I've been lucky to be in the middle of a number of Internet shitstorms in my life. They've been absolutely surreal, unfair, cruel. No one will listen to your side of the story. People you thought were friends join the pile-on. Etc etc. And then it passes, and eventually you go back to life as it was. I don't want to re-litigate any of them, please -- but I just want to say I know what it's like.
Now Rex Hammock, who I admire as a friend and as a pundit, wrote a piece about Apple and the crazy situation with the iPhone 4. He's right, but he doesn't quite go far enough in his analysis.
I don't think the problem is with the iPhone 4. I think what we're seeing is Apple's charm wearing off. The Reality Distortion Field bubble is about to burst. Their run as the Exceptional Company is about to end. And they're going to be the last ones to figure it out. And it's going to be the ugliest shitstorm you've ever seen.
Why will it be so ugly? Because Apple's hype has been steadily inflating since 1997 when Steve Jobs returned, and it's never taken a dip. They've risen from being written off to being worth more than Microsoft.
It's also going to get ugly because we're fed up with corporations. It was remarkable that there were no ads for oil companies on the World Cup broadcasts (at least the ones I watched). Can you imagine listening to a pitch from Exxon or BP saying they are working for our energy independence, or to clean up the planet or all the other lies they were telling us while they were taking huge unnecessary risks with the ecology of the oceans? They're smart enough to know now is not the time to be spouting bullshit at us.
It will be ugly because Apple is going to let it get ugly. Because unlike the oil companies they have no experience with PR disasters. When I read their first public response on July 2, the one that said the problem was the meter measuring the strength of AT&T's signal, I couldn't believe this was meant to be taken seriously. It's the kind of story The Onion might have written on a bad day. Or Jon Stewart. That a corporate PR team wrote this says how unseasoned their people are. That they thought this answer was going to satisfy anyone says how out of touch they are with the world they are in.
"Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place."
I wonder how Apple is going to deal with their first serious virus. Microsoft, when they had to deal with malware, was in denial for years. They thought it was the users' problem. Until they finally saw people switching to Macs (as I did) just to get away from all the crazy shit that was attacking Windows users.
In 2007, I couldn't believe Apple, a company that was selling itself as the more secure computer, wanted to keep my failed hard disk, one I had paid full price to replace, insisting it was theirs to refurbish. I couldn't accept that they would let all my personal information fall into the hands of who-knows-who, but that's what they proposed to do.
Apple is a company that desperately needs to grow up and wipe the smile off its face, and roll its sleeves up and start to appreciate that they're no longer the upstart, the underdog, the Crazy One in the Richard Dreyfus ad. They are The Man, the Boss, the one who, from now on, everyone is going to be taking shots at and shits on.
I use Macs. I'm typing this on a new 27-inch iMac. I stood in line to buy the iPhone, in the sweltering summer New York heat. I was pleased when Apple people came out to bring us bottled water. More of that Apple. More care and concern for the people who give you not only their respect and adoration, but also their money. The rules that apply to The Rest Of Us are about to apply to you. Time to get ready for it.
Update: Apple is having a press conference on Friday about the iPhone.