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The Tao of Steve

I added this to my Nexus blog Saturday, but I think it bears repeating here as it explains my feeling about the whole Cult of Apple/Cult of Jobs thing....

Elizabeth Spiers looks into the psychology behind the Apple fanatic's fixation with the company and its leader:

I blame Steve Jobs [for] seduced me into buying his sleek machines, even if their delicate organs seem to fail with alarming regularity, like the beautiful consumptive heroines in Victorian novels.

Steve--we'll call him Steve because he seems like a first-name-basis kind of guy--is the human incarnation of the average Apple product: He's good-looking, he overpromises, and he's notoriously temperamental. He evokes the feel-good indie populism synonymous with the company's brand and manages to retain a solid reputation as a creative person while managing a $118 billion business.

The image is, of course, a facade. The dollar-a-year salaryman has been rewarded with at least one corporate jet.

We forgive Steve in a way that we won't [Bill] Gates. We do this because outward appearances are important to us, and the products are a reflection of how we think of ourselves. Apple products are stylish and innovative. (We're stylish and innovative!) We love Steve for the same reason. He's creative and he seems appealingly antiestablishment. (We're creative and antiestablishment!)

I think this hits it on the head. What's interesting, of course, is that the bad parts of Mr. Jobs' personality--his prickly defensiveness whenever one suggests that an Apple product is lacking in some way, for example--seem to ooze down to the fanatics as well, as if by osmosis. You can see it in their vitriolic emails and their rabid and sometimes illogical defenses of the company in online forums. As the saying goes, they are a minority, but they are a very loud minority.

Anyway. Though I like Apple's products quite a bit in general, one of my regular criticisms is that Steve--er, ah Apple--always choose style over functionality. You can go too far in the other direction, of course (HP anyone?) but I think there needs to be a middle ground. One example: Many MacBook/MacBook Pro users would really appreciate and frequently use a multi-format card reader built right into their machines. But Jobs will have none of that: Such a port would be an ugly gaping hole in the side of these sculpted masterpieces, and there's already two USB ports, so if you need such a thing, you can just figure it out yourself. But I would point to the Lenovo ThinkPad line--specifically the T61 I'm currently using--as the current apex of this compromise between style and substance. The T61 has a wonderful built-in media card (or not, your choice) and yet manages to be quite stylish. In fact, most people would agree that the ThinkPads are the most elegant notebooks around. Because they are.

Maybe I'm just a tad too practical to completely embrace the Apple Way--or the "Tao of Steve," as Spiers accurately calls this intriguing lifestyle choice. I would absolutely choose functionality over style any time--my Motorola Q beats the iPhone hands down on this point--but do appreciate elegant form factors. Is there a middle ground in the PC or electronics industries? Lenovo? Sony? I'm honestly not sure. But I suppose if there were, few people would be fanatical about it. Curious.

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