Apple briefly became the most valuable company in the U.S. when it surpassed Exxon Mobil on August 9, but Breakingviews Columnist Rob Cyran says the iPhone and iPad maker may be worth far more.
I, like many people in this country, am a devoted Apple computer consumer. I mean, Apple must be superior for the common computer user who does like shiny, sleek packaging and does not like punching binary commands into the keyboard or having random code on their screen. That said, I had a disturbing visit to the Apple store earlier this week.
Let me back up. This disturbing visit was rooted in my workout (or lack there-of) regimen. Like many people in this country I will diligently jog everyday for a few months, only to have it slowly fade from my routine until one day I realize I haven’t hit the pavement in many moons.
Thankfully for my workout-averse brethren and I, Apple and Nike conveniently joined forces to create a market for something that really wasn’t necessary to begin with: the Nike+ GPS thing-a-majig. Somehow I convinced myself (or Apple convinced me, or Nike convinced me) that I could remedy my irregular jogging schedule with technology. Look! It tracks my workouts online. Look! It plays my “pump-up” song when I need that last little boost. Wow! Instant feedback relayed to me via a sexy voice. Lance Armstrong congratulates me after my workout!
I convinced myself this thing would make me run more often, thus get me in better shape, thus give me more energy, thus become motivated and get a good job, thus marry that beautiful girl, thus have great sex, thus live 20 years longer and die a happy, fulfilled, fit man. All this for just $29.99!
Not so fast. You need to have the compatible Nike shoe for this machinery to work. No problem- I just have to wait until the day comes when I needed a new pair of running shoes. After months of not running keep my New Balances in surprisingly good condition, I accidentally leave them out in the rain one night. The next day I sink eighty bucks into a pair of Nikes, then wander next door to the conveniently placed Apple store.
The first overly cheery employee sees me walk in and makes a b-line.
“Hello sir. Anything I can help you with today?”
“Yeah” I reply, “I just bought these shoes and I want to get the Nike thing for my iPod.”
“Perfect.” The employee spins around and grabs the Nike+ package as if he was anticipating this sale from the moment he saw my bright orange Nike shoebox.
“Cool” I reply. “So I just plug this part into my iPod and this part into my shoe and I’m set to go?”
“Pretty Much. What generation iPod do you have?”
“Um, I really don’t know. It’s black. It has the spinny wheel.” I motion little circles with my index finger.
“Oh the iPod classic.” He says with the smallest hint of condescension. Apparently my eighteen-month-old iPod had already achieved classic status. “Yeah, Nike+ isn’t compatible with that iPod.”
“Why? I thought you just need an iPod.”
“Well you see, how can I explain this…” He chooses his words wisely now, assuming I’m an Apple product luddite. “That iPod has a spinning hard drive (He mimics my motion), so Apple doesn’t recommend you run with it.”
“But I run with this all the time and I’ve never had any problems. So does Apple recommend I don’t run with this or will it really—“
The Apple punk interrupts me as if he has to stand up for his company. “No, no. It really won’t work. There’s no point in making an Apple product that will damage another Apple product.”
The conversation reaches a stand still.
“But, do you have an iPhone?” He cheerily inquires.
As I mentioned earlier, I do happen to own a lot of Apple products. I dig into my jeans pocket and slide out my iPhone.
He sees it and squints at the phone as if it were out of focus. The condescending tone returns. “Oh, Nike+ isn’t compatible with the first generation iPhone. Besides, who really wants to run with their iPhone?”
I wasn’t the one to suggest it, but okay… “So what are you telling me exactly?”
“I’m telling you if you only own those two “i” products you can’t use Nike+”
Serenity Now! I gather myself “Let me rephrase. What’s the least amount of money I will have to spend to use this technology.” I foolishly assume that maybe Apple makes a third-party attachment that an individual who doesn’t own any “i” products can buy and still get feedback while they run. I assume wrong.
With a sale on the horizon, the Apple employee reverts back to friendly mode. “That would be our new iPod nano!” He drags me over to the display and launches into the features of the iPod. “And, and, if it’s upside down you just go like this and the display—“
Now it’s my turn to do the interrupting. “And how much will this cost?
“$149.99” He says. “But then you still need to buy the Nike+ kit for an additional $29.99”
I mean, the thing does look cool. I look at the little MP3 player and start trying to rationalize the purchase, well it can play music and you can look at all of your photos. Then I realize: Wait, don’t I already own two Apple products that do that and more?
I walk out of the store, embarrassed that I was even considering adding another “i” product to my life. But therein lies Apple’s success. They create unnecessary products for markets that shouldn’t exist. “Oh you own an iMac?” Apple corporate says, “Well what if you need to check your email and stuff on-the-go? Surely you’ll need an iBook to do so. But what if you’re on-the-go and you don’t have wireless internet? Don’t worry! Just buy an iPhone and you can always have the internet, plus have all these cool, impractical apps that you’ll never actually use, but you’ll be able to show your friends how useful it would be in the hypothetical situation where you need to know where the nearest sexual predator is located.”
Here’s the real kicker, a product even Apple doesn’t know how to market: “The iPad! The coolest thing apple has ever released. It can, like, store all your pictures and music like your iMac but it’s smaller. For when you’re on-the-go and you need to check your email—er, wait iBook and iPhone do that. For when you want to relax and play with some apps—dammit, iPhone does that too.” Apple digs deep, “For when you’re like, um, on the couch, and your iBook is in the other room and your iPhone is charging and you really need to see who starred in Dunstin Checks In (Jason Alexander, right?) the iPad is going to be so convenient. You’ll never believe you lived without one.”
I write this as the girl sitting next to me on the plane rapidly switches between her laptop, her phone and her iPad. What a poor soul lost in a shopper driven, marketing heavy, capitalistic society, I think to myself. How lucky I am to be a rational consumer in this irrational world…
Wait. Is that Angry Birds HD?