by Eszter Hargittai on October 14, 2005

I am so glad that somebody finally wrote this piece regarding press fascination with iEverything. (The author does acknowledge Slate’s history with Microsoft.) The article also links to this great spoof ad, which summarizes much of the point quite well.

There is absolutely no need to educate me about the merits of Mac products. I used to and still do own several. That’s not the point here, which you’ll understand if you read the article for what it is.



Dan K 10.14.05 at 7:06 am

Yeah. I agree. The success of the iPod (the only iEverything, really) has forced His Steveness to spin the RDF faster so people doesn’t notice – or care – that he peddles more or less solid upgrades, rather than insanely great things. The media laps it all up in an alarmingly uncritical fashion. Then again, it was much worse in the mid-90’s, when Microsoft and Bill Gates had the media under their tumbs, thus making them compliant in dooming the majority of computer-using humankind to the dull hell of Windows. Critical media, eh? No. All they want to do is to cheerlead.


Barry 10.14.05 at 8:27 am

As the saying goes, the articles are only there to keep the ads from rubbing up against either other and being damaged.


Andrew 10.14.05 at 8:45 am

Google has (or is it had?) been getting a lot of the same sort of uncritical press; every minor (and often irrelevant) entry into a new field with a new copy-cat product (think google chat client) would garner major press coverage.

Though I have to say, today, there isn’t any real competition between Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft won that fight very easily. As the article says, Macs are only 1.8% of personal computers down from 12% ten years ago, with Linux now at 2.8%. Also, Microsoft is the second largest Mac software company after only Apple themselves. So even the people buying Macs are still buying Microsoft softare.
dan, I still haven’t found anything better than the “dull hell of windows” though I’ve looked hard. Anyway, I dream that someday some one will make a type of linux that offers much more than a basic Mac or Windows rip-off and is easy to use…


Chris Karr 10.14.05 at 9:09 am

I have to disagree a bit here. To an extent, the press is perfectly justified with their iCrushes. Last Wednesday’s announcements were significant not because of the video iPod, but rather because Apple started to do for video content what it did for music with the iPod and the iTunes Music Store. Steve Jobs at the helm of Apple has a habit of hitting things out of the ballbark and changing the way people do things. See the introduction of the Apple II in the 1970’s, the Macintosh in 1984, the iPod/iTunes/iTMS combo in the early 2000’s, being the first to seriously push 802.11 technology in laptops, and so on.

Since it’s fashionable to pick on the iPod, let me use that as an example. In the years before I purchased my first iPod, there were applications similar in functionality to iTunes and devices similar in functionality to the iPod. I listened to my music using MP3s ripped into MusicMatch Jukebox and friends of mine owned tiny plastic MP3 players that held five to ten albums worth of music. The devices and software integrated to a limitd extent, but you still had to wait an ungodly amount of time while your limited collection of MP3s synced to the device over a slow USB 1.0 connection. Personally, I favor listening to albums more than playlists and at the time the user interfaces supported more of the classic WinAMP playlist model than anything album-centric. Software MP3 players introduced playlists then stopped innovating. (Unless you consider the proliferation of hideous WinAMP skins to be innovative.)

When I initially purchased my iPod (20GB second generation), I was blown away at how iTunes GUI didn’t get in the way of my music listening and how I could rip a CD a few minutes before going to work and have the music ready to go when I headed out the door. I tend to get sick of listening to the same music repeatedly, so when I had twenty gigs at my fingertips, portable music was much more interesting because I had my entire library in my pocket. Combine that with the fact that the iPod could play audiobook content from Audible, and you would have found me at the time rarely without my iPod or it piping audio content into my ear. The second generation iPod completely changed how, where, and when I consumed audio content.

It is a fair criticism to say that the iPod was (and still is) an inferior audio player when compared with the competition. However, people always make the mistake of looking at the iPod by itself when the entire music platform is what’s really important. The iPod is only a cog in a much larger machine (though a very profitable cog). I’ll admit that I’m underimpressed at the new video iPod, but on the other hand, show me another video player that allows me to grab new legally licensed mainstream content in my longjohns and put that on a video player without me having to having to worry about its DRM deleting it after I watch it for the nth time.

The reason that the press pays attention to Jobs and Apple instead of companies like Diamond, Creative, or Archos is that they know Apple has a complete vision of what they would like their products to do AND Apple has the means of realizing that vision. Creative et al. focus on the question of “What’s the best portable player we can make and sell?” while Apple takes a bigger view and asks “How can we change modern media industries and consumers?” You only need to look at the popularity of the iTunes/iPod media platform to see how that’s changed how people listen to music annd the effects of the iTunes Music Store on the music industry to see that Apple does a bit more than simply “peddling upgrades”.


A. Random Physicist 10.14.05 at 9:10 am

So, I guess having a podcast of that article was intentional irony on Slate’s part.


Uncle Kvetch 10.14.05 at 12:39 pm

I’ll second Chris Karr: My transition from an Archos mp3 player to an iPod a couple of years ago could only be compared to going from a Yugo to a Jaguar. The hype may be annoying, but it sure as hell isn’t entirely unwarranted.


Sumana 10.14.05 at 12:40 pm

Sounds like the time is again ripe for that Switch ad parody.

“Fast couldn’t even begin to describe it. It was like lightning…with smaller lightnings alongside of it that were going much faster.”


David Sucher 10.14.05 at 12:55 pm

My only comment is that I wish Jobs would morph the IPod into an E-Book Reader.


David Sucher 10.14.05 at 12:56 pm

And he could build on the Sony Librie, which seems like a pretty good platform from what I read but is marketed poorly.


engels 10.14.05 at 1:03 pm

Google has (or is it had?) been getting a lot of the same sort of uncritical press; every minor (and often irrelevant) entry into a new field with a new copy-cat product (think google chat client) would garner major press coverage.

And it hasn’t been only the main stream media: you don’t have to look very far to find a blog that has done quite a lot of cheerleading for Google in its time.


Adam Kotsko 10.14.05 at 2:19 pm


And I quote: “There is absolutely no need to educate me about the merits of Mac products. I used to and still do own several.”


JRoth 10.14.05 at 2:34 pm

Adam, I’m not sure Chris really broke that stricture, which I read as an attempt to deflect self-righteous Mac worship/flaming. It’s difficult to critique an article claiming that something is overrated without discussing that something, at least in brief. And Chris’s piece goes beyond raving about the iPod to opinting out that the iPod is, in fact, a more important story than its sometimes-technically-superior competition.


pdf23ds 10.14.05 at 2:42 pm

Adam, I think Chris was more defending the newspaper’s judgement in Apple’s newsworthiness, since they’ve had a lot of market-shaping products that were successful because Apple’s R&D dosn’t run with blinders on like so many tech companies, than he was defending Apple’s products directly.


JRoth 10.14.05 at 2:53 pm

I had a few problems right away with Shafer’s article, which does indeed make some valuable points – of course the press is prone to feeding frenzies – positive and negative – and to hyping interesting personalities over important companies/technologies.

But its actual argument is pretty weak. Watch the bait & switch:

A. the V-iPod has gotten a ton of coverage
B. it doesn’t deserve it, because it’s not the best product evar
C. Apple isn’t an important company, because it has 1.8% of the PC market
D. the iPod has 74% of the market due to luck
E. not every Apple product has been a raving success, but they’ve all gotten rave write-ups

So what, exactly, is the argument? About half of the points are debatable at best (particularly B, D, and the second part of E), so Shafer’s argument comes down to “I don’t think Apple should get such good press.” Fascinating insight.

Let’s try reordering – and revising – the points, and see if we get an argument at least as cogent, if not much more so:

A. Until 4 years ago, Apple was a niche PC maker with a string of failures – some of which had been highly hyped [C, E]
B. The original iPod was no more impressive than the new V-iPod – and a lot of coverage reflected that [B]
C. The iPod has been the biggest consumer electronics hit since the original Walkman (actually, I doubt Sony had 74% of the market 4 years after its intro) [D]
D. The press had better take this thing seriously [A]

There’s an interesting discussion to be had about the press Apple gets. Shafer’s article isn’t it.


John Quiggin 10.14.05 at 3:15 pm

Engels, not all of our Google coverage has been particularly positive


Eszter 10.14.05 at 4:16 pm

We’ve covered Google in all sorts of ways.

And hey, we also covered the iFlea and the diePod.


engels 10.14.05 at 4:32 pm


Chris Karr 10.14.05 at 5:48 pm

Adam, apologies if I went overboard in my iPod description.

The point of my comment was to say that when people complain about the media’s coverage of Apple, as opposed to their favorite consumer electronics manufacturer, they complain that the media is covering the iPod – an admittedly feature-poor product when compared with some alternatives.

However, the story is not that Apple released a new iPod that plays video – rather that Steve Jobs has likely introduced the first video pay-to-download distribution channel that will be a smashing success. Why do we think it will be a success, and thus worthy of press and commentary? Because he did a similar thing to the music industry armed only with a feature-poor MP3 player and desktop software.


John Quiggin 10.14.05 at 5:50 pm

And one more


todd. 10.14.05 at 8:59 pm

“That” switch ad parody? Three years ago, switch ad parodies were like white bud headphones today: everbody had a pair.

My favorites were from Old English, though the bit about “the embodiment of style and cool” and an alternate universe reminded me most of Move to Iceland.

And, of course, who doesn’t want a Beowolf cluster of atomic super-men?


sara 10.15.05 at 12:18 am

You haven’t considered the subliminal effects of Apple product packaging. Someone wrote about this on the web but it’s too early in the a.m. for me to find the link.

To wit: Apple hardware is cased in shiny, clean white plastic with rounded edges. (Yes, the iPod Minis come in colors and the Nano in black; ignore for now.)

The subliminal likeness is to bathroom fixtures. This invokes an association with purity and cleanness (for the devotees of Apple) or with excretion (Apple products are shit, for the haters of Mac products). There is no middle ground.


laura 10.15.05 at 8:05 am

Richard Brautigan thought up iDeath a long time ago – In Watermelon Sugar – when was that published? Well before Apple got cool, anyway.


Doctor Memory 10.15.05 at 12:08 pm

Jroth, I think, nailed it — Apple is fascinating to the press because comeback stories make great copy. (And Jobs knows the value of a good dog and pony show.)

Additionally, I’ll note that Apple’s cultivated stance of caring, about user experience goes a long way toward explaining the fawning. In an era when using a PC, at home or at the office, can seem more like armed combat than work or leisure, the notion that a company is seriously trying to make stuff Just Work generates an enormous amount of good-will, even when they completely flub it.


Matt Weiner 10.15.05 at 2:47 pm

iCrush seems to lead to iHeartbreak—typical, when you put a company on an iPedestal.

(another link, in case Brad takes down one of the double posts)


Matt Weiner 10.15.05 at 2:54 pm

NB: though the last comment was not actually funny, the link is. I swear.


Jon H 10.16.05 at 12:47 pm

Part of it is an illusion. Many mentions of the iPod are actually using ‘iPod’ as a generic term for ‘MP3 player’.

I suspect that inflates the iPod’s media footprint considerably.

(And, really, the other brands use *so* many names for their products that there is no more economical term than ‘iPod’.)


novakant 10.16.05 at 12:51 pm

Apple is evil. Want proof? Apple bought Shake*, discontinued it on Windows and made the Linux version almost 2/3rds more expensive than the Mac version. That’s like Microsoft buying Photoshop and discontinuing it on the Mac platform. Apple is evil.

*you might not know this software but it’s used in just about every major movie and a lot of ads


Jon H 10.16.05 at 1:01 pm

I think the competition’s focus on making their MP3 players feature-rich has actually worked to their detriment. They lack the consistency of UI, form, and nomenclature that are strong points of the iPod brand.

Instead they have a zillion versions, with different brand names, and different UIs, and different configurations.

They may offer more technical features, but clearly millions of buyers don’t particularly want those features.


John A. 10.18.05 at 3:35 pm


Current sales and market share for PCs – Apple’s at 4.3%. But keep in mind Apple is NOT a pc company, they’re a software, hardware AND electronics company.

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