Apple: What happened to thinking different?

picture-134.jpg Hats off to Erick Schoenfeld — ex of Business 2.0, and now the Numero Duo over at TechCrunch — for his post about Apple and the iPhone. At the risk of getting flamed again (or having my server melt down from the Digg-storm), I have to say that I think he has put his finger on one of the main things that bothers me about the whole iPhone/iBrick episode: namely, that by locking down its device and crippling it when anyone messes with it, Apple is acting just like every other phone company and device company. That is likely to come as a disappointment for many Apple fans — or at least those who believed that the phrase “Think different” was more than just a marketing slogan. As Erick puts it:

Apple, of course, is free to try to lock in customers to its partner AT&T and to control what software will work on the phone. That’s just the way the cell phone business works. Right? It’s all about customer lock-in and reducing churn.

More than one commenter on my previous Apple post made the exact same point: Why should we criticize Apple for cutting off that guy’s Internet access because he was uploading code from his iTouch? Why should we give Steve-O a hard time just because Apple wants to control what people do with his phone? After all, that’s what companies do.

The only problem with all of that (as some other commenters on my earlier Apple post pointed out) is that I think people have grown used to the idea of Apple as a different kind of company — the company that makes things easier to use, not harder; the one that actually cares what people want and tries to give it to them. Was that idea just an illusion?

Nick Carr says it’s because Steve sees Apple products as works of art, and doesn’t want people to mess with them, which I think is probably pretty close to the mark. According to the accounts I’ve read of Apple’s birth, he didn’t want to let people fiddle with the first Apple PCs either.


Peter Ha has some videos that also make the point over at CrunchGear.

9 thoughts on “Apple: What happened to thinking different?

  1. I hope I don’t get flamed for this, but I consider any company to be just like any other. Google, Apple and other big companies that we know are very similar to the other enemies that we like to label like Microsoft, etc. The only difference is that they are likely not at the very top and fighting to be.

    I have long stopped being loyal to any one company since they aren’t loyal to their customers either so we’re even. So no, I don’t think of Google as any better than Microsoft or other company.

  2. This is just a three day wonder, Matthew; no one is going to care if some hackers got hosed for acting stupid. It wasn’t as though you weren’t warned. So what if they turned their iphones into iPod Touches?

    This won’t affect iPhone sales, at all, over the Christmas quarter. I expect to see three to four million iPhones sold to common, ordinary people who would never dream of hacking their phones.

    I’m just amused at the hysteria. And at the double standard. The hackers can violate Apple’s rights with impunity, but Apple can’t void their warranties, write over their apps or brick their phones. Not so.

  3. You write ” I think people have grown used to the idea of Apple as a different kind of company — the company that makes things easier to use, not harder; …”.

    One of the ways Apple has traditionally made things easier to use is by limiting options. They have done this, for example, by selling relatively few different computer hardware configurations, and in the case of the iPhone by bundling a limited set of software. Apple is not prepared to support users with problems stemming from third party hacks. Apple products have NEVER been geared for tinkerers.

    All the whining is coming from people who are trying to make the iPhone something that it is currently not: an open platform. Maybe someday it will get there but Apple doesn’t owe it to anyone.

    When Apple says Think Different they mean: products for non-geeks– a simple streamlined, controlled environment with no hacking required or desired.

    The iPhone remains consistant with this philosphy. I have no sympathy for people judging the iPhone for not meeting expectations that were never promised by Apple.

  4. “Think different” is total baloney 🙁 Apple wants to be the same as all the other phone companies. If I knew they would brick my phone, i would have never bought it.

  5. It’s nothing more than just marketing. And no one knows marketing better than Apple. Though the fervent believers want to believe otherwise, it’s just another company.

    Apple is a corporation, and corporations act in their own self-interests first and foremost. If satisfying the customer can help them sell more products they’ll do that, but don’t mistake that for some kind of benevolence. If for some reason it stops making sense for Apple to stop giving its customers what they want, it’ll do that in a heartbeat. As it had done in the past.

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