I am stunned at how intelligent the iPhone is, and I retired my Sony Ericcson W810 with no regrets. In fact, the SE was so bad at the things the iPhone does well, I am thinking of giving it a ritual burial in the back yard, a technological exorcism, as it were. I want to make absolutely sure it has no residual hold on me. (Digital residue being the worst possible thing.)
The SE did one thing well. It took miraculously good photos. There were times when I wanted to crawl into the world so pictured and just stay there. Apparently, this isn’t possible. (Product feature idea?) But the SE was bad at capturing numbers, delivering email, managing calendars, delivering music, and otherwise making itself useful.
The SE was an exercise in claustrophobia and bean counting. The iPhone makes it really easy to capture data. Now I get the point of a touch screen alphabet. It allows for a bigger screen, a better speaker and an astoundingly better interface. There is something visible, accessible, conceptual about this phone that 10 years of cell phone use had not prepared me for. It’s miraculously good.
The question is "what took me so long?" My wife has owned an iPhone for months and she loves it. Friends rave about it. But I would not budge. The problem, I think, is that for me Apple products have an air of specialness about them. I don’t resent this air. I just feel that it doesn’t belong to me. I prefer to think of myself as a "plain style" kind of guy. (This may be a way of saying "I’m special" because, "behold, I am not special." It wouldn’t be the first time a social vocabulary has coded "x" as "not x." Protestants, they’re just plain sneaky.)
This suggests a massive marketing problem for Apple. What makes the iPhone thrilling for its present constituency proves off putting for the rest of a muchlarger market. This is not a technological chasm, to use Moore’s language. It is a cultural chasm.
So Apple is working on repositioning itself, right? No. The present campaign, the one that shows Microsoft and Apple as two men on a sound stage, this actually exacerbates the problem. The execution is fine. The ads plays perfectly. The Apple guy is unassuming, unprovocative, likeable, more or less Canadian,in point of fact. His opposite, the Microsoft guy, is an obnoxious, self centered blowhard. And a lot like me. Well, no, it’s not that I identify with the Microsoft guy. It’s that I can’t imagine being mistaken for the Apple guy. That’s just not me.
I had a go at this issue some time ago, while contemplating the problem that Prius has in this regard. There is a slightly holier than thou quality to the Huffington crowd and this has the effect of discouraging the very adoption they wish to inspire. So we might argue here, as I did there, that Apple has been taken hostage by its adopters. We are, in other words, wrong to think that there is a natural momentum to adoption as things pass down the diffusion stream. In point of face, there is a chasm here that must be finessed.
The question is whether there might be a Diderot effect to this purchase. Will the symbolic meanings of the iPhone creep into my sense of self, and gradually set in train a sense of transformation. Watch this space.