Apple’s updates are selling status, not products

I hate Apple. There, I said it.

Even though I am a long-time consumer of Apple products, lately I have become fed up with their insane obsolescence rate. You see, the people at Apple do not make “products,” they manufacture tokens of status.

These status-markers, if you will, allow people to show off their coolness to others, impressing everyone with how much capacity a piece of electronics the size of a thumbnail or palm has, the sleekness of it, and the killer applications it may contain.

Originally, I got an iPod for a simple, practical reason: I needed an MP3 player that didn’t suck. The first-years may not remember this, but before Apple came along with their magical devices, MP3 players did exist, but they had no screen or enjoyable interfaces. The year was 2002 and I still inhabited the Windows world; Apple had not yet accommodated my demographic.

The very first iPod had come out the year before, and everyone agreed that it was the epitome of cool and hipness. Indeed it was. The size of a pack of cigarettes (considered slim then), sporting a black-and-white screen and a bona fide scroll wheel that actually moved; we all had to have it.

This summer my six-year relationship ended due to problems with communication (they often dissolve because of that), and I got the cool new iPod Nano for my birthday. Rebounding quickly, I had the false illusion that I was back in the game of cool technological apparel, uploading playlists and marveling at the fact that, for the first time, I could even watch video on this slimmer, younger, more attractive iPod than my ex-iPod. The horizons had opened up and the future looked bright.

Until a few days ago.

All of a sudden, Apple had decided to roll out the newest model of the iPod Nano. In an instant, without my consent, my model was discontinued. It was two weeks old, and in a snap of Steve Jobs’s callous fingers my status had been demoted. I no longer had the cool thing. Cursing the captains of industry, who see no difference between innovation and the perpetual tweaking of music players which render yours instantly obsolete, my crest had fallen. I have an idea to propose to the benevolent dictators at Apple, Inc.: why not take a page from Mark Zuckerberg and ask your consumers, your fanbase, if they would be cool with the change? It seems the only domain where democracy is out of bounds is in business, but there’s no harm in starting small. Poll us, Apple, and see if we really want to spend a few hundred dollars on your awesome, cool toy just to see it get replaced with something slightly cooler a short time later. I know that when I return to my iMac G5, a 2005 model I got before Apple replaced the legendary PowerPC chip with Intel, there will be some continuity in my life. As the philosopher Michael Oakeshott once wrote that the woman or man with a conservative disposition “is aware that not all innovation is, in fact, improvement; and he will think that to innovate without improving is either designed or inadvertent folly.” I agree.