Given the hysterical rumours of the fantastic features of the new Jesus phone, aka the much hyped iPhone 8, or iPhone X, whatever, I thought it appropriate to post this old commentary by MisterBG describing the Apple product cycle. I once posted it on mactalk, but thought it deserved a go here too. It is no longer available to link to, as the website it was originally posted on is defunct. but I have a copy. Anyway, enjoy! Discuss!
The Apple Product Cycle
An obscure component manufacturer somewhere in the Pacific Rim announces a major order for some bleeding-edge piece of technology that could conceivably become part of an expensive, digital-lifestyle-enhancing nerd toy.
Some hardware geek, the sort who actually reads press releases from obscure Pacific Rim component manufacturers, posts a link to the press release in a Mac Internet forum.
The Mac rumor sites spring into action. Liberally quoting “reliable” sources inside Cupertino, irrelevant “experts,” and each other, they quickly transform baseless speculation into widely accepted fact.
Eager Mac-heads fan the flames by flooding the Mac discussion forums with more groundless conjecture. Threads pop up around feature wish lists, favorite colors, and likely retail price points. In a matter of days, a third-hand, unsubstantiated rumor blossoms into a hand-held device that can do everything except find a girlfriend for a fat, smelly nerd.
Apple issues it customary “we don’t comment on possible future products” statement in response to inquiries about the hypothetical new product. Mac fanatics are convinced that they’re onto something.
The haters enter the fray to introduce fear, uncertainty and doubt. How expensive will the product be? Will it support Windows file formats? Will it work with my ten-year-old Quadra 840AV running Mac OS 8.1?
As Macworld or the Worldwide Developer’s Conference draws near, the chatter builds to a fever pitch. Rumor sites jockey for position, posting a new unverifiable, contradictory rumor every hour or so. eBay is flooded with six-month-old, slightly used gadgets as college students, underemployed web designers and independent musicians struggle to clear credit card space.
On the morning of Steve Jobs’s keynote presentation, the online Apple store grinds to a halt as Mac-heads set their browsers to refresh every 15 seconds.
Steve Jobs spends the first half-hour of his keynote crowing about how many iPods shipped during the previous six months and how many “native applications” have been developed for OS X. Attempting to appear as though it’s just an afterthought, he finally introduces the new Apple product. The product has sleek, clean lines, a diminutive form factor, and less than half of the useful features that everyone was expecting. Jobs announces that the product is available “immediately.”
Five minutes later, the new product appears on the online Apple store. Orders have an estimated ship date that is four weeks away.
The online Apple store takes 50,000 orders in the first 24 hours.
Apple’s stock surges as Wall Street analysts proclaim the new device will be “Apple’s savior” and the key to turning around the decades-long decline in Apple’s share of the global PC market.
The haters offer their assessment. The forums are ablaze with vitriolic rage. Haters pan the device for being less powerful than a Cray X1 while zealots counter that it is both smaller and lighter than a Buick Regal. The virtual slap-fight goes on and on, until obscure technical nuances like, “Will it play multiplexed Ogg Vorbis streams?” become matters of life and death.
The editors of popular Mac magazines hail the new device as the next great step toward our utopian digital future. Wired News runs exclusive interviews with the Apple design team. Fortune publishes another glowing fluff piece about Steve Jobs, proclaiming him to be the great visionary behind all technological innovation. Newsweek declares the device the new “must have” item for any self-respecting urban technophile. All of this is written before anybody outside of Cupertino has held the new device in his or her hand.
Business Week publishes an article stating that unless Apple immediately releases a Windows version of the new product its market share will continue to shrink and Apple will be out of business within six months. Mac zealots howl with fury and crash Business Week’s email server with their angry rebuttals.
In the wee hours of the morning on the initial ship date, as the Mac heads lay snug in their beds or take MDMA and dance to bad music, Apple delays everybody’s ship date by four weeks. Rage reigns in the Mac forums. Lifelong Mac users who would never consider purchasing anything made by Microsoft or Dell, regardless of how shabbily Apple treats them, vent their anguish and frustration. Failing utterly to see the irony of the situation, they prattle on until their panties are twisted in knots. The rumor sites abound with half-baked theories blaming the shipping delay on everything from heat dissipation problems to SARS. The most obvious explanation, that Apple lied about the initial shipment dates, is ignored in favor of more elaborate and unlikely scenarios.
Apple’s stock plummets as Wall Street analysts fret about the company’s supply chain problems. The same analysts who were raising their targets on Apple three weeks earlier appear on CNBC and predict that Apple could file for bankruptcy as soon as the week after next.
A week before the revised ship date rolls around, small quantities of the new product begin to appear in Apple’s retail stores. Chaos ensues as crazed Mac-heads queue up hours before the stores open, hoping to get their hands on one of the prized gizmos. The bedwetting in Mac Internet forums reaches tidal proportions as people post empty threats to cancel their online orders. The devices begin to appear on eBay and get bid up to absurd premiums over MSRP.
Pointless outrage slowly turns to pointless optimism. Driven insane by the lack of instant gratification, would-be customers profess their willingness to gun down the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny if it would hasten the arrival of the FedEx delivery person.
Nerd porn threads appear in the Mac forums. Some lunatic with too much time and money on his hands disassembles the new device down to the bare, soldered components and posts pictures.
The obligatory “I’m waiting for Rev. B” discussion appears in the Mac forums. People who’ve been burned by first-generation Apple products open up their old wounds and bleed their tales of woe. Unsympathetic technophiles fire back with, “if you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. pussy.” Everyone has this stupid argument for the twenty-third time.
Apple issues a press release to announce that they have now taken orders for over 100,000 of the new devices and shipped at least eight or nine dozen. Backorders and waiting lists stretch into months.
Movie stars, professional athletes and rappers begin accessorizing with Apple’s new gadget. Shaquille O’Neal appears on the cover of ESPN The Magazine using one. Mac fans unconditionally forgive him for Kazaam.
Wall Street analysts appear on CNBC wearing big smiles and bright spring colors to announce that Apple’s new device will drive Apple’s sales to unprecedented levels and might be the key to turning around the decades-long decline in Apple’s share of the global PC market. Apple’s share price surges. People who understand the root cause of the dot com bubble shake their heads in silent disgust. Trade publications and business magazines begin to refer to the market for Apple’s new product as a “space.”
A minor, rarely occurring flaw in the device begins to be discussed in the Apple support forums. Whiny, artistic types post lengthy diatribes about how this terrible design flaw has made the device unusable and scarred them emotionally. Electronic petitions are created demanding that Apple replace the devices for free, plus pay for counseling to help traumatized users overcome their emotional distress.
Taken completely by surprise at the success of Apple’s new gadget, executives from Dell or Sony or Microsoft appear on CNBC and offer vague suggestions that they are beginning development of a new product to compete with Apple. In its next issue, PC Week magazine publishes an article declaring that Apple’s dominance of the [insert gadget here] space is in jeopardy.
Weeks before most users are able to hold Apple’s new gadget in their hands, “What features would you like in the next version?” discussions take place on Mac mailing lists. Mac-heads cook up droves of far-fetched, often bizarre ideas. A cursory reading makes it readily apparent why Apple executives pay no attention to their fanatical customers.
Apple releases the first software update for the new device through its Software Update control panel. Several hours later, it pulls the updater. A small number of people who applied the update experience crashes, data loss, headaches and ennui. The Apple support forums are filled with outraged posts. A day or so later, Apple releases a revised installer without comment, then quietly removes the angry posts from its support forums.
Somebody starts a thread on a Mac chat board that asks whether anyone knows of a way to use the new device with some other nerd toy in a way that makes no sense whatsoever. Out of the blue, somebody writes a hack that facilitates the unholy combination and offers it as $39 shareware. Seven of the nine people who actually try to use the hack download it off of BitTorrent and use a pirate serial number. Advocates point to this as an example of how independent Mac software development is thriving.
Dell or Sony or Microsoft releases a competing device which costs $100 less and is based on completely incompatible, Windows-only technology. Business Week declares Apple’s dominance of the [insert gadget here] space over. Angry Mac zealots make plans to surround Business Week’s corporate offices with torches and pitchforks until someone points out that fire and garden tools are so un-digital.
Wall Street analysts appear on CNBC to explain that Apple’s device will never be able to compete with the onslaught of cheaper Windows-based competitors. Apple’s stock plummets. Idiot technology investors experience a brief moment of deja vu before they return to masturbating to photos of Maria Bartiromo.
Consumers discover that the Windows-based competitor to Apple’s device contains a proprietary digital rights management technology that prevents them from using the device to do anything expect except look at family photographs taken in the last 20 minutes.
An obscure component manufacturer somewhere in the Pacific Rim announces a major order for some new bleeding-edge piece of technology that could conceivably become part of some expensive, digital-lifestyle-enhancing nerd toy. The fun begins again…
The author has been an Apple user since 1984. During that time, he has owned an Apple IIe, an Apple IIgs, a Mac SE/30, a Mac Quadra 660AV, a PowerComputing PowerCenter 150, and a Power Mac G3/350 (Blue & White). He currently uses a Dual 2.0GHz PowerMac G5 and a 12" PowerBook G4. In spite of his loyalty to the platform, he finds most “Mac people” to be tiresome and annoying. He is pretty sure that if he had to attend WWDC or Macworld, he would wind up slapping the shit out of a bunch of people. When not attempting to cobble together funny things to put on the Internet, the author works at a diversifed energy marketing and trading company. The author resides in the fine city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.