None of this is new or particularly interesting, but I need to write it every now and again just to remind myself.
I have a tiny, tiny, tiny reputation in the Apple world, it is something I’ve worked really very hard at. I have contacts within the company who I can turn to and be ignored by. Nothing on the scale of a Gruber or Dalrymple, but they are there. I have worked for all of the Apple magazines in the UK and a few in the US. For many years I worked exclusively on Apple related publications, I have studied its history for those lovely self-indulgent ‘ooh this was good’ pieces, I’ve interviewed Gil Amelio, John Sculley, Steve Wozniak and Andy Herzfeld and Jef Raskin. I know who all those people and more are and the role they played at Apple and I can tell you without looking it up. I’ve reviewed iPods, iPads, Macs and a variety of Apple made kit. Naturally, I’ve also written about a host of other Apple industry related issues too.
This leaves me open to the accusation that I am somehow blinded to reality by my Apple blinkers – I cannot bear to see the company I have devoted a good part of my career to denigrated in any way shape or form. No matter what the story or argument I can’t be trusted to be logical or balanced because I am beholden to Apple. Dare to argue that a viewpoint expressed is at odds with my own opinion and wherever that stream crosses the Apple related rubicon I am immediately at risk from the ‘Apple fanboy’ epithet.
I’ll freely admit that sometimes my view on what Apple might do next or how a certain situation will play out is based entirely on my gut feeling or personal experience, dare I say sometimes even an anecdote. I suppose there’s no way for me to be 100% certain that I’m not letting any residual emotional attachment to a company I’ve covered for a lot of years colour my judgement. Yet I know it isn’t.
The world of the ‘Apple journalist’ is a relatively small one – very few people cover just them anymore now the company is a major player in the industry. I know or have worked with many of those Apple-only journalists and there’s one thing I can say with confidence about them and there’s lots I could say about them: they aren’t fanboys.
Now, I would say that wouldn’t I? They do, on the face of it appear to come up to bat when people say stuff about Apple and I could understand why a lay person might assume this was lazy Apple ‘fandom’ but maybe, just maybe its not that at all.
It could be our range of contacts within the industry that help us to define a more rounded, though not always correct, judgement on what Apple is up to, what its aims and intentions are. I suppose one could also argue that having an understanding of the multi-layered customer base which Apple has is helpful when colouring our opinions, knowing that the core ‘Mac fanboys’ of the early to mid 1990s are much older and a little wiser than they once were. How they differ from the Johnny come lately iMac fanboys of 1998 vintage and how they are different to the iPod and iPhone and iOS fanboys, not to mention, of course, the vast swathes of people who use Apple products who are simply users and not fanboys at all. Maybe its the years of experience of ‘Apple’ that makes us more clear on the ins and outs of the environment surrounding the company. Perhaps it is the knowledge of the long history, the little things that people often forget like the Apple Hi-Fi and the Motorola Rokr phone that the 1984 advert was just that, an advert, that the Apple ][ was a commercial success and the original Mac was not, initially at least. We can have a conversation about 030, 040, 604e and know what the fuck that is.
It’s this that give us a grounding in what might be truly catastrophic for the company and what they care about. What is not much but a passing controversy unlikely to do any lasting damage to the brand. For instance, the terrible reception the 12 Days Of Christmas app received in 2011/12 when the first download was Cheryl Cole single, there were technical issues with some of the gifts and the app didn’t work with previous iOS versions.
Or, it could be that we are mindless Apple fanboys ourselves unable to separate opinion from fact always tweeting, emailing, writing with the direct consent of Apple’s PR team, making it up as we go along not bringing any of our knowledge or expertise to bear on any opinions and insights. The sort of awareness and experience that might make one unlikely to push forth with baseless predictions about where the company might go next, what the company is up to behind closed doors and so on. Makes us less likely to entertain the sort of hubris that puts much value on App Store reviews as a wider indicator of anything, or uninformed and frankly ridiculous predictions, like, for example, an Apple laptop running iOS.
The next time the Apple Brigade offer a dissenting opinion along the lines of, “hmm, not so sure I agree” it might be worth considering their experience and knowledge as something to be contemplated rather than blithely dismissed with a wave of the hand and the F word.