New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:

Icon of the month: Apple

Kester Brewin


Apple is a large multinational company - bigger than global giants Sony and Samsung and, according to its founder Steve Jobs, the number one mobile device company in the world. It employs 75,000 people worldwide and recently ended their first fiscal quarter of 2010 with $15.6 billion dollars of revenue.

These are the business figures. But you don't want to know about the business figures. Why? Because Apple is not just a business. For many, it is a way of life; for some, a religion even, and when you talk about religions you don't bother with minor details like profit or loss or operat- ing costs. (Anyone care how much Catholicism made last year?) You talk about how it makes you feel, how it has changed your life. As you would have seen if you watched the coverage of the launch of their newest product, the iPad, this is what Apple does: it doesn't simply sell dig- ital devices, it offers a lifestyle choice. The iPad is a way of living, and is going to be central to your life. You don't yet know it, but you need to have one.

Having begun as isolated colossuses hidden in deep rooms under universities, computers have now shrunk and entered our homes, and shrunk further and attached themselves to every part of our existence. It is because they are so deeply embedded in our lives that our choice of computer is now very much a choice about who we are, as exemplified in a series of Apple advertisements based around two characters: 'Mac' and 'PC.' Mac is very obviously cooler. He does not get colds, or crash at inopportune moments. PC is always getting viruses and is rather mean; he feels inadequate.

For die-hard Apple fans, this is plain obvious: Apple products are simply better. They are better designed, perform better and simply 'work.' Other products, whether it be Windows computers or Blackberry mobiles, just don't do the job so neatly, and Apple fans can't help but tell people about the better solutions they use. For those not yet bitten by the Apple bug, this is plain arrogance. Apple products are over-priced, and those who use them are interminable bores who never stop their evangelising. Thus the world remains split along this fault-line: the gnostics on the one side, who have seen the (soft glowing logo) light, and the ignorant on the other, who persist in their fallen lifestyle with its crashes and bugs and black-screens-of- death.

For Apple, this logo-come-halo is all- important. Subtly adorning every product, the Apple device has undergone a transformation in parallel to the corporate image that it wants to project. The original logo was an etching of Newton sitting under a tree: nerdy, earnest and complex. This evolved into the rainbow shades of a bitten apple - which Jobs thought would present a friendly image: the computer as helper. Now the colours have gone, and all is flattened. Thin, sensual, intelligently simple, sleek... The logos speaks clearly, and we see our own values mirrored in the shiny new surfaces it decorates.

Jobs is clear, the bite on the Apple logo was to stop it looking like an orange. But this particular fruit has always been rich in meaning. The bitten apple is the birth of knowledge and the end of innocence, per- haps even the birth of the 'i'. Yet it is also the beginning of something remarkable, and one cannot fail to be caught up in the technologically optimistic world that Jobs presents to the faithful: everything will be all right. He has created, and from the chaos of the modern digital life, he wants us to see that what he has made for us is good.

This is what Apple does so very well: sell us our desires. Like the icons of old, we will gaze into our iPads wanting solace and communion and equilibrium and connection. What exactly they will offer us is, as yet, unknown, but without disap- pointment there will be no more demand: ironically the iPad has ultimately to fail if Apple is to stay successful. What is more certain is that Apple will continue to drill down into the human condition, and give us beautifully designed mirrors in which we will try to work out who we are. We, continually wanting to believe that this time they will succeed, will keep on emptying our wallets.

Kester Brewin