After having received a mini barrage of Apple-defender’s comments to the post Apple greed: Apple tax, I feel I have to respond (which normally I don’t like doing).
Most of the comments received really missed the point when exonerating Apple from acting greedy by adding a proprietary authentication chip to it’s iPods (and I guess iPhone). Saying that copyright law, its technological equivalents and the power of the music and film industries force Apple to protect itself by playing that game in town (and therefore discrediting the charge that Apple Inc.’s measures are greed-driven), simply is, I’m sorry to say, a blind spot at best and delusion at its worst.
I suggest both are based on a lack of critical reflection, so let’s take Apple’s advice and ‘think different’ – about Apple. First: what is the source of of the absence of critical thinking? I suggest brand addiction. The moment you’re hooked, you don’t ask questions anymore; it’s a well-known psychological phenomena. Once we have made a strong commitment to a belief about something or someone, we’ll defend that belief even when we realise that it has become questionable (we actually still defend it when it becomes indefensible – see doomsday sects).
Addiction of course is not just about beliefs (that’s actually the second step), it’s about living with a drug, which can take many forms and certainly include consumer items. Steve Jobs, the master of ceremony and high priest of the Apple cult knows how to create that rush in people’s brains, one that not only lets them queue for seven or more hours to get the iPhone; it also seems to make their minds so fuzzy that they stop ask questions. And not only that – they even begin to turn onto themselves, first by accepting that which goes against their own interest, and finally even by defending it. The kind of marketing that leads to such mental numbness is not about creating brand awareness anymore, it’s brainwashing, it’s branding the mind to create a cult following that has lost any ability to critically think and ask questions about the object of its own beliefs.
So again, following Apple’s advice, ‘think different’ and ask questions! In terms of market forces for example: what actually is the market apart from a place of exchanging goods/money? Is it really the only natural form of trading or could other forms exist, and if so, why don’t they? What prevents them from developing into a viable alternative? Whose interest is ‘the market’ in, who primarily benefits from it and therefore also has an interest in deriding and suppressing alternatives? And what about our consumer rights in the market place; how respected are they and can we do something to protect our interests better? Which brings us to the whole argument of Apple and DRM. Shouldn’t we ask questions like who gets the most out of intellectual property rights and why? Whose interest do they serve and whose interests are they pinned against? Is it really ok to simply shrug our shoulders and accept both DRM and Apple’s support of it? Why actually does Apple want to protect its ITMS interests by being part of the entertainment industry’s cohort if for example Amazon can sell DRM free music? If Amazon can sell good quality music DRM free, why can’t Apple’s iPod/iPhone (apart from getting the same deal from ITMS at a reasonable price) port DRM free movies? And besides that, why does Apple have to wait anyway until someone like Amazon takes the lead; could it not already have flexed its corporate muscle ‘in the name of its customers’, when ITMS still was the dominant player in the market place for music?
And we don’t have to stop here when looking for an answer to the question whether Apple’s actions are motivated by greed. Why for example did Apple not package the iPod with a dock anymore, charging $30 less but then asking $40 extra for the same dock sold thereafter as an accessory (which to produce costs next to nothing)? What was behind Apple’s ‘dramatic’ and highly hyped price decrease for the 8gig iPhone in the US and the consequent ‘magic’ AT&T fee increase for the same model, making this phone suddenly slightly more expensive than before Apple’s marketing gig? Or what about Apple’s famed superior quality? I bought the premium-priced Air, which now I know is infamous for its overheating problems, and which also annoyed me for 2-3 months with its screen going blank while using my keyboard. Or what about the shoddy iPod screens that plagued users for a while, with Apple first shirking its responsibility?
Without wanting to be simplistic, I suggest that one of the outcomes of critical reflection on strongly held Apple beliefs most likely would be that in all of the above questioned scenarios our consumer interests are not met by the company; and I have only scratched the surface here. At the top of the list of reasons for that we most likely will find Apple’s bottom line concerns, which are not of the triple variety but old skool: the mighty dollar. In other words, where we are not served by Apple, it’s not the fault of the market (which, as we hopefully realise, is a questionable concept anyway) or of copyright laws but simply the company’s business decisions that put profit maximisation before our, their customers’ interests. If greed is an excessive desire to acquire or possess (and I don’t even want to go into the questions of how much is really needed or deserved), then I would call this kind of behaviour greed.
Therefore attempting to legitimise decisions like the introduction of an authentication chip by making reference to legal requirements and/or market pressures amounts to saying ‘greed is ok’. And while that might sound reasonable as an argument, I can only repeat again: it reflects a total lack of critical thinking.