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In 1951, science fiction writer C M Kornbluth, wrote a novel about a dystopic future where Earth is populated by 5 billion morons with an average IQ of 45.  Watching the long queues outside Apple stores last Friday, one could be forgiven for wondering whether the late Cyril Kornbluth was in fact a clairvoyant.

Back in 1973, I remember we queued to get tickets to see The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin in their prime. Those events were worth it. These days, millions of young goofy faced fanboys queue up at least once a year for the privilege of handing over large wads of cash to a fabulously wealthy multinational corporation for a slightly upgraded model of a product they already have.

In the case of the iPhone 5S, this really is a march of the morons because Apple’s “new” model is an insult to the intelligence.  After a full year, the best the once-great innovator could bring to the market was the same phone with a 64-bit power hungry chip and gimmicky fingerprint sensor. Yet the queues were as long as ever, matched only by the amount of nonsensical hype spewing out of the mouths of Apple’s friends in the mass-market corporate media.

Apple is no longer the company that the late Steve Jobs rescued from the jaws of death when he returned to the fold in 1997. There has been no new game changer like iTunes, iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Yet Apple continues to rake in billions more than it normally would from the sales of its admittedly still very good products. How? Through the mass hypnosis of countless throngs of blindly loyal techno-zombies.

The way the consumer market used to work was when your product broke down, you got it fixed. The computer companies, aided by Intel and Microsoft, sped up the process - when your computer broke down or could no longer run the latest software, you replaced it instead of fixing it. Then laptops, which needed to be replaced every two years, were substituted for clunky but sturdier desktops.

As fast as this process was, the mobile phone market increased it by an order of magnitude, with ten times as many consumers replacing their phones every year or two. Then along came Apple with the iPhone and iPad.

In the computer world, it could be argued that Apple was a more socially responsible company than its “Wintel” competitors.  Macs were and still are the most reliable personal computers, with a longer average life and higher resale value than Windows PCs.

In the phone world, however, Apple is a different beast. Its products are still very good and long lasting. Many of us ordinary users continue to use our earlier model iPhone handsets and have no intention of upgrading until our phone dies. Countless others, however, are duped into believing that they absolutely must ditch what they have when the latest model bursts onto the market – even if the new model is not a significant improvement on its predecessor. That used to be Microsoft’s game with Windows and Office. Now Apple is in on the act with the iPhone and to a lesser extent the iPad.

The iPhone 5 was not a significant improvement on the sturdier slightly thicker metal cased iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5S is certainly not a significant improvement on the iPhone 5.

However, you will not hear so much as a mention of this stuff from the talking geek heads on morning TV or in the corporate mass media.

Nor will you hear how Apple, like its chief rival Samsung, produces next to nothing in its own country, using instead cheap labour often working under sub-standard conditions in Chinese factories.

If companies like Apple did start producing phones in places like the US, they would be more expensive, consumers would replace them less often, and we wouldn’t have mindless armies of zombies handing over enough money to feed a family for a month for a gadget that will be considered obsolete next year when the new model arrives. We can’t have that can we?

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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