If one thing was crystal clear from Steve Jobs’ remarks during today’s iPhone 4 Antenna Press Conference, it was that he blamed the tech press for “overblowing” the iPhone 4’s reception issues, and was downright contemptuous of tech journalists as a whole.
“I guess it’s just human nature that when you see someone get successful you want to tear it down…” Steve Jobs said at one point. “Sometimes I feel that in the search for eyeballs, [journalists] don’t care about what they leave in their wake.”
Fielding a question from Engadget about a recent New York Times report, Jobs further attacked tech writers. “Go talk to the Times, because you guys talk to yourselves a lot. They’re just making this stuff up.”
Even Steve’s parting shot was aimed at the credibility of the tech journalists. “Thanks for coming. I wish we could have done this [had the press conference] in the first 48 hours, but then you wouldn’t have had anything to write about.”
I’m certainly not here to defend the press against Jobs’ accusations of sensationalism. He may be right: the iPhone 4 Antenna Issue is the Amy Winehouse of tech right now. On the sensationalism of the press, I’d argue that the job of the journalist is not to report the status quo, but to report the exceptional. Over the past three weeks, the iPhone 4’s antenna issues have been an exceptional problem, and so we’ve covered it extensively.
But you know what else is exceptional? Apple and its products. And what Jobs has conveniently forgotten is that ever since he returned to Apple back in 1997, the tech press has collectively been the tireless advocate of both, and written about Apple’s excellence as the rule — not the exception — with every year that has passed.
Anecdotally, I can count on one hand the number of tech writers of my acquaintance who neither own nor love their Apple products. The rest of the Cult of Mac staff will affirm the same. Go to CES, and what you’ll see is a nearly uncountable legion of iPhones and MacBooks. In fact, two years ago at CES, I was drinking with about a dozen of some of the finest tech writers Wired and Gizmodo had to offer, and not a single one of us could remember (albeit extremely drunkenly) how to connect to a WiFi hotspot through a Windows XP netbook… and not one of us realized that the reason we were failing so epically was because we had the WiFi card turned off. We were all Apple fanboys, through and through. We, the tech press, love Apple products.
Has the press coverage of the iPhone 4’s reception issue been overblown? Perhaps. Hell, probably. But while Jobs wants to dismiss the tech press as a bunch of contemptible ambulance chasers, what he’s conveniently ignoring is the past decade in which we (collectively, time after time ) have espoused the superiority of Apple’s products over the competition’s. We are the generators of word-of-mouth… not the only ones, sure, and perhaps arguably the least important, but if the press wasn’t firmly on Cupertino’s side, Apple would not be the success it is today.
And why are we, collectively, on Apple’s side? I can answer only for myself. I bought my first Mac years ago only after a tech colleague spent months convincing me to take a gamble on one after never having used an Apple computer since grade school computer class.
Why did Apple win me over? Because Apple is committed to making gadgets better than anyone else. I’m towing Cupertino’s own company line here: their entire philosophy is to do it better than anyone else. How? Namely by doing it right.
That’s what was so frustrating to me today about the message of Apple’s press conference. Apple basically pointed their finger at every other smartphone out there and said, “All smartphones have this problem.” But isn’t Apple about doing it better than everyone else? About solving problems that other companies don’t know they have? “Equally lacking” has never been part of Apple’s rigid standards of quality and aesthetics, but today, Jobs expected us to buy that it was… and then complained that the press was holding the company to a different standard.
Well, isn’t holding Apple to a different standard the natural result of Apple’s own history of excellence? How has the press slighted Apple when we raise the hue and cry when Apple betrays its own standards? And — if you buy Jobs’ argument that all smartphones have equally bad death grip issues to the iPhone 4 — why shouldn’t the press give more importance to it than other smartphones? Other smartphones do not sell three million units in three weeks. More importantly, other smartphone manufacturers aren’t as good as Apple, and their failures do not betray the very philosophy and ethos of perfect technology wondrously amalgamated to impeccable design that is the very heart and soul of every Apple product.
At today’s press conference, Steve Jobs incredulously asked, “Haven’t we earned the credibility and trust that we’re going to take care of our users?” Yes, Apple has… but many in the tech press see it as their duty to make sure that, in their success, Apple doesn’t betray the same spirit that bore it.
And why is that our self-perceived duty? Because ultimately, the last decade has proven that we’re on Apple’s side. We love tech just as much as Apple does. And, like Apple, we want tech to be art.