Friday, August 09, 2013

Rush To Judgement

For the most part, I studiously ignore talk radio in virtually all its forms. Virtually, I say; sports talk radio is pretty entertaining when done well. But news talk radio? Mostly useless.

I'm not going to go into why it's useless just right now. Suffice it to say that if it bleeds, it leads, and most media outlets try to lead you along by a steady diet of fear and/or outrage. I don't need anyone to tell me what I should be outraged about. What I need is someone to tell me what's actually happening out there. Outrage, I can work out on my own. (Or not. Unfocused outrage is also mostly useless.)

Anyway, my main point is that I mostly ignore what Rush Limbaugh has to say. Not because he's a conservative, but because his day job is to be a loudmouth schnook, and I already have as many of those in my life as I need.

Unfortunately, that means that when he does say something worth paying attention to, I usually miss it.

But even then, he often misses the point, like when he compared the Republican Party to Apple earlier this week. His point, near as I can understand it, is that just like mainstream tech bloggers often hate Apple, mainstream media hates the Republican Party.

What Rush doesn't actually get is why a lot of tech geeks hate Apple. The two words that explain everything aren't "media bias", but "vertical integration".

The reasons why Apple products have such a reputation for working so well, and the reasons why they're often so expensive, and the reasons why their competitors often end up with such a higher market share are all tied together in that one phrase. "Vertical integration" means that Apple owns it all. They control the entire user experience from cradle to grave. They build the hardware. They develop the operating system. They rule the APIs with an iron fist. If your app doesn't pass muster, it ain't going on their online store, no way, no how. And if it doesn't come from their app store, it isn't going on your phone. Computers are another thing entirely ... but the same broad principles apply.

Now, for the average Joe who wouldn't know a terabyte from a trombone, this is probably a good thing. With most Apple products, the rule of thumb is that something is either intuitive or otherwise immediately obvious, or it's just outright impossible. Which means if doing the obvious thing doesn't work, well, you don't have to waste time fiddling with it. That app just won't do that function, friend. Find another one.

But there's a breed of alpha-geek power-user out there for whom that's an enraging travesty. And a disproportionate fraction of them blog, or vlog, or post to YouTube, or otherwise make their outrage known.


My point is that they don't hate on Apple because it's cool to hate on Apple ... although there's probably a bit of that going around, too. But that's beside the point. The point is that they rage against Apple's iron-fisted control over all things Apple, and are bellowing YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME! at The Man.

Vertical Integration ... doesn't exactly describe the Republican Party. Maybe it did, once upon a time. But their establishment -- their equivalent of Steve Jobs and his top software architects -- lost control of the party's message a while back, and are scrambling like mad to keep pace with the Tea Party fanatics who are mostly in charge these days. What's vertically integrated in GOP-land these days? Not the message -- the loon with the biggest megaphone owns it, whoever that happens to be on a particular day. Not the legislative agenda. And definitely not the nomination process.

No, if there's a tech company that the GOP resembles, it's ColecoVision.

Pictured: the reason WHY you've never heard of ColecoVision.
Hint: they made REALLY BAD computers.

It's ... not a path I'd recommend emulating. But it appears to be the one they've chosen.

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