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Sunday, 12 May 2024 08:27

Apple aficionados get their knickers in a knot over iPad ad Featured

The iPad Pro. The iPad Pro. Courtesy Apple

Apple lovers and users — I mean the computer company, not the fruit — are prone to occasional emotional outbursts about the hardware and software that emerge from the compnay's portals in Cupertino. It never fails to amuse me when grown adults get their knickers in a knot over any digital device. One would think that there are far more important things in life over which one should get agitated.

Mac users are snobs. I'm not the first to make this observation; one of the first technology journalists, Robert X. Cringely, was the first by a country mile. In a 1996 reprint of his 1992 masterpiece Accidental Empires, the only book that claims to be a history of the PC industry, Cringely wrote: "Several hundred users of Apple Macintosh computers gathered one night in 1988 in an auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to watch a sneak preview demonstration of a new word processing application.

"This was consumerism in its most pure form: it drew potential buyers together to see a demonstration of a product they could all use but wouldn't be allowed to buy. [emphasis by Cringely] There were no boxes for sale in the back of the room, no 'send no money, we'll bill you later'. This product wasn't for sale and wouldn't be for another five months.

"Why demonstrate it at all? The idea was to keep all these folks, and the thousands of people they would talk to in the coming weeks, from buying some competitor's program before this product — this Microsoft Word 3.0 — was ready for the market.

"Macintosh users are the snobs of the personal computer business," wrote the man who was Apple's second employee, but not good enough to hold his job.

"'Don't buy MacWrite II, WordPerfect for Macintosh or WriteNow', they'd urge their friends and co-workers. 'You've got to wait for Microsoft Word 3.0. It's radical'." This, despite the fact that this much praised program didn't even work at that stage.

The latest indication of this brand of snobbishness has been illustrated by the reaction to an ad that accompanied the launch of Apple's latest iPads on Tuesday.

The ad tries to drive home the message that with the new iPads being made available, there is no need for any other device to be creative. In a little more than minute, the ad, as Australian Financial Review technology editor Paul Smith writes, shows, "a hydraulic press slowly descending and crushing a series of items, such as a trumpet, an arcade game machine, and a sculpted bust, while paint bleeds over a piano. When the crushing is done, all that is left is the iPad".

A pretty simple and effective, if vain, message, one would think. But then I'm not an Apple fanboi; in fact when it comes to technology, I use what gets the job done as cheaply as possible. No frills, no flourishes.

Smith's reaction to this was, to put it mildly, silly. He wrote, in part: "If you read the comments on tech-minded websites and Reddit threads, you will find plenty of people defending Apple’s ad, but it was horrible. Horrible because it pulls together and confirms the existential fears held by everyone who thinks deeply about, and wants to work in, areas related to human creativity. It also highlights all the joys we have lost as a result of its US$2.8 trillion (A$4.2 trillion) successes."

You. gentle reader, can see what all the fuss is about by taking a look at the YouTube video of the ad which is embedded within this article.

But Smith wasn't done with his emotional hyperbole. He went on: "While racking my brain for gift ideas for a teenager last Christmas, it became obvious that all the cool and fun things my generation coveted have simply become apps and features on a device already glued to their hand. Stereo? camera? video games? board games? Walkman? 'No thanks, Dad.' You can’t wrap an app and put it under the Christmas tree.

"But that is the lesser of the evils highlighted by Apple’s ad. It was perhaps the most honest summation of what the latest wave of tech capability – AI – is doing to art and creativity. Apple is not entirely responsible for the rising capability of generative AI to spoof the creative process in various fields, but its devices will enable it better than anyone.

"Hollywood writers and performers spent good chunks of last year on strike because they are terrified that studios will use AI to greatly diminish their roles, and ultimately replace them. This translates to other industries obviously, where the interpretation and explanation of data could feasibly be handled by bots in the not-too-distant future.

"Apple definitely didn’t intend to drag all that up with its ad, but the fact it went through the layers and layers of approval required at the company, without anyone pulling the pin, shows the leaders inside big tech companies can be oblivious to the collateral damage of their 'progress'."

I read this bit of purple prose four times before I realised that this man, who should be a hardened cynic by virtue of having as a journalist for at least two decades, was pulling anyone's leg. No, he was dead serious. Brother, it is just another over-powered tablet.

Smith also cited the reaction of British actor Hugh Grant who had said of the ad: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley."

Really? This is just an ad. Why are people getting so worked up about a minute and eight seconds during which it is claimed that the new iPad is all that one needs to be creative? It's just an advertising claim, better known as BS.

Smith (and, no doubt, Grant) appear to be emotionally attached to Apple and its products. That's a dangerous thing to happen and can screw with one's reasoning.

Surprisingly, the most down-to-earth reaction came from the well-known YouTube reviewer, Marques Brownlee aka MKHBD. "I don't know who was asking for a thinner iPad, but we got it," he said in a video titled M4 iPad Pro Impressions: Well This is Awkward. ".. the last thing we need after all this time [between the last iPad release and the latest one] is just another spec-bumped iPad right."

I don't often agree with Brownlee's views, but this time he is spot-on.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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