Apple's brand promise, and how blogging can fix it
Saturday, November 17, 2007 by Dave Winer.
Scoble has a piece today on Apple's brand promise that nails it precisely, never seen him hit the mark so well. Congrats. The other day at lunch I was telling the Uncov guys that despite what they may think, Scoble really is brilliant. Read this piece, I feel completely vindicated (though sometimes I read his stuff and shake my head in disbelief at how he could be so wrong).
It's true that the Mac does work better than Windows, usually, but that can be masked by the expected breakage in a user's first transition to Mac. You expect stuff to break when you switch from Windows to Mac. You expect things to work differently. But it all comes home when you "upgrade" to a new version of the Mac OS and find that the engineers at Apple don't listen to designers, or understand users any more than the geeks at Microsoft do. The problem isn't with Microsoft or Apple as a culture, the problem is with the tech industry.
Google has it too. They will break us, I'm sure of it. If I told you how, they'd unleash a storm of hate at me very much like what you get when you criticize Apple. Even Microsoft used to have its anonymous assholes on the net who would make you feel pain for questioning their competence or integrity. Hey when they cut off Netscape's air supply, they cut off a lot of users and small developers too. Sun did it with the Java wars (Microsoft again), and Apple -- well read my piece on networking in Leopard, which may look like it was coordinated with Scoble's. It wasn't; we've both been stewing in the same broth -- the hypocrisy of Apple's marketing, the lack of humility that guarantees that everything we care about, as users, will eventually break if we trust the tech industry to take care of our needs.
The only way this is going to change, and the signs are good, is if the users take over from the press at telling the truth about these products. The people at Scoble's dinner should come out of the shadows and tell their stories publicly, so everyone else who has a problem doesn't feel that the problem is their fault.
You know, when I published my piece this morning, it took ten minutes for the first post to appear that blamed me for the problem with Leopard's networking. But not much later, someone sent a pointer to a piece by Glenn Fleishman, where he says that Leopard's networking is an improvement over Tiger's. I trust Glenn, and believe him. I just didn't know when I switched to the Mac that there were so many problems. I had to discover them myself. And many more were uncovered in the switch to Leopard. (So much for "just works.")
There is something special about Apple, but it really isn't all that present in the Mac OS. The error messages say something isn't operational, which isn't really a word in the English language (why not say it doesn't work). When I followed Glenn's instructions and enabled file sharing through the Prefs system, all of a sudden my MacBook which is running Tiger can't access the file server. I'm sure there's some reason for this that most Mac gearheads know, but they're missing the big picture -- the Mac makes a promise, as Scoble points out, that you don't have to be a gearhead to use a Mac. It's a big lie, you gotta assume the marketing people at Apple know it's a lie, and they keep getting away with it, and there's no reason for them to make it better, as long as they do get away with it.
I started blogging because people lied about the Mac, then they lied about the Constitution, then they lied about everything else I cared about. And since then blogging has taken off, so we have the tools to fix the problem, and if we wait for Silicon Valley to do it, we'll wait forever. The solution is simple -- tell the truth. Once you do, then someone else will feel they can do it too. And pretty soon the companies are going to have to do it, because as soon as they lie, there we will be to set them straight. Think of how much better our government would work if we applied this same principle to governance and then you'll understand why blogging is so important.
PS: Apple ought to feel they have an option to either: 1. Live up to the promise that their products "just work" or 2. Stop making the promise. I hope they choose option 1. And ideally they'd stop making the promise too, because there's always Murphy's Law to keep you on your toes.