Today’s a big day. President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address and Steve Jobs will purportedly introduce Apple’s much anticipated tablet device. I am looking forward to hearing what each of these men will say and wondering what their messages will be. With both leaders having to make major speeches on the same day, I wonder if the two of them consulted with each other as they planned what they would say. I imagine the two of them on iChat, with Jobs holding up a picture of the Apple logo to show the President, warning him “tafasta merubeh lo tafasta” – if you try to do too much, you won’t end up doing anything at all. “You see the logo, Barack?” Jobs would say. “You see how the apple’s only got a single nibble taken out of it? Well, it’s like that to tell you not to bite off more than you can chew.”
Have you noticed how Apple has stolen a lot of Obama’s thunder a year after his historic victory? While Obama, the once almost prophet-like CHANGE agent, has fallen victim to what Newsweek has coined The Inspiration Gap, Apple is enjoying inspirational record profits and providing HOPE for its “old media” partners, who are desperate to stay alive by finding new ways to reach the ever more tech savvy public.
Hysterical Apple fanatics and zealous owners of the Jesus Phone…I mean the iPhone…are fervently awaiting the coming of what will no doubt be unofficially dubbed the Moses Tablet (it’s the Jews’ turn, but hey, I’m all for ecumenism – Muslims will have dibs on nicknaming the next Apple invention). Someone is going to have to put out a mock ad on YouTube aimed at the cult of this new device, just as someone has already done for groupies of the much-hyped phone:
Even PC’s is getting in on the religious act. The Wall Street Journal has parodied the popular Mac vs. PC ads, with PC touting its own new tablet called The Almighty. Boy, PC’s putting a lot of pressure on himself. Everyone knows that God trumps Jesus and Moses, so whatever it is he’s selling had better be absolutely divine. (Watch the WSJ ad in the post below this one).
Apple owes its success in large part to its “longstanding strategy of devising new ways to access and pay for quality content, instead of reinventing the content,” according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Jobs is ‘supportive of the old guard, and [he] looks to help them by giving them new forms of distribution,’ says a person who has worked with the CEO. ‘What drives all of these changes is technology, and Apple has an ability to influence that,’” the article goes on to say. Unlike its rival, Google, Apple focuses on inventing new ways for professionals who produce professional level products to get their stuff out there and continue to be relevant, rather than on offering internet user-generated, mostly amateur content largely free of charge.
In this way, Apple becomes somewhat an arbiter of quality and authenticity for the masses. Questions of the existence and role of, and even the need for, such a gatekeeper is relevant also to Judaism. How should we best use the new technologies that are available for both preserving ancient texts and traditions in their original forms and enabling Jews in the Digital Age to create new forms and content for Jewish life? Do Jews want one Apple to dominate, so to speak, or to let a thousand Google-like flowers bloom?
This a serious issue for Jews to ponder, but it’s not something either Steve Jobs or President Obama need to worry about. Leaving the Jewish piece aside, is it even fair to be comparing Apple and the Presidency? Apple goes about its business within a basically closed system. It is all about producing both software and hardware and melding them seamlessly together into works of beautiful industrial design. Apple does its thing and then launches each of its new products with a lot of hoopla, driving millions of consumers into a buying frenzy.
Obama, on the other hand, works in a much messier milieu, a system that is as open and public as there possibly can be. Politics will never look like the sleek iPhone. It’s always going to be much uglier. Apple needs only to worry primarily about business and the economy. The crappy economy is only one of the headaches on the extremely long to-do list facing the President when he wakes up each morning. And Jobs doesn’t have to worry about his healthcare legislation going down the toilet because a guy with a pick up truck named Scott Brown won the Senate seat left vacant by the late champion of universal health insurance, Ted Kennedy (who is surely turning over in his grave).
We need to give President Obama a break. He took office at a very difficult time, and I think we would all agree that 2009 was pretty much an annus horriblis (with this year so far not looking much better). A lot of sh-t has come at Obama, and a lot more is going to yet. But still, I don’t think it would be such a bad idea for the White House to switch over to Macs and iPhones. Even though the President is not allowed to use a computer (does he still use his BlackBerry? – I can’t recall what the final decision was on that), he would still see the Apple logo around the West Wing, and it would remind him that maybe he needs to tackle fewer major issues at one time. We all know that if you bite off more than you can chew, you can choke.
© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.