A pox on one of your houses: Thinking Apple should fix everything

Holding Apple responsible for the bad actions of its competitors.


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Did you know that Apple is responsible for everything bad in technology? Even the stuff that’s actively made worse every day by its competitors? Well, it’s true.

Writing for The New York Times, Farhad Manjoo decries “The Incredible Shrinking Apple.” (Tip o’ the antlers to @jeeeemspriggs and Jason.)

Steve Jobs wanted to put a ding in the universe. Today, Apple wants to ding your pocketbook.

To be fair, Steve Jobs definitely wanted to ding your pocket book, too. The Macalope doesn’t know if you’ve heard, but Apple Products Cost Too Much™, and have for years and years.

Let’s pause here for a minute because you can sort of see where this is headed. Apple doesn’t do any of the important stuff! All it wants to do is sell you more iCloud space! You can imagine how frustrating articles like this must be to the company that’s made privacy and health tentpole features. Does Apple want to charge you a stupid amount for iCloud storage space? Yes. Yes, it does. It also somehow seems to have possibly prevented some people from having heart attacks with a device that was declared a “flop.”

But never mind that. It’s “Apple is a religion!” metaphor time (which is to say any time when the hands on the clock point at anything).

The Steve Jobs Theater on Apple’s spendy new campus in Cupertino, Calif., is a majestic temple to pomp.

Not to be confused with Temple-to-Pump, The Macalope’s new weight lifting app for clergymen looking to get absolutely shredded.

It is an edifice meant to recall those moments when Mr. Jobs, smirking joyfully, would bound up to the stage, teasingly pull a black shroud…

Of Turin.

…off some new invention and instantly alter your picture of the future.

OK, but how many times did that actually happen since Steve Jobs returned to Apple? Three, right? iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Those are the big three, but everyone seems to think it happened every Tuesday under Jobs.

“Ah, yes, I remember it well! Jobs would take the stage every Tuesday and announce such market-altering devices as digital music players, touch-screen smartphones, transparent toasters and the electric foot! Then we’d all retire to the shade tree by the old lazy river to discuss the implications of said devices and eat brimbleberries until Ma called us home.”

That didn’t happen! There’s no such thing as brimbleberries!

“Today is going to be a very different kind of event,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, taking the stage.

It was not.

It very literally was. It might not have been great, some parts of it were boring, but it was very different from previous Apple events. How many times has Apple brought freaking Muppets to the stage? Not counting Randy Newman.

As the analyst Ben Thompson noted, Apple’s crush of me-too announcements falls far short of Mr. Jobs’s goal of putting “a ding in the universe.”

Thompson’s comment is that the event “didn’t have many dings.” And it certainly didn’t. But, not to burst your selective memory bubble, but not every keynote under Jobs’s tenure did, either. Remember the one with a 5-minute video about a battery?

Indirectly, Apple’s devices are implicated in the rise of misinformation and distraction, the erosion of privacy and the breakdown of democracy.

“Indirectly”! Ah, yes, much like books were “indirectly” implicated in the Reign of Terror and papyrus scrolls were “indirectly” implicated in the burning of the Library of Alexandria!

None of these grand problems is Apple’s fault… But instead of rising to the moment by pushing a fundamentally new and safer vision of the future, Apple is shrinking from it.

Manjoo does not point out that Apple defied the FBI in order to protect the privacy of a terrorist and that the company went to pains to note its assurances of privacy in each service it announced in the very keynote he is complaining about. Instead he says the company is doing “about the least” it could do. To, you know, fix a problem made by its competitors.

But what if it thought a little bigger? For example, it could directly take on Google and Facebook…

Instead of railing against Google and Facebook, let’s rail against Apple for failing to more actively rein in Google and Facebook. And, also, let’s not mention that Apple did not renew its Maps deal with Google partially over privacy concerns and that the company banned Facebook apps that abused iOS features in order to violate the privacy of users. Why would we mention that! It takes some of the air out of our argument! It would be counter-productive!

You can’t just throw up your hands when other companies violate peoples’ privacy, expect Apple to fix it all and then declare the company a failure when it doesn’t. Would it be great if the company went further? Sure. But it’s ridiculous not to give it any credit for being the best company in the industry on this topic, one that almost no reviewer takes into account when discussing the relative merits of smartphones.

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