The Macintosh Fringe

A certain subset of Apple enthusiasts are starting to scare me. It’s not the casual fans and supporters. It’s not the early adopters. It’s not even the somewhat obsessive group that analyzes speech transcripts, lurks around rumor sites, and probably reads tea leaves and sheep entrails in an effort to determine what Apple will release a few days before it is announced. I have friends in all of these groups. The people who scare me are the ones who defend every decision and every product Apple makes with cult-like devotion. I’m afraid of the Macintosh Fringe.

In case you’re part of the Macintosh Fringe, let me say from the beginning that I’m not being paid by Bill Gates to badmouth Apple. Sure, I’m running Windows on my computer—but I’m still on Apple’s side. Think of me like a political protestor. I may be running a PC using Windows, but I don’t like to admit that. I disapprove of Microsoft’s corporate policy and all of their programs. And if Apple wins the war, I’ll tell anybody left to listen that I told you so. I understand the enthusiasm for an elegant, functional product. I also understand the “better than anything else out there” feeling. What I don’t understand is getting excited about everything Apple sells regardless of whether it works or not. Apple has a lot of great products to be excited about. Why be excited about Apple’s unimpressive products? You end sounding like the guy defending Mark Foley purely out of party loyalty. (“Sure, he’s into 16-year-old boys, but who among us doesn’t long for innocence?”)

Take a look at the coments on Marco’s recent article on the new iPod Classic. Marco has all the credentials of a serious Apple supporter—so he was surprised to find the new iPod Classic sluggish, particularly when in Cover Flow view. Digg got a hold of it and he got a hundred or so comments. The first wave were overwhelmingly angry at the very idea that somebody might dare to criticize Apple. The Macintosh Fringe had arrived. They smelled a betrayal. Was it Apple who had let its customers down by releasing an unimpressive product, or was it Marco, a frequent supporter, who had dared to be unimpressed by the iPod classic?

My favorite comment:

Heiaheia, Do any of you speak Norwegian??

iPod is best, no mater what!!”

The comment sounds like it came from a 12-year-old, so I assume it was made by a technologically incompetent Norwegian policeman who thought he was hunting down pedophiles in a teen chat room. Maybe he had multiple windows open at once. Improbable? Sure, but it’s the only way I can explain it.

[My] only disappointment would be the album art on cover flow does take a while to load sometimes but looks great when it works!

Recommend it thoroughly!!

It looks great when it works? And that’s all it takes to get a thorough recommendation? Are you serious? Granted, I held onto a coffeemaker that regularly spewed coffee all over the counter for a few months. The coffee that actually made it into the pot tasted great. But I wouldn’t “recommend it thoroughly.”

I am experiencing the sluggishness people are reporting, but that’s understandable considering how graphically intense it is.

Sure, it would be “understandable” if you were trying to run Half-life on an iPod and it were sluggish—but only because an iPod isn’t designed to run anything other than its own software. But if it can’t run its own software smoothly? That really is a problem. You don’t need to make excuses for Apple. Let it out, man. You can’t keep burying your anger like that.

I droped a ipod in water once and it froze entire computer, after actually heating it up and drying it 2 weeks later it worked after a suddle wack on a coffee table.

I can’t actually blame this one on the Macintosh Fringe. I just wanted to draw this comment to everybody’s attention. As far as I can tell, somebody dropped an ipod in water, warmed it, dried it for a few weeks, and then whacked it on a coffee table. I understand the warming and drying steps—but the whacking on the coffee table I would never have come up with.

The Macintosh Fringe are the sort of supporters a company must love and hate. On one hand, they are loyal beyond all reason. Apple sell iTurds to the Fringe and the Fringe would insist that they loved the smell. On the other hand, the Macintosh Fringe could be somewhat embarassing. If Apple wanted to pretend it never released something like the iTurd, it would be a lot harder with the Fringe loudly proclaiming it was the best branded fecal matter in the universe. People might think that all Mac supporters are as crazy as the Fringe.

Think critically. Is this really a great product—or does it just have an Apple logo on it? Go ahead and give Apple the benefit of the doubt, but don’t ignore the facts.

In all seriousness, though, the religious devotion to Apple worries me—at least in an “I’m worried for you” kind of way. Apple is a corporation. It’s a smart corporation. It’s a corporation with many, many wonderful products. But in the end, it’s a corporation. And when it comes down to a choice between the customers and the bottom line, Apple is going to choose the bottom line. Apple will partner with Starbucks. Apple will partner with AT&T. Apple will partner with the music industry. Apple will add funny translucent menubars just to sell more software. Apple will charge you for ringtones because you are willing to pay, and they and their buddies can make a killing off of it. And when Apple stands up to and embarasses Microsoft, don’t be fooled. Apple is not fighting for the little guy. Apple is fighting for Apple.