The following is intended to be a light hearted comparison of the marketing and political positioning of Barak Obama and the Apple Computer company. I in no way mean any disrespect for our President. I think he’s a great guy and brilliant politician. Apple on the other hand, I apologize for nothing. You can go lay an egg.
I used to own an couple apple computers. I was told as a designer, that they were built for graphics and that buying any other computer would be something I would later regret. This was right around the time OS 9 was about to retire and give way to the future of computing, that would later become named after exotic cats, called OS X. Little did I know then the marketing gimic that I had fallen into. Neither did I at that time know that only 10 years later, a man would run for the office of president of the United States of America using the same pitch. Let me break down the spin.
Something you’ve never seen before.
When the new iMac designs started coming out, they revolutionized the way people picture their computers. What was once an old dusty beige box that you covered and hid inside of a computer desk, was now a sexy colorful decoration that you would show off to all your friends. Barak Obama didn’t run his campaign to take full advantage of his sexy new look as the first black president, but it did become a major factor that drew attention away from other aspects of his political views. Liberals were so excited they didn’t realize how moderate he was and conservatives were afraid to confront him head on in fear that it would look like they were standing in the way of racial equality and the past 40 years of civil rights progress. But when you really ask the question, does the outside shell of your computer really make any difference in how well the computer will work, how fast it is, or if it will be there for you day in and day out. And when the glimmer of how different it looked new starts to fade, will it just end up looking like another old moldy politician who lied to you to get your vote.
When you purchase an iMac computer it comes with one page of instructions, usually only pictures. And honestly, if you have never used a computer before, they are tremendously simple to use. That is, until you want to do something with it that isn’t covered in the comic book instruction sheet. Take the mouse for instance. It only has one button. I as enamored with this simple mouse for a while. Until I realized how much productivity was lost by just using one button and having to now use two hands to do simple takes that were once easily accomplished with one. Everything on a Macintosh is easy at the entry level, but as you become a more advanced user, it becomes cumbersome. Obama too made things sound a lot simpler then they really were. He may have actually been naive about things like health care reform and closing Guantanamo Bay, but it is much more likely that he just tricked us with pretty talk. When Obama speaks, he always presents the complex issues with hope and optimism, but never real hard answers. But his hope and optimism is so eloquently put that we often don’t notice when he glazes over a very important detail in a way that makes no sense at all.
Vague Promises, Unmeasurable Results
I was told that Apples were better for graphic design. When I researched to find proof or some kind of benchmarking for graphics, at the time, nothing standard between macs and PCs existed to quantify their speed. It’s like trying to compare a Porche 911 to a Ferrari 599 GTB and assuming that the Porche is faster based on the number applied to it being higher then 599. This is a ridiculous way to to compare cars, but unfortunately it is very difficult to test drive a Mac and PC side by side, since they are rarely carried in the same store. Much the same, as an incumbent in the 2008 elections every democrat ran on the same platform. “We will do better than it is currently being done.” And since every democrat also thoroughly agreed that the Bush years had been one step above pure crap, they only needed to promise two steps above pure crap. This marketing effort of saying the other team is so terrible and I will do it better is the most vague type or marketing, because what exactly are we promising. Apple did feel like they ran faster, but at the time most PC’s were multitasking 10 to 15 applications at a time and on Mac’s there were only 10 to 15 applications you could run on a Mac. When it came down to it, the hardware was about the same. A lot like what we got with Obama.
Although he ran on a “better than” campaign, I often find myself asking how any one decision he has made would have been different under the Bush administration. And the best part about running after Bush who’s approval ratings were so low on the way out, is that anything that goes wrong with the country for the next four years, can be blamed on the previous eight years. And if the public is gullible enough, we will give any credit for positive events that happen to the current administration
The latest craze for Macs is based around the lack of viruses for Macintosh operating systems and the low amount of bugs in the system. This is true. But not because the system is impenetrable. It would be like Obama claiming that the he was the better choice because he had never lost a war. If you haven’t been in a war, then you can’t loose. Macs are based on a Unix platform that is very secure and has a strong foundation. But Macs are going the same direction as PCs. More integration with other devices and software. This is where the bugs come in. Yes, if you bought a PC and never loaded any software that didn’t come from Microsoft, you may never experience a bug. But in the world of PCs, there is an abundant amount of software available. With all this software comes bugs. As Macs start to have more applications developed for it, there will be conflicts with resources leading to freeze ups. You of course wont’ get a blue screen of death, but instead a cute twirling disk cursor. When it comes to viruses, they are written for the bottom end users of the computer world. People who are likely to believe anything they read and click buttons that most advanced users would never click. Right now, most Mac users are more advanced users. At least, that was true until they started advertising that their OS couldn’t get viruses. Now everyone is getting their grandmother a Mac instead of a PC. College kids are buying Macs to take to school. Soon there will be a larger population of ignorant computer users all on Macs. Venerabilities are discovered on Macs, just like Windows comes out with patches, so do Macs. Right now those holes are patched before they can be misused, but that will not always be true. Once there are enough users for the Mac world, there will be a fair share of viruses. Only the problem will be doubled, because the users will believe they are not likely to get a virus. So they won’t be running antivirus, and they won’t be concerned over strange behavior or requests from the operating system.
The Growing Gray Lines
So years have now passed since my first purchases of an iBook and an iMac. I am now fully converted over to PCs because they are so much more cost effective if you know how computers work. Of course now, there are people who buy PCs and load the Mac OS on to them. And Mac fanatics have learned new ways of running Windows based software. There is now a growing number of software application built on a universal model that runs on both platforms. The systems emulate each other’s designs to the point that it is difficult to decipher the differences. The truth is that software evolves based on the community that it serves. As the technology develops in different areas, it tends to merge together toward the most effective solution. The same is true for politicians. As the voter community builds and advances in communication, politics will move away from the extremes of left and right and closer to the middle. It might not be completely true for Barak Obama, but he did turn out to be a lot more moderate then either side anticipated. I could see a day when running for president has less to do with fundraising from the extremes of society and more to do with pleasing the wider public that lives somewhere in the vast gray middle of political thought.