NEW YORK (
) -- Forget about Apple Maps. We're done with
apologies that Tim Cook and
have now made for the major slip committed by a company synonymous with perfection. Tim Cook and Apple can now move on to offering my mom a major mea culpa.
Among the more remarkable milestones in the cultural phenomenon that now has entire families seated at the dinner table staring down at individual Retina displays rather than individual portions of steak and peas was the day a message arrived from my mother this year bearing this signature: "Sent from my iPhone." New York Jews like me always worry about mothers intruding in their lives from the cradle to the grave, but meddling in the world of a younger person's technology?
Mind you, my mother has had the same Toshiba laptop for near a decade, still uses her AOL account (LOL) as her primary email address, and still wakes up each morning to listen to terrestrial radio on a faux-wood grain-finished countertop receiver bought at
when the word "Tandy" still had relevance in the world of technology.
The baby boomers, living longer than any previous generation and with more disposable cash to burn -- thanks to the good ol' days of housing market bubble sales and 100 years of union middle-class-making, including the comfort of defined-benefit pension plans (such a thing ever existed in this "every man for himself' nation?) -- will not be denied the right to keep up with the technological Joneses (in my mother's case, defined as the "kids" in her office and the teens on the subway).
I don't see the existence of the baby boom demographic-technological complex just in iPhone sales to my parents and their friends, but in the sudden appearance of my parents' social inner circle in people I "may know" on
. There's something eerie about the Facebook profile photo of a person you
, but who you
is still making Jiffy Pop on the stove for their grandkids and driving an Accord for its reliability. They seem to stare out at me with a slightly anxious smile, as if they're surrounded by a glass box, and as they press against its sides are saying, "How did I get here?" and "I'm not so sure I like it ... help, me?"
Which brings to me the furor over Apple Maps and Tim Cook's apology for not getting the app perfect in the iPhone 5 launch as Apple replaced Google's much more well-traveled Maps application (Full disclosure: I have yet to download iOS 6 on my iPhone 4S because I use Maps more than I would use any of the new features in iOS 6, and frankly, I don't see the point of screwing with my trusty Maps just for the "cool" factor of camera tricks and Passbook and the faster speed of the new OS -- iOS 5 is plenty fast for me, thank you very much.) I will wait for Apple to get it right, and judging from the "improvement" in Siri that occurs as a result of community use and input, I will be waiting a while.
My mother called me in a panic when the iOS 6/iPhone 5 news hit
The New York Times
' pages (literally print pages in her subscription's case):
"Yeah, if you have some time, call me back. I don't know what to do about this iOS 6. Should I download it? I hear the Maps is terrible. How do I download anyway? Do I need to plug it into my computer? My computer doesn't have iTunes. Do I need that? Do I need to plug the phone into the socket while downloading? I think you told me that once. Oy vey! Why do they need to change things. I was just getting used to this!"
In the world of technology, Apple "rushing out" Maps isn't the only signal of the prominence of speed. Faster, newer, better ... that is, faster and newer is always associated with better. For baby boomers such as my mom, though, staying current is the goal, as opposed to conceiving of current as already old.
My mother may be an extreme example. After all, I've always thought given her general level of anxiety she should have been a tax partner or air traffic controller -- working in some "closed" system in which, with enough study and practice, all the facts are known and there is never any introduction of the random or unexpected.
That's definitely not technology, and it never will be. Technology is defined by Moore's Law (named after
co-founder Gordon Moore) that in the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. You can say more generally that this exponential increase allows for the whole faster, newer, better philosophy: if you got it, flaunt it. Then keep flaunting it.
There's a whole wide world of older Americans out there, though, and they are still learning the iPhone. It may be a one-time demographic sales opportunity that is never to be repeated in terms of the psychology underlying it, but for now, Apple's got a big chunk of potential iPhone and iPad buyers with lots of disposable income who may not want to hear, "Hey, that gadget you just bought ... time to change. It's outdated."
You may think I'm joking. I am. And I'm not. I hear my mom say with a hint of panic in a voicemail message, "Oy gut. Something went wrong. iOS 6 just stopped downloading. I've been on the phone with Apple for seven hours." And I know all I need to know about the "hidden" problem that Tim Cook still needs to apologize for. Change for the sake of change (or for the sake of taking more of
market) isn't change everyone jumps up and down to rejoice over.
Forget Maps. It's bigger than that. Apple is well past the days of marketing chiefly to those who have drunk the Kool-Aid of change being intrinsic in defining technological value and assigning their own social status. Apple shouldn't stop what it is doing -- dinosaurs be damned, and after all, the dinosaurs are being seduced into thinking the iPhone is intrinsic to their existence too -- but my mother is still waiting for a text that bears the words, "Sorry. :( We'll do better. :). We know change is never easy." And the inscription from Tim Cook's handset, "Sent from Cupertino."
My mom does know how to check her messages.
-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.
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