Apple store, 5th Avenue

Apple

This may glorify an icon, but it’s not a house of worship.

Commentary


Attention fanboys and fangirls: Your favorite tech hardware, software and services are not religious objects. And the companies that make them aren’t cults or faiths. They are capitalist enterprises, out to make a profit, grab market share, and, if they can, make products you will buy.

It’s perfectly normal to like (even to love!) using your iPhone or your Samsung Galaxy. But you can’t get to heaven by using one, and others won’t go to hell for preferring the other. They are just tools — bright, shiny objects that can do some cool things, but still just tools. And it’s perfectly normal for people to like the ones you don’t — people who are otherwise very nice.

It’s really not okay to pour down personal hate and derision on people who happen to use and like a tech product that competes with the one you prefer. I’m pretty sure that kind of behavior violates the tenets of, you know, all the real religions. And it’s really over the top to become so devoted to a tech company that you can’t see the point of view of others who don’t buy, or even like, that company’s products.

Nobody knows this better than tech reviewers. I’ve been a reviewer for a long time, and, like all tech reviewers I know, I’ve been struck by the vehement ad hominem attacks and baseless accusations made by tech cultists who disagree with all, or even part, of your review.

Of course, if you are in the business of dishing out opinions, you must be prepared to receive contrary points of view. That’s fair, and reasonable, and helps one learn. But the tech cultists can’t get their heads around the idea that people — anyone, not just a reviewer — might see the same facts about a product or company and come to different conclusions.

Instead, too many of these acolytes resort to accusations of corruption (you were paid to praise a product) or laziness (you must not have really tested it). These kinds of comments, tweets, blog posts and emails come from people who often have never tried, or even held, the product in question.

The biggest tech religion is the Church of Apple, with countless blogs defending its every move, regardless of whether it’s a good one. Some carry a sort of permanent sense of suspicion from the old days of the 1980s, when using a Mac was considered weird by many.

Not a church

This glorifies an icon, but it’s no house of worship.

Apple cultists are often quick to question not just the judgment, but the motives and personal character of anyone who dares to question the company’s magic touch. And, because they can’t see any other way of thinking, they assume that if you praise or use an Apple product, you must have signed up for the whole religion.

Once, I was accused of being corrupt and lazy for writing a positive review of a new iPad, but having the temerity to list some of its downsides. One Apple fan site immediately called for me to resign. I call this the Doctrine of Insufficient Adulation.

The Church of Apple has begotten a serious group of Apple haters, similarly irrational and mean-spirited, who are quick to conclude that the only explanation for a positive review of an Apple product is a payoff.

But there are other sects as well. There’s a Church of Android, for instance, which displays many of the same characteristics of the Apple faith in failing to see past the virtues of Google’s mobile operating system.

There’s a Church of the Open Source, which sees the work of the devil in any software that’s proprietary, regardless of whether it’s good and well-liked. There was a strong Church of BlackBerry, but it isn’t heard from much today.

Oddly, in my experience, there isn’t much of a Church of Windows. In my many years as a reviewer, I did get emails defending the hugely successful Microsoft operating system as practical and useful, but rarely expressions of love and devotion.

One of my favorite minor sects is the Church of Real Business, which contends that the only platform suitable for real work is a tightly limited Windows PC. This ignores the fact that, every day, plenty of business is conducted, money is made, and products are invented by people using Macs, or Apple or Android mobile devices.

Of course, the companies encourage these unquestioning fanboys and fangirls as evangelists. They do this partly with all-encompassing ecosystems that tie users into their hardware, software and cloud services as seamlessly as possible. This lock-in makes it easy for all your stuff to transfer to a new device or service of their making, and hard to switch.

But the cults can sometimes come back to bite the companies, if the most vocal of the faithful are displeased. Apple has seen this when it made too many changes in its pro video editing software, or when the new iPhone operating system, iOS 7, suddenly made everyone’s phone look different.

Microsoft and its hardware partners are still struggling with the fact that many core Windows users don’t like the idea of using touchscreens and a tablet-style start screen in Windows 8.

It’s fun to like the style and innovation a particular company can bring to an industry. In the 1950s, the U.S. enjoyed a healthy rivalry between Ford fans and Chevy fans. And everyone knows somebody who swears by a particular home appliance maker.

But tech theology goes too far. It blurs the ability to make clear buying decisions and can distort the vital market feedback companies need to improve.

So, to all you fanboys and fangirls out there: Calm down. Enjoy your phones and tablets and laptops and software. But don’t overlook their flaws, and don’t hate people who like other stuff.



109 comments
cybertoyz
cybertoyz

Your interest and support of Apple in the past is part of why you are now successful. This article is a disappointment.  The "church" of Apple is an expression of many hundreds of thousands Apple fans who just Love the product. 


There is no other company in the world who enjoys such a massive and loyal customer base. This is a by-product of engineering a device that goes beyond the expectations of the customer.  I applaud Apple.


You certainly never hear of the "church" of Sony, or Toshiba, or Samsung... Any of these companies would love to have a "church" in their name.


The iPhone won't get anyone into heaven, but it will allow those who use it during our rather short time here on earth to better our stay here.

Truetech
Truetech

As much as I respect you, Walt, it is the tech media which spreads fanboyism. Which instigates one brand against another. Where tech journalists don't just report news, they dole out their opinions at times. Opinions are not news. AllThingsDigital was very Apple biased, you know it. It is the same American tech media which brought the BlackBerry brand down by such unfair journalism, in spite of the company truly innovating with QNX and having the most secure devices. Truly feel sorry for those guys. Yes, they made some mistakes, but you guys were ruthless and made it so much more harder for them.

People never bought the devices because of your trashy reviews. It was a vicious circle.

So it is time for you guys to set an example. That is when, whatever you advocated in this article, will come true. And btw, it's not cultism, it's passion for tech. Like passion for art, astronomy, the movies.

And yes by serving humanity with tech, we can go to heaven.

Marc (DarcFlii LLC)
Marc (DarcFlii LLC)

This article coming is far too predicable. Makes it very hard to read and believe. 

psychobueller
psychobueller

Well Walt you accomplished your goal of posting link bait to boost traffic on your new site. Such a shame. And not quite the level of discourse I would expect from you.

philr
philr

Agreed...

My take is that Apple is an end-user mobile hardware company, Microsoft is a productivity software company, the Linux community has a software as infrastructure focus, these three and others not mentioned like to play in all domains, and it doesn't really matter because the world runs on HTTP.


Personally, I don't think it is possible to make a better piece of hardware than the Macbook Pro, which I run Windows 8 on because I personally love developing with C# and the .NET framework, which has further benefit because of an open source project called Mono, enabling me to work in the environment I prefer in Linux virtual machines (can't simply create a Windows VM, too pricy).


One critique on Apple...


You guys need to open it up. I can build iOS and Android apps in C#. .NET recently implemented the popular Python programming language (popular everywhere, especially in Linux communities) and Windows has recently joined the open source community in a big way. Meanwhile, you guys tried to restrict development on your platform to only Objective-C (and C++, C). I mean, c'mon, pretty ridiculous.


Charge or don't charge for software, your choice, but we should all open our source.

Oh yeah, one more thing, logic pro and final cut pro are both awesome, at least give the PC world a version!

Ali Lars
Ali Lars

I respect you a lot, Walt. But this article is pointless, and it's too late for it.

And I'm not "attacking" you. I respect what you do, and your thoughts and opinions.

JefinLondon
JefinLondon

Walt....  no need to defend yourself. 

Heru Ammen
Heru Ammen

IMO Apple makes excellent products for people that want/need a little SWAG in their lives. I like tinkering, tweaking and skinning for my pleasure and production; which allows me to SWAG my work and earn a nice income. Apple products incorporate (for the most part) a closed eco-system. I like to decide how my OS based product functions for me. What works for me is gathering information about an OS based product, trying it out for usability/tweakability, incorporating it as a tool in my daily work/home/social work-flows, evaluating it's value and then making the decision to use it or not to use it. Based upon the aforementioned, I use a windows/multi-linux OS desktop environment, Android is used for my mobile needs and some combination of all of the above for entertainment (video/audio/TV). I am part of the non-dogmatic "All in All" cult. We say "if it's right for you, then use it...but don't get pissed or twisted when others use what works for them."



Tim Ventura
Tim Ventura

Times change & companies change: in the early 90's, I was a Microsoft guy. Then, I was a Linux guy. Now I'm starting to lean more towards Apple. Maybe that will change again.....

CitizenWhy
CitizenWhy

ou are discovering that the USA is a not a Christian nation, but a riot of cults similar to those of ancient Rome, including the various cults of Alma Mater.


And, yes, Apple is a religion for many. But not me. I just got a MacBookAir to wrote anywhere, easily, especially four coffee shops n my nab. The lightweight, six hour battery thing works just fimne for my purpose. No Michrosoft upgrades rituals. And the people at the store are helpful, although I've only gobne to the store once with a  problem that had a simple solution that I figured out while waiting but  I pretended I still had the problem to see what the genius or whatever he was called would do. He was very good.

I tried using a tablet. Too confusing. Went to Apple store, got the MacBookAir, was shown how to set it up, the rest was intuitive. In my opinion Apple is for those of us who are not techies. You don't need to be a mechanic to drive a car. That's the magic of Apple, it's designed for tech idiots or those of us with tech potential who are bored  by tech.

As for Microsoft software, I can open any Microsoft document in my very cheap apple software programs. But someone using Word cannot open my Pages files. No problem though, I can convert any file to Word with a click.

DouglasLWilson
DouglasLWilson

Updating feelings on Windows 8:  I hated it on my desktop and immediately installed the free Classic Shell to avoid the new interface.  But it makes sense on a tablet, and I think Microsoft's strategy of selling heavily the concept of a "two in one" computer is a stroke of genius that may let them do some fast catch-up with the mobile market.  There's a world of people who have no intention of abandoning their Microsoft software, which after all hugely dominates the market still, and have been frustrated at not being able to use it in their tablets.  Microsoft's P/E is around 14 right now.  I don't think it will be near there next year this time.

Tom Sheives
Tom Sheives

Great job and great writing!  Thanks for some creative thought and analogy.  Best to you, Kara, Katie and the rest of your team!

Fernando Herrera
Fernando Herrera

YOU ARE TOTALLY RIGHT !!!


The best computer or mobile device is the one that help you do your Job or what ever you need to do. All the products have good and bad things.

I need to mention that you are totally right in your comment about the "Church of the open source"

I personally I´m an Apple Fan but i´m not religious...


Russ Vaught
Russ Vaught

You have hit the nail on the head, so to speak. I run Mac OS 10, Windows 8, and several flavors of Linux. They each have both strength and weakness. I especially like running Windows under Mac OS (with Parallels in my case). This gives you the best of both and lets you ignore the weaknesses of each. I would not have it any other way. 

Joe Kueser
Joe Kueser

This article hit home for me. I get accused of being a "fanboy" all the time, because, yep, I get excited about Apple's products. I get excited about new Android devices and Windows phones and tablets too. I'm a geek. I'm just more excited about the Apple announcements because it's more likely I'll buy them. Not because I'm a fanboy, but because that's what makes the most sense for me.


I try new versions of Windows and new Linux distros as they come out, and pounce on new Android and Windows phones as they are released (a benefit of working in a job that requires me to develop on all of the platforms.) I have just have not yet come across a version of Windows or Linux that fits as well into my workflow, or an Android or Windows Phone device that would be worth giving up the software I've purchased for my Mac or iPhone.


I love Linux, but see it as a slightly less "tight" and polished than Mac. Otherwise, for my purposes, they are virtually identical. So I would be a pretty happy developer if I was "forced" to code on a Linux box. No issues.


I could get used to the new Windows UI, but I just don't find the whole Windows experience appealing. It doesn't work like I do, while my Mac or Linux tends to.


I have seen some really cool Android devices, and think the Windows phone is real cool, but most of the cool features on either of these I would, in all honestly, never use. I've had an iPhone for 6+ years now, and have invested hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in software for it in that 6+ years. It would take one hell of a nice Android or Windows phone to be worth throwing that all away.


So, yes, I tend to buy only Apple products, but not blindly, or without good reason. I do so because that's what makes sense for me. So lay off, bucko!


tewha
tewha

I'm not sure which iPod review you are talking about. I've read reviews where the reviewer gushed about the product, never mentioned the downsides in the text, then they appear magically in the bullet points at the end.


If that is what your review was like, damn right it was lazy. I imagine it's was your editor's fault, but still. Things need to be mentioned. If it's a downside big enough to make a bullet point, it ought to be big enough to include in the text.

THMoore
THMoore

I would note that there have been thousands of fistfights in America over the relative virtues of a Ford vs. a Chevy, and probably a fatal beating or two in there somewhere.  Tech rivalries pale by comparison. 

Luc@Mop
Luc@Mop

Whaou .... what a realistic analysis ... BRAVO

On the other hand, we have to consider that the real first adavantage of Apple ... less than two decades ago:

It was really end user friendly and very well adapted for graphical business (News Paper, Ads creative, ...)

I remember to install a modem in 1996 on the Mac of my cousin at Half Moon Bay .. connected and operationnal in 10 minutes :-)

I had not the 2 days setup (Stack-IP, Drivers, etc...) that I did on my Windows 3.1 PC (better with 3.11 ;-)

But now the hole between Apple and Windows is not so large.

I agree that there is a certain snobism to people to use i-phone, i-pad, i-pod, i-shit, ...

Hopefully Android could break the monopol Apple, Windows of Mobile business.


Battleborn
Battleborn

Walt + Kara- congrats on your new venture.  Look forward to checking in often. 

dennyc69
dennyc69

That's a great article, and what's so hilariously true about it, is that almost anyone who follows tech with any degree of passion, has the potential to falls into one of these "chruches".

I will admit to being in the "Church of Apple" but as some one who works inside the field of Technology, there's always something to appreciate about different platform like Android, and Open Source. But I like my Apple Stuff ;)

Mkstudio
Mkstudio

Good luck Walt and Kara!

Say what you will, I worship apple.

From a Fangirl:-)

vacciniumovatum
vacciniumovatum

As a practicing Conservative Jew and an ecumenical technology consumer and producer, I totally understand. Jews don't like non-Jews proselytizing them (and they don't proselytize non-Jews); I wish I could get technology "true believers" to act the same way. As they say in Twelve Step Land, "Attraction rather than promotion..."

It may be hard for fanfolks to understand, but there is no "best OS" or "best platform." They all have compromises and sometimes the compromises change after major releases.


So folks calm down and stay loose. Too much commitment to any platform may lock you into a situation that is expensive and annoying to get out of. I know that's what companies want. But as Dan Savage would say, be willing to dump the -- and you'll come out better at the end.


Walk. and Kara. and team, good luck in this new direction.




obrimark
obrimark

Best wishes to you Walt and Kara on your next Tech adventure.


I am not a theologian, but it seems funny to talk about tech religion, when more killing has been committed in the name of whose deity was "more correct".  At least we're not yet having "Brand War Crusades", against the impure, non-believers and the infidels.


Some competitive behavior is driven by how tech cultures evolve and collide in the global economy. 

American engineers made electricity work at scale, leveraged business computers, and invented most electronics; the transistor, integrated circuit, semiconductor, personal computer. Low cost domestic mass production has been a persistent problem.


Europeans are also accomplished at patents in electricity, wireless/radio, computers and electronics, but weaker at bringing discoveries and concepts to market. 


Asian cultures refined mass production and excel at improving quality, reducing cost and refining existing technology, but not as inventive as others.


The Japanese dominated in the 80's in part by targeting specific electronic industries such as Memory chips, Audio, Television, Office equipment and games/personal electronics. They achieved cost effective mass production, even with high labor costs.  But Software was their Achilles' heel.

Since the 90's the Koreans have out performed the Japanese in many of the above categories, and now China manufacturers the majority of the world's electronics.


So the current maelstrom of Apple vs. Samsung vs.Google business models i.e., theologies is not only understandable but also will continue into the future.  The immense stakes for eyeball control over mobile, computer and television have been contested for 20 years without a clear winner. And there may never be one. 

Microsoft, who bailed out Apple with a $300 million lifeline in 1996, is a longshot, as Motorola, IBM, Amazon, Sony, H-P and Others.


Buyers prefer one brand in a category and often justify their choice by disparaging the others. It's Coke vs. Pepsi, Caddy vs. Toyota vs. BMW vs. Hyundai, 


Apple must continually out innovate Samsung, which is more diversified, but less innovative. And Google hasn't a hardware culture, but perhaps offers the most potential for innovation.  


As others have noted, the battlefield may boil down to content. 

A global spectacle of Capitalism, but not a religion.

MrGrolsch
MrGrolsch

Well Said! After using and supporting all major platforms in the tech field I can tell you honestly no system is perfect. Technology is a tool. Use the sharpest tool in the shed to do your job. Need to hammer out emails all day? Use a blackberry. Need to hammer out replies of OK all day and yes use an iPhone. Need to watch netflix all day use a Note 3. What do I care. They're all good and so many people behave like spoiled wrotten tomatoes. My iPad Air crashed twice trying to read this article let alone comment. Ditto on the iPhone 5s apple won't admit they don't have enough ram by today's standards in their latest flagships, but it's true they do not! BlackBerry 10 browser never crashes but they are ridiculed on everything they do. Apple has a major iOS 7 low memory issue but they will never admit it. Don't believe me go read the apple support forums. Does this make Android superior to Apple? No. Pledge technological allegiance to no one. Everything we buy and use is obsolete the second it comes off the assembly line.

Souter
Souter

You need to do some work on your website. On a brand new ipad mini. This page has crashed safari 5 times and takes 30 seconds to load all the ads. Heaven forbid one tries to scroll before the ads all loaded. CRASH!

NHBill
NHBill

How many of these "evangelists" are actually paid flacks trolling the web to promote their clients?


It seems obvious to me that some manufacturers are hiring them by the bushel.

Red Rogers
Red Rogers

Regrettably, SJobs isn't alive today to bitch-slap you for this heresy.

Joachim Rimer
Joachim Rimer

 I have nothing against christians or muslims. 

I have nothing against vegetarian or carnivores. 

I have nothing against Android or Apple fans… 

I just don't like missionaries.

zipdog
zipdog

Great article, Walt.  I agree completely, even though I am something of an Apple fanboy, now...after having to use DOS/Windows/Enterprise in the workplace for 30 years.


Thanks for the article/opinion piece.

RonLB
RonLB

You've just lost all my respect. I would much rather be passionate about things I use and things that actually exist than devote my life to a fictional deity. Way to put down the very people your writing appeals to. 


I won't go to heaven for using an iPhone. You're not going to heaven either - it doesn't exist. Talk about irrational...

Knute
Knute

Oh, and by the way - always loved you and Kara and your writing. Glad to see you in your new home and hope to visit often.

Knute
Knute

Platform religion goes back to Apple, IBM ... and Amiga. There were even huge Usenet battles about graphic user interfaces vs. command-line interfaces, believe it or not. Microsoft was originally part of the Mac camp in a way. Word and Excel were Mac apps (vs. WordPerfect and Lotus 123 on IBM). Somewhere around the mid-90s MS became firmly part of the IBM/WinTel group and with Windows 95 Redmond became the great juggernaut that brought on the Antitrust battle that closed out the Millennium.


While Mac advocacy in the 90s was about defending the struggling company and its approach (and frankly *any* competition for MS) today's Apple fanboy is completely different. The "hipster" fan is nothing like the art nerd/neckbeard Apple fans of the past.


There's nothing daring about advocating Apple today. They're huge. They're stylish. They're tech forward. Wall Street loves and loves to hate them, depending on the day. That's only been the case for the past 10 years. Before that, Apple was a dead platform walking.


Many years ago I remember the long-gone computer commentator Don Crabbe standing up at MacWorld Expo in San Francisco and declaring, "Guys, it's just a computer!"


In a way he was right. But in another, Apple has always been about disruption and taking risks. True "bleed six color" Apple fans were about being part of that disruption, paying a little more to see what Cupertino would do. I think time has proved that it was money well spent.

Hill60
Hill60

With Samsung being caught out in Taiwan, paying bloggers to disparage opponents products, then of course people are going to become cynical and question patterns among the comments that appear on websites.


A religion?


No, more a search for the truth.

JimmyFal
JimmyFal

Apple folks are right brained, and see computers as colorful appliances that can have culture, Windows folks are left brained, they just want to get things done, and see an Apple as putting a nice paint job on an old sledgehammer, and Android folks have too much brains and little tolerance of the other two's way of doing things.


For lack of computer crashes and blue screens of old, your local computer guy can now rely on the outright confusion that the average consumer has whom now has to deal with 3 devices that more often than not are a bad marriage between 3 different ecosystems. ChaChing!

csiusasvu
csiusasvu

@Truetech I was with you up to the point where you said it's not cultism. Hang out in an Apple store all day and your opinion will change.

David H Deans
David H Deans

@Truetech I actually wish there were more -- substantive -- opinions about these products, not less.  What's really needed in tech journalism is more thought-provoking device reviews that describe meaningful application scenarios.  Most tech journalists write the same dull reviews.  They produce a multitude of repetitive feature/function comparisons that are not useful to prospective buyers.  The product manufacturer PR teams are partly to blame -- they don't demand better quality reviews from the tech journalists.

Q
Q

Spambot.

ElizCrane
ElizCrane moderator Re/code

@Souter We're aware of the problem and have implemented a fix. Are you still experiencing this?

ckuttner
ckuttner

@Red Rogers Blasphemy!!! St. (short for Steve) Jobs liveth still, and shall slappeth the bitches!   <parody alert>

Tom Sheives
Tom Sheives

@RonLB You missed the point and the brilliance of the metaphor.  Very rational to me!

Anon_RD
Anon_RD

@JimmyFal  Oh you just have no idea ;)  The different brands interconnect _so_ much more easily now than they ever did.  If as a consumer you are not very knowledgeable, though, it's not hard to favor the devices and brands that are easier to work with.  And, not interconnect them.  My mom has a phone, a digicam, and an old Mac - none of which need ever connect to each other.

Truetech
Truetech

Csiusasvu, understand what you mean. May be I should say the cult members make it so difficult for other people who are fairly passionate abt tech.

Truetech
Truetech

Meaningful application scenarios, yes, David. Thanks!