Apr 10

iPsychology 101

Well, that was fast.

Now that the confidentiality restraints have been lifted, there’s been a flood of super-enthusiastic, “new era in computing” reviews for iPad. This, of course, completes a total reversal of momentum following the iPad launch event — at which time the loudest voices said, “woeful name, just a giant iPod touch, no breakthroughs, major letdown, overhyped, flop in the making.”

Surely the Apple executive team is thinking “we told you so.” My big question is: why such a negative reaction in the first place?

As a near-psychology major in the pseudo-psychology division of an agriculture-based university, I feel eminently qualified to offer an opinion.

I think there is a sizable group out there just determined to see Apple fail. Interestingly, this group falls into two categories: friends and foes.

The foes are easy to figure out. They’ve held a grudge for years, and their dislike of Apple simply grows with each new Apple success. They often dislike the users of the technology as much as the technology itself. To them, Apple is a cult of mindless sheep. Smart people prefer things faster, cheaper and more customizable. It’s galling to see Apple manipulate the world into another revolution, and dammit, they will do what they can to derail the train.

Not a lot of people in the middle on this one

It’s the friends who are more befuddling. There are hundreds of journalists and bloggers covering the Apple beat, all of whom use the technology and love it. But opinions are their livelihoods. If they can’t prove themselves to be smarter and more insightful, their stock goes down. Since Apple doesn’t make many mistakes, they eagerly dive in when they think they’ve found one. Just as eagerly, in fact, as the Apple haters.

Whatever their motivation, we have people who are willing to judge in minutes what a lot of very smart people have been working on for a year or two.

While I disagreed with the naysayers, I do believe Apple gave them the opening. The iPad launch event was long on function and short on vision. It may have been a perfectly fine presentation, but it fell short in context of the hype. Now that we know what we know, it’s easy to imagine a more convincing launch event. The fact is, Apple did know what we know now — and they still crafted the event as they did.

But who cares. All is forgiven now. If things go as they appear to be going, Apple will once again prove that it truly understands human technology. Its fans will be delighted. Its detractors will celebrate their independence by jumping on board with one of the many imitators to follow. We’ll all meet again in three years for the next revolution.

In the meantime, I will be doing my finger exercises in preparation for tomorrow’s special delivery.

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  • sarumbear

    You hit the nail on th head: “Apple is a cult of mindless sheep. Smart people prefer things faster, cheaper and more customizable.”

    I only use an Apple product when there is no equivelant because I like to think that I am smart. Jence, I wil use an iPad for at least 3-4 years till the industry catches up.

    Apple leads because the smart people at the likes of Microsoft and Adobe use their smart on earning money and NOTHING else. They design stuff to earn money.

    Apple on the other hand, designs first then thinks of how to earn money from it.

  • Ric Carter

    At introduction, everyone already had the perfect device pictured, and it was the one that was coming. Then the reality at introduction, of course, fell short of the mental image each had — disappointment.
    Now, after a cooling off period, they are looking in a less jaded fashion at reality, and a big ipod touch looks pretty damn handy.

  • ChuckO

    There are a lot of echo chambers out there for various subcultures and very few of them impact people outside of their dedicated tribes. In the case of technology there’s really no popular source for non-geek tech reviews so you can only judge reaction to something like the iPad by the reaction sites like Engadget and Gizmodo have to it. They are naturally negative to a device like the iPad that isn’t spec heavy and user customizable. But initially those are the only opinions other news outlets can poll for reaction so you end up with distorted negative opinions like with the iPad launch. It also isn’t a realistic look at public opinion. Luckily Apple has a large built in fan base to combat those distortions and overwhelm them.

    Odd thought:
    Why did Mossberg take the weird tack of framing his review as the Ipad as notebook replacement? Who said that’s what it was?

  • I started with the Mac when the SE/30 came out – circa 1987. I experienced first hand how the product line deteriorated in the latter part of the 1990’s when they opened it up to 3rd party everything and even licensed clones – the thing turned into a nightmare of unreliability and the experience degraded to near-DOS levels, and on par with the PC land. Apple lost it’s distinctive advantage by taking those steps. Then I switched to NT and PC platforms for stability mostly.

    Ten years later, I switched back when the Intel-based machines came out and OMG – what a superior platform to any Window’s variant. So when I hear this BS about Apple being “closed” and me being a “mindless sheep” I just laugh. I’d gladly pay the premium for an Apple solution any time. Kinda reminds me of the political situation in Washington – American’s just love to polarize, and will go to any lengths (including blatant lies) to justify their position and pull “sheep” along with them.

    I will say that the iPad announcement left me wondering if the lack of Flash would quash my ability to watch video content – which is one of the advantages of a “larger iPod” IMO. Still waiting to hear how that works.

  • Great article. Don’t rule out that the friends of Apple aren’t trying to appease Apple bashers:


  • Jimi

    Ken, there’s something very interesting at the heart of the iPad backlash, and i’d be interested to hear your opinion of the marketing fix for…

    I think that Apple has now officially lost it’s coverted underdog title. Previously they were given a lot of room to move by the greater nerd community because they we’re the struggling company fighting the good fight against Microsoft. However, now that they are capable of standing on their own two feet (if not they can always lean against their piles of money), it would seem that the gloves are off. So, if you were contracted back to Apple to deal with this shift in momentum, what would you do?

    Do you try and regain the nerd community’s love? Or do you refocus directly to the average user space?

  • ken segall

    I don’t want to be one of those people who pretends to know more than Apple. I have too much respect for Apple’s collective IQ. However — I do agree that Apple’s underdog days are behind them. Now that mobile technology has become more the world’s focus, Apple clearly leads in share of mind, if not share of market. Interesting also that Apple owns such a crushing advantage over competitors with 150,000 apps — it’s like the old days when PCs beat up Macs for their pitiful software selection, only reversed.

    Re: marketing focus. Unlike most companies, Apple doesn’t get too tricky or manipulative with its marketing. What it does is stay true to its values (which are visible in every product it makes), clearly present its case and let customers self-select. Innovation and design are two of Apple’s prime values, and — happily for the company — the world has become enamored of both. That allows Apple to grow dramatically simply by following what’s always been in its heart.

    And I think they outgrew the nerd market many years ago….

  • David

    Did you go to Cornell?