If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much can one infer from a 60-second television commercial?
Make that one of the most famous TV commercials ever—Apple’s much heralded 1984 ad which introduced the Macintosh during the Super Bowl.
Back then, brash, hubris-laden Apple was about to take on the closed and controlling IBM. In the years since, it is Apple that has become IBM of the 1980s, the Microsoft of the 1990s and early 21st century.
Of Curated Utopias
Back in the day, it was Apple leading the revolution against the establishment. IBM, not Microsoft, was Apple’s perceived arch enemy. Ridley Scott’s 1984 television commercial used stunning visual imagery to describe Apple’s desire to save humanity from conformity (Big Brother, IBM, et al).
In theory, the Mac’s arrival would lead the revolt against IBM’s dystopian future, and free those millions of marching minions from the conformity of computerdom’s Big Brother.
Apple’s Mac failed to overthrow IBM, which itself fell to Microsoft as the Windows kingdom took over the personal computing world and ruled for decades. Defeated Apple and the Mac rebellion waited in exile and plotted yet another revolution.
As they say, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
A Curiously Curated Revolution
Kings and kingdoms come and go. Microsoft’s behemoth empire has been routed. The future is handheld mobility. That future is now and Microsoft is nowhere to be seen.
Apple’s patience has persevered. The company’s reward? Apple is the most valuable company on the planet, with riches far beyond that of Microsoft or IBM.
The Mac is the most profitable personal computer line on the planet. The iPod and iTunes Store rule portable media. The majestic iPhone is the standard bearer of mobile computing. The magical iPad dominates the post-PC era.
Coming full circle, as Darth Vader pointed out to Obi Wan Kenobi, “the student has become the master.” Apple, as did IBM and Microsoft before, has set out to conquer and claim, to curate and control.
The first clue was 2008, barely a year after Apple introduced the iPhone. The iTunes App Store marked Apple’s desire to control and manage the user experience of iPhone and iPod touch apps for the masses. The Store provided a purity of app substance, free of malware, and free of independence in a free market.
The App Store grew quickly. Today, it is enormously successful and dominates the market for mobile apps. In early 2011 Apple introduced the Mac App Store with a similar goal to cleanse and unify the user experience for notebook and desktop computers.
Apple continues to develop, expand, and purify user computing—an experience which has now come full circle. The Mac, under OS X Lion, looks like and behaves much like an iPhone or iPad. Mac apps can be purchased in a similar manner, downloaded and installed with but a single click. Mac OS X Lion will be instantly familiar to the many tens of millions of iPhone and iPad users who currently use Windows PCs.
Back to the Mac indeed.
The user interface for all Apple’s iDevices carries a familiar theme of app icons visible and accessible with a touch or a click. With the App Stores, Apple decides which app will be presented to the masses, which developers can sell their wares on the most popular stores, and, indeed, even how their apps may perform.
The Rebellion Has Become The Empire
Apple’s so-called walled garden of apps, and the carefully crafted curated user experience, has become the dominant force in personal and mobile computing, loved by the masses for high security, ease of use, and a nearly trouble-free online and offline computing life.
Compare using a Mac to a Windows PC, or using an iPhone to a Windows Mobile device, or using an iPad to a Windows tablet.
Apple is defining computing life in the post-PC era, creating a new empire of mobile devices and slavish, marching-in-stride customers; an empire that extends far beyond those of competing entities. Apple controls component supplies and suppliers, and wields an ever growing influence in device design and customer expectation.
With the world’s largest coffer of material riches, one of the world’s most recognized brands, and growing tens of millions of satisfied customers who relish life within the company’s walled garden, an Apple customer lives in a Disneyesque kingdom, the new empire. The once rebellious Mac has been consumed by Apple’s new utopian view of computing. It’s the circle of life. The rebellion has become the empire. Looking to generations before, from dominant empires new rebellions grew. Looking forward, who will overthrow Apple’s new empire?