The Psychology of Apple(-Bashing)

It continually amazes me the people who react to every new announcement by a computer maker with 3-5 percent market share with a ritual justification of their (usually continued) non-purchase of said item. Apple’s mindshare is truly out of proportion to its marketshare.

Many Slashdotters, for example, will continually declare, “I won’t buy [insert Apple product] until it [insert condition].” Sometimes Apple comes out with a product that meets this condition, and lo and behold, there’s a new and more obscure thing it Must Do before it is eligible for purchase. I can understand this a bit in the realm of MP3 players, as the iPod has a clear (but far from safe) lead in marketshare and hence is the default choice for most.

But in markets where Apple isn’t dominant, it is mind-boggling. Maybe it’s the continual envy of the “cool” factor of Apple products–it’s not something you can quantify on a spec sheet, so it’s not something you can engage the same way you compare the usual list of gadget features. I think many of the people who react this way are gadget freaks at heart who need to have the most features in order to “win” the coolness of having teh hawtest gadget on the block award. Apple products sometimes take away features, and this simply doesn’t fit their worldview, and hence they can’t understand its success.

But above that I think even when Apple does out-compare in the feature list phallus-size substitution game, the “coolness” factor that isn’t related to features makes the gearheads uncomfortable. After all, how can they know they have got the coolest thing if they have to talk about feelings instead of specs? “It’s a joy to use” doesn’t win you many arguments at the comic book convention. Style is just not in their vocabulary.

There’s a crossover of this crowd with Microsoft and Linux users who think that Apple products are “cool” or “usable” because they’re “pretty.” They prove time and time again that they Don’t Get usability, or why the combination of usability and style (the two are not the same) might make Apple products popular with a certain segment of the population. But because they don’t understand these concepts intuitively, it causes them great distress because they can’t engage with it on their traditional terms: there’s simply an axis of “cool” that they can’t argue against.

So they harp on everything else, whether it is really important or not, and then they mention the price, as if Apple’s position as the not-Wal-mart is surprising to anybody who has paid attention to them since the introduction of the Macintosh, 25 years ago. Hey guys: it’s been a quarter-century, isn’t it time to admit you just can’t afford them? Because at this point price is only an issue if you really want it but are looking for reasons to proclaim those grapes to be sour.