Apple Versus Salmonella

Apple and Twitter

There is no way in hell Apple should buy Twitter. I feel so strongly about that, that I boldfaced it in red. Apple doesn’t like freedom of expression. They don’t know how to handle it (hint: leave it alone!). We’ve already seen over and over and over again how they bungle books. They don’t even allow people freedom in email. Can you imagine how they’d destroy Twitter by basically turning it in Disney Instant Messaging? The first social network for tots. The list of banned words would be epic. Not even “poopy” would get through.

These calls for Apple to amp up their web game ignores the fact that Apple knows when to say No. Maybe they’ve discussed this internally and said No. Maybe what they already offer is all they intend to do. I’d be fine with that. I don’t want them molesting freedom of expression any more than they’ve already managed to.

Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services.

And … so what?

Who says Apple must be in web services? So far, everything Apple has done that connects to the web has been … just for Apple. And, as detailed in that post, they’re bad at it. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get better without having to destroy Twitter to do it.

As for design, I want you to think about magazines. Where is the innovation in magazines? The format of a magazine is set. Certain things over time have been developed as conventions:

Click = big

See the PDF at this link (“a guide to magazine page anatomy and terminology”) for details. What might have been a set of separate design innovations in the past have all converged to give us the magazine we know today. There is no innovation forthcoming in magazines that will thrill us or make us rush to newsstands to buy them again instead of downloading them.

This happens with all design.

It will happen with iOS, Android, Windows 8, and whatever else comes along.

I don’t want to sound as if I’m degrading their achievement, but the iPhone was revolutionary mainly because of its capacitive screen. A component Apple did not create allowed them to liberate people from keypads, keyboards, and styluses. But aside from that, it was still nothing but icons on a screen, the thing we already knew. (Pipe down, all of you who will bring up the proximity sensor and accelerometer; side issues.)


[T]he Chromebook Pixel seems like another bit of evidence that Google is getting better at what Apple does best faster than Apple is getting better at what Google does best

And again … so what?

It looks like an Apple design. It’s mimicry. Me-Too-ism.

Better get used to that. Keyboards can only be a certain size, mainly a certain shape, with mainly one layout. Humans aren’t going to grow smaller fingers or an extra finger that’s going to bring about a revolution in keyboards. As for the screen? It’s a component Google bought. Anyone can buy it. Big deal. This isn’t like Sony creating its own Trinitron screen.

Here are the two bottom lines.

The first is Peter Drucker:

No financial man will ever understand business because financial people think a company makes money. A company makes shoes, and no financial man understands that. They think money is real. Shoes are real. Money is an end result.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

That is Apple’s specialty. They make things. They concentrate on making great things. No one else yet seems to do that, despite the mimicry and despite the small dollops of doing something differently (Samsung and Android MultiView). They are all playing against Apple. While Apple plays against no one.

And here is the real reason why no one has yet beat Apple:

4 charged in 2009 peanut butter salmonella outbreak plead innocent in Ga. federal court

The indictment said the company misled consumers about salmonella being in its product, even when laboratory tests indicated its presence. It said certificates accompanying some of the peanut shipments were altered to say the peanuts were safe when tests said otherwise.

It’s that attitude.

Bad design comes from someone saying, “Just ship it!” despite being told the design isn’t finished, the design needs to be fixed, the design won’t work.

That attitude also leads to space shuttles exploding.

That attitude led to Apple’s MobileMe disaster.

So if you think acquiring Twitter is going to magically solve Apple’s inept efforts in web services, the answer is No.

Apple has an attitude problem inside it that needs fixing. They don’t need more or different designers.

And as for everyone else “catching up” to Apple in design? Don’t be fooled by surface similarities. Not when the prevalent attitude almost guarantees there will be “salmonella” inside.


Filed under Apple: The Company

3 responses to “Apple Versus Salmonella

  1. You lost me in the last two paragraphs. I understand your point about all those companies copying Apple and why that doesn’t matter when it’s almost certain to have salmonella inside, but l didn’t get the relationship between salmonella and Apple’s attitude problem regarding freedom of expression. What did I miss?

    • mikecane

      Oh, I went beyond freedom of expression to the overall idea why Apple’s web efforts suck. It’s their attitude towards them, which no amount of engineering talent can fix. Eddy Cue is in charge. He has to be the damn ultimate roadblock.

  2. Just as much as Apple would mess up Twitter, Twitter would mess up Apple. They have fundamentally different cultures and aims. Apple main business it to sell things directly to their consumers (traditional manufacturer). Twitter sells access to user-generated content and those users’ attention (traditional media).

    Apple would do best to look for open- or standards-based approaches to web storage and services. They’ve created a lot of good software on the backs of open-source and standards (iChat, Webkit/Safari, bonjour, OS X itself). It makes great sense to control the physical product design tightly, some to control software, and almost none to control users and what they create.

    Twitter, for their part, would do well to let go a bit on their control of the official Twitter client and focus on finding ways that the Twitter service would benefit the company and the Twitter client/customer ecosystem.

    It’s about knowing what you are good at and when control is beneficial. I’m not sure either company has that down for their own core products. I’m pretty sure it would be terrible if they got together.

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