After at least three years of anticipation, half a year after its initial presentation and on the day an avalanche of reviews overwhelmed the interested reader it was there: about a Month ago the Apple Watch flocked the store shells all over the world . Being a long term committed Apple fanboy I launched on the joyous journey to crawl through most of the important reviews and YouTube videos, to approach this new technology in fanboyish “this will one day be a must have” manner. But soon into the game I realized a sore feeling: something was off with this newest development of my beloved tech-company. Terribly, terribly off.
Apple has had me in awe since I saw the monumental “here is to the crazy ones” advertising. My mother owned an iMac before this initial moment of my Stockholm syndrome with Steve Jobs’ company. It was orange and I didn’t get the point of it. One mouse key? Okay, whatever. No high-end games? C’mon now! So after years of being a content PC geek, suffering through all sorts of Windows iterations, I made the decision to see the Apple ad. It said I am a crazy one. And that I can change the world. I had goosebumps.
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This Apple ad empowered me into believing to be a creative person. That there is a creative soul in me that is allowed to live, it just hadn’t seen the right environment yet. I struggled in school at this time, and didn’t know what to do. Then in 2006 I decided to get a Macbook. I decided to believe not only in a man in a turtleneck thousands of miles away, but also in myself and the value of creating something.
The nay-sayers would at this point argue that Apple just took the right marketing, deluding potential consumers to be soon empowered creative people, all the while filling pockets was obviously Apple’s real interest. Believing so would be an entirely wrong idea of a company that is much more about values than the profit margin seems to convey. How I know? I worked for it.
In 2010 I decided to become part of the Apple family, get in a blue shirt and experience it myself. I landed a job at retail. And indeed the company has a dedicated training in its values. No one ever taught me the different buttons on an iPod, or how Final Cut renders movies differently than iMovie. Instead I was taught in ethics and good customer partnership behavior. When asked by customers why they should choose a mac over a windows pc, I used to reply: “They are two perfectly fine systems. But if this one breaks, you know a guy who works for the brand and how you can get hold of his neck.”
This corporate education makes perfect sense only if you want to convince your employees that they aren’t for mere selling, they are a part and ambassador of the company. Yes, the aim of the company is to sell, but it is also to advice, to welcome, to include, and yes, even to empower. And as outside marketing and the inside scope overlapped to an unforeseen degree, there was no question for me about the true origin of Apple’s corporate activities anymore. Despite some struggles that every retail business quarrels with: It was a company with values, unlike the dinosaur multinational corporations out there. How I know? I am from Russelsheim, Germany. The town of Opel.
As a Russelsheim origin you were used to the sight of the factory. The car manufacturer is an international corporation in and of itself, and it is deeply tied to General Motors fate. Three decades of the economic “more efficiency” dogma enforced by GM had disconnected Opel from the community. It was an employer, sure, but there was no everyday connection or big community happenings due to Opel. In fact, the company used every loophole it could to prevent paying taxes. Opel’s core value? Surviving. The community did never judge Opel on these grounds. Mainly because many of our friends, their parents, or partners were employed, hence dependent on the economic survival of to the company. But it would be nothing short of naïve that this fragile and disconnected relationship between the company and the town did not affect our reality.
So here I was, with all this past, reading and reading through the various critiques of the newest iteration of Apple’s inventiveness: a watch. Now first of all, I knew from the get go, to invent an electronic watch isn’t an easy task. The UI (user interface) is small, so human interaction with it would be limited even in best case scenarios. And most of all the watch in itself wasn’t broken. It was working fine. Absolutely perfectly high-precision fine.
With ground breaking invention of the table, the expectations towards the watch where already low. And then the presentation hit. You see Tim Cook walking over the stage, presenting the peak pride of his corporate involvement in Apple. At some point you hear him announcing that you can talk via your wrist, you hear his joy, and you hear a short split second of awkward audience confusion.
The applause and laugher lags. After a split second Tim Cook adds “I”ve been wanting to do this since I’m five years old!” and finally the usual clapping and wooing hits in. Now I’m not entirely into reading to much into small things like this, but you can sense the difference between this situation and others of the presentation that trigger huge rounds of applause. Here we have the innovation: talking over the wrist. Introduce that in 1970 and nerds would collapse in rows. Nowadays? A silent “meh.” until we get someone with a personal connection speaking up. This “meh” is the same silent “meh” that was the core essence of the reviews I plowed through. The technological progress, it seems, was greatly anticipated. It was nothing ground breaking. No new problem solving. Just very good (not perfect) execution.
And while this is business as usual for Apple – taking a product and just make it very good – I find in 2015 there is more to this indifference. Rather than being just an average product, the Apple Watch embodies something we all anticipated. A technological progress that was immanent anyways and, let’s be honest, done very well twice before. But it’s not only our anticipation, it’s also that it was to be anticipated that no real progress for us humans would come along with it.
This is the hard part for me and my Stockholm syndrome: Skimming through the reviews, it felt like the technological progress was so low, it could not spray glitter over the fact that on every other front no real progress was achieved. It’s 2015, we have a full blown star trek communicator on our wrist to check through images of the newest barbarity being committed. It’s 2015, and the only multinational company with a strong set of values decides to use its energy to ‘invent’ a product with a purpose it itself is unsure about, rather than finally stopping its hazardous quasi-slavery-situation in china or the use of all kinds of conflict materials, affecting millions of people with war, death, rape and displacement.
As humans, the progress of the last 15 years on the technological level has so far outpaced our ethical progress, populist barbarity found a way to fill this gap. However, it would be madness to project the lack of such progress onto a single tech company. To be clear: none of this is Apple’s fault. The iPhone was not used to shoot people over cobalt mining in Congo. Workers in China aren’t tortured by daily beatings with an iPad. And yes, Apple is involved in America’s equality movement and tries with small steps to become more and more ecologic as well as globally responsible, and is spearheading the eco movement in tech, according to Greenpeace. But Apple, other than other companies with a less strong set of values, has also given itself a higher moral standard than what it currently holds itself to.
If your question at the beginning of this post was whether the Apple watch will sell or not: yes it will sell. One million preorders is a lot. It’s a decently made product with an interesting use and Apple putting all its marketing power behind it. As such, it will be the big fat large dinosaur of the old ages. A death breath of a company that says it cares, but then only cares for some, or somewhat. But here is the big thing: as we identify it as such, with our indifferent “Meh’s”, the first step for genuine progress is made: our expectancy has already transformed.
You think I’m talking gibberish? Imagine Apple announcing a product tomorrow, with all the big pompous, nice and neatly done, and it’s called “Fairbook” (Yes, it should have another name, but you get the hang of it). John Ive with his voice made of honey announcing alu-min-i-um being crafted by fairly paid mothers and dads. Picturesque film sequences of Tim Cook talking about the value of fairness and equal rights. There is no way you wouldn’t at least consider buying it. There is no way this wouldn’t be a best seller. There is no way this would not be the clear departure of Apple becoming its own IBM. There is no way this wouldn’t change the world.
Dieser Essay ist für ein englisches Seminar entstanden. Ich hab versucht mich selbst auf Deutsch zu übersetzen und bin kläglich gescheitert. Deswegen: Fancy ass english text.