March 22, 2013

How Ya Like Them Apples?

Hatched by Korso

Before we begin, I think it's only fair to say that I'm a bit of an Apple aficionado. Not a fanboy, mind you -- I don't spend my evenings trolling the tech sites looking to throw down with Android evangelists over who has the better mobile OS -- but I've certainly got my share of Apple products running in the Korso household. So it's been with great interest that I've followed the rise of Apple, admiring the way the company resurrected itself after the business world had declared it all but dead. The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad -- all of these products have become iconic, because they managed to accomplish something that none of Apple's competitors have been able to replicate: they made technology exciting and sexy, and left people breathless wondering what would come next.

So what happened?

A look at Apple's stock price would tell you that something is horribly wrong. From a high of over $700 a share, the price has tumbled down to around $450. The financial media constantly fret about how Apple has lost its magic and its ability to innovate. Analysts lament the loss of Steve Jobs, and how things just haven't been the same since he died. Where are the new breakthroughs? Where are the game-changing products?

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Problem is, it's mostly poppycock.

What we have here is yet another media narrative, willed into reality by the constant harping of reporters, pundits and a smattering of other business interests who all have their own agenda. In a way it's not surprising: the cult that Steve Jobs built for himself was the result of his very canny manipulation of the media, which grew to worship him like some Svengali who could do no wrong (I guess they forgot all about the G4 Cube and MobileMe). After building him up so high, it only stood to reason that the media would respond to Jobs' death by posing the question of whether or not Apple could continue its unprecedented string of successes without him.

And what could be more dramatic than a plunge from greatness?

So that's what the media decided to manufacture. Never mind the facts on the ground. Apple revenues? Their last quarter pulled in more money than any publicly traded company -- in all of history. Demand for products? New iMac orders had wait times of several weeks. How about revenue streams? Between apps, music and videos sold on iTunes, it's around $1.5 billion per year. Oh, and let's not forget the $150 billion of cash the company has in reserves.

But Apple is in trouble. Seriously.

Well, at least that's what the talking heads would like you to believe. Because it's not about objective truth -- I mean, what the hell is truth, really, but an abstract construct -- it's all about the narrative, the story that they want to tell. Never mind that this stuff has real world consequences (lost jobs, lost wealth, human misey, etc.). That only ratchets up the drama -- and if there happens to be a camera crew nearby to catch all the suffering in high-def, so much the better.

The reason I make this point is that the whole concept of objective reporting -- once considered the standard all reporters aspired to -- largely doesn't exist anymore. Pretty much anything you see on the "news" these days may or may not necessarily be true; even worse, however, is that it doesn't seem to even matter. Whether it's hyping Hurricane Sandy to advance the narrative of global warming or selectively editing the audio of a 911 call to make George Zimmerman sound like a racist, the truth has become irrelevant. And the scary part is how few people nary bat an eye.

It's one of the ironies of the digital age that we have so much access to knowledge, and yet the universe of what we actually know gets smaller and smaller. Call it informational relativism: one truth is equally as valid as any other. Aldous Huxley was more precient than he could have imagined.

Hatched by Korso on this day, March 22, 2013, at the time of 10:28 AM

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