I have just returned from two weeks' annual leave. My holiday involved lots of sun, the beach and no internet connection.
To my surprise, in the cafes and ice-creameries of the village where I stayed, Apple's iPhone mapping app came up in conversations around me.
It is a tribute to how pervasive the iPhone's market share is that casual coffee breaks are a chance to promote, defend or slam Apple.
Upon my return I had a mountain of catching up to do on the issue, but I did so with a deal of detachment because it was old news (especially in tech journalism).
IT has traditionally been marked by flame wars and fanboyism, but we are reaching a saturation point where the noise is overwhelming.
Surely as IT professionals we can rise above the standard partisan viewpoints, if only temporarily, to look rationally at product launches.
Often we are called upon to advise family and friends when they are making decisions. And more importantly in our professional careers — when we are asked to select technologies, platforms and services for our businesses — we are asked to look beyond our personal preferences. Even on tech-savvy discussion sites the tone of the comments seems to devolve into one of three moods — betrayal, denial or gloating.
Betrayal as if the commenter's chosen brand has personally targeted them and delights in causing them grief but they are powerless to escape.
Denial — that their brand is doing it for their own good, that this is a necessary process and that it will all work out better in the end.
Also just as bad is when the opposing brand's followers gloat over the perceived failings as if their chosen brand is immune from such things.
It seems that perspective is in short supply when it comes to reaction to mega-brands. Why do we need to bring so much passion into every marketed bullet point? I am reminded of families that hold to a political viewpoint that you must agree with completely to be a good family member.
Even if there is a history of excellence for your product of choice, it is not a guarantee of future performance. To hold that there is a guarantee is merely blind faith.
In Apple's case, it may be natural as the pace of innovation in smartphones slows, and as your competitors start catching up, that you use your place as top dog in strategic ways to starve competitors of oxygen and/or to monetise your install base more aggressively. It is just good business to use your advantage where you can.
This time, Apple took a chance on pushing through a product for strategic reasons. On the balance of things, it looked like it did the company more harm than good in the short term, but I fail to see why the issue needs to be personalised and dramatised.
I have to admit that during product launch periods, I can feel a kind of pack mentality — a desire to participate in defending my side. But why do I need to be on a side? When did I get so personally sucked into the hype?
Maybe these kinds of issues are needed to remind us to try to be more objective. Professionally speaking, we have to be able to critically evaluate the technology and to rationally justify our viewpoints; we should not rely on passionate “us and them” reasoning and we should less delighted by the dismay of others, because maybe next time it will be our turn.
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