One of the most famous statements in American filmdom came from Jack Nicholson, playing a corrupt general in Rob Reiner’s “A Few Good Men.” In one of the classic scene-chewing segments of that film, he announced to an angered Tom Cruise, portraying a JAG attorney, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Indeed, I often think that the very same statements might apply to some elements of the tech and financial news communities. They create such unrealistic expectations about Apple, what it may do, what it has done, and what it won’t do, and when those expectations are dashed — as they should be — they pronounce the company in trouble.
Take the iPhone’s first week on the market. As thousands lined up around the country to get their chance to buy one or more of these smart phones, predictions for first weekend sales rose exponentially. From around 200,000 to more than 750,000, the frenzy wouldn’t stop.
That is, until AT&T said that some 146,000 iPhones were activated during the first 30 hours it was on sale. Without understanding that people could buy a wireless phone and, for reasons that anyone with a logical bent of mind could discern, not activate it right away, they were quick to pounce on Apple as having a failure on their hands!
Indeed, the stock dropped too and barely recovered when the real sales figures, 270,000, were announced by Apple. You had to wonder whether some Wall Street insiders were raising estimates with full knowledge they couldn’t be met, so they could sell the stock short and earn extra money.
Then, of course, there was that absurd rumor that Apple was reducing production on the iPhone when, in fact, they had never actually announced production figures. All they did was say the expect sales to total one million by the end of this quarter.
No, I’m not enough of an expert about the financial world to understand how these shenanigans are implemented, nor do I care, since I don’t invest in the stock market.
What concerns me is this intense desire on the part of some people for Apple to fail. Now who benefits from that? Well, perhaps Microsoft, because then it can sell more Zune music players, assuming other companies don’t have better ideas, and certainly they wouldn’t have to bother developing Office for the Mac, right?
But part of it is our desire to place people and companies on pedestals, and then try our hardest to knock them down. We’ve got to forget Apple’s mystique for a moment, however, and remind everyone that they are a profit making company, pure and simple. The things they do must, at the end of the day, benefit the bottom line or they do something different.
Now Steve Jobs is likely a different breed of cat, because he’s clearly not in it just for the money. He doesn’t need the money, and surely you can see him delighting in his role as the savior of the company he co-founded after he returned to Apple in the 1990s.
He also wants to change the world when it comes to the way people interface with consumer electronics.
Indeed, everything Apple does is in keeping with this philosophy. Did we really need an iPhone? Well, maybe not, but the competition was, on a whole, pathetic. Sure, some smart phones can handle email and contacts with reasonable flexibility, but they generally have vast interface shortcomings. They aren’t things you can just pick up and master in a few minutes.
However, when you try to do something in a simpler fashion, a lot of people become suspicious. The arrival of the first Mac, for example, was greeted with the pronouncement that real computers don’t come with a mouse or use graphical interfaces. When Microsoft adopted a similar design for its operating system, you didn’t hear that argument. There was a new one, that Windows is designed for serious work and Macs are toys, because they are easier and more direct in their usability quotient.
To add to the complaints, folks will find the obvious faults in any Apple product, simply because nothing is perfect. Early versions of Mac OS X were slow and lacking features. The first iPhone, while garnering extremely positive reviews, has its own shortcomings of one sort or another, which is what you ought to expect in a version 1.0 product. Well, make that 1.0.1 now that there’s a new firmware update, which apparently doesn’t change the interface or features except in very subtle ways.
Over time, iPhone owners will find more defects. Apple’s next great operating system, Leopard, will also ship with problems of one sort or another. None of that will mean the death of the company, so some of the people who make the biggest fuss about such things ought to just accept the fact that nothing is perfect and get on with their lives.