fiasco, they’d lose access. This kind of deception is the rule, not the exception, in Silicon Valley.
I’ve heard from people who were at the Jobs presentation this week that there was a wire connecting his cell phone to something. I can’t tell you myself, because I am not allowed to attend Apple press events. If I were there, I would tell you.