it sure looks like one to me
Apple, the company that makes personal computers and mp3 players, has sold a lot of units over the years to vaguely lefty types who fall for its hipper-than-thou ad campaigns and faux-underdog brand identity. Their current campaign relies on a pair of recurring characters: a slim young male who shops at the Gap versus an overweight dullard who, the ad implies, is not sharp enough to dress better and to realize that the computer is best appreciated as a wardrobe accessory. The respective tagline for each character is 'I'm a Mac' and 'I'm a pc'. It's fine for Apple to want to seem cool, but why is an Apple-manufactured computer not a pc?
I'm not a partisan: I own an Ipod and a Dell pc that runs Windows XP. From my teenage years to my twenties I owned a series of three Apples, and now I'm on my second Windows-based machine. I only switched because my job at the time involved using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for Windows and I needed to be able to work at home, not to mention the free software. (Which may make me the only person in the world to switch to Windows in order to use Adobe products.) Video editting aside, I don't see any significant difference between the two platforms. Unless I start making digital movies in my bedroom, I'm sure I'll be quite alright using Windows, no matter how unhip I'm supposed to think it is.
But the question remains, why is an Apple personal computer not a personal computer? PC is not a brand name. There is nothing about the abbreviation that implies Windows. Is it because Apple computers are so incomparably cool that they defy category? Do they transcend the computer and become a personal badge of moral virtue? That seems to be Apple's implication and way too many people fall for it, people who should know better.
I personally know people who have bonded their identities to the Apple brand. Reader, let's consider the false consciousness of the Apple zealots, and if you happen to be one of them, so much the better. According to them, Bill Gates is some kind of Satan and Microsoft is an evil multinational corporation that impedes competition. But what of Apple?
As far as competition goes, surely the online Itunes store is a thorn in the side of every listener of digital music. The songs will only play on Apple-branded mp3 players and they cannot be shared like regular mp3's. If your hard drive crashes a few times and you buy a new computer, not only will you not be able to share your Itunes downloads with anyone but you will lose the ability to play your own songs that you paid for. [Update: A reader has pointed out that the previous statement is wrong. Thanks.] Worker-wise, both companies have provided same-sex partner benefits since the 1990's and they're both known for treating their employees well.
Then there's Bill Gates. Like Steve Jobs of Apple, he is a self-made billionaire, yet Jobs is never the subject of ridicule and contempt. The only difference I see is that Steve Jobs wears blue jeans and solid, long-sleeve black tops to the Macworld Expos, and Gates is as unhip a dresser as they come. He is, to people for whom this is a meaningful category, a nerd.
Personally, I don't use the word 'nerd' because I have always found brains and obsessive-compulsive attention spans sexy. But if the word could safely apply to anyone, that person would be Bill Gates. Is that why the Apple hipsters hate Gates so much? Because he's not cool like them?
I'm beginning to think Apple is less a corporation and more of a cult. Does anyone remember Apple's opaque 'Think different [sic]' campaign featuring photographs of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Lennon & Ono? (See Wikipedia's entry for 'Think different' for a hopefully accurate list of the people used in the campaign.) The textual pitch began this way:
'Here's to the crazy ones.
The round pegs in the square holes.'
So if I use an Apple computer, can I be a misfit, too, just like Gandhi and MLK?
Why are liberals the biggest suckers in the world? I'm securely on the left, but sometimes it's not easy keeping company with these folks. (Yeah yeah, I'd rather hang with a bunch of crunchy pseudo-lefty types than with the homophobic mob on the other side.) Here is the problem in its quintessence: the mistaking of style for political and moral commitment. This is why Apple's advertising drives me nuts. It contributes to the notion of politics as a lifestyle choice.
If I may say, this is how we got into our current mess in the first place. One day people are buying the Apple brand of computer because it's cooler and more politically correct than the dreaded pc, and the next day they're voting for Ralph Nader because they're too cool for Al Gore and the Democrats. Yes, Reader, we have seen the uncool, overweight, wooden guy before. And every time you laugh at the fat guy and identify with the supposedly cool guy, you're casting another vote for your own political self-delusion and making it easier for the George Bushes of the world to creep back into power. And yes, there will definitely be more to say about the confusion of style and politics in the future.