Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Anybody unfortunate enough to be standing near me recently while I'm using my iPad will be aware that I am not a fan of iOS7.  I have not been shy about expressing my vexation about the new look and feel, and my feelings towards its creators, along with my speculations about their activities, inclinations, and parentage.  However, it occurs to me that I have not always been as eloquent as I might about its exact shortcomings.

After all, iOS7 does in fact live up to most of its advertised goals.  Is it not a sleek, modern looking interface?  Well yes, yes it is.  Is it not bold and distinctive?  Sure.  Does it not have a spare elegance, and striking use of colors?  Yes, but all this misses the point.  Ask the wrong questions, and you'll get appropriately pointless answers.

Perhaps an analogy will do a better job expressing my opinion.  Another recent acquisition, an early Christmas present from my wonderful wife, is a Martin guitar.  It's an absolutely gorgeous instrument.  This present follows the theory that even though I don't know how to play, having such a beautiful instrument will make me want to learn to play.  So far, this is an incredibly successful strategy.  I don't want to put it down, even when the steel strings make my fingers hurt so much I can no longer hold it.  The top and bottom are a rich, dark mahogany, with a lovely woodgrain and a gleaming satin finish.  The headplate is East Indian Rosewood, bearing the words "C.F. Martin & Co Est 1833" in ornate gold letters.  The tortoise pickguard and the ebony endpins provide a lovely accent and blend of textures.  The Sitka Spruce struts help contribute to a beautiful smell, which makes holding it an incredible tactile experience.  It's a feast for the eyes, ears, nose and fingers.   
I know my flute is beautiful too, but I'm having a hard time remembering it at the moment.  New toy syndrome.  We'll see.

Now let's imagine that one day, a friendly rep from Martin & Co comes by my house and knocks on my door.

"Hi there!  I'm from Martin, and we're coming by to do some work for on your guitar."
"Um, wow, that's great.  Is there a charge for this?  I didn't schedule an appointment."
"No, it's absolutely free!  It's just part of the superior service that we like to provide to our loyal customers."
"Wow, that's great!  Come on in!  So what are you going to do?  An adjustment, or something?"
"Even better!  We've been working very hard at Martin to come up with a completely new look for your instrument.  We love it, and we think that you will too!"
"Great!  What will it look like now?"
"Well, for starters, we're ditching the whole natural wood grain look.  That's feeling a bit old - we've been doing it since 1833, after all.  We'll start by painting the body solid white."
"That's right.  Very sleek, very modern.  Of course, it's not all white.  We've accented it on the fingerboard and headplate with bright, vibrant colors.  Very edgy, very eye catching."
"You're joking."
"Not at all!  And you'll see that we replaced the font on our logo as well.  Those letters in that loopy font in the golden paint was so last century.  Our logo is now in Helvetica.  Very cool!"
"But I like the old look of my guitar!"
"No, you don't.  We've got top designers that say this look is much better.  It's all sleek and modern."
"Can't I keep the same as it was?  I appreciate your coming all the way out here, but I'd really like to keep things as they are."
"Well, I won't do the work today, if you insist.  But I'll keep coming back.  And pretty soon, none of our replacement guitar strings, or straps, or anything else will work on your guitar unless we make this modification.  Sooner or later, you'll need to upgrade, and then you'll thank us.  Really."
"If Mr. Martin were still alive, he'd be appalled.  He was a huge fan of the natural wood look on guitars, and he had more taste than your whole design department put together."
"Well, that's the issue, isn't it?  He's not around anymore, so we need to do something different, or people won't think we're an innovative guitar maker anymore."
"Even if it's worse?"
"Yeah, even so.  By the way, I see that you have some sheet music for movie music on your bookshelf?"
"Well, we're changing that as well.  We're going to replace your sheet music.  We think it's wasteful to have the title of the music on the top of the page.  After all, you can see what movie it's for on the front cover."
"But wait a minute!  I don't have covers for any of my music!  I won't be able to tell what anything is!"
"No problem, we thought of that.  If you don't have the cover, you just have to label each bit of sheet music as 'my personal music'.  That way, we won't take away the title from the front page!"
"I don't know why you care so much, but if that's your policy, why don't you simply leave the title on the front page whenever I don't have a cover?"
"Our designers didn't like that option.  They really think it's much cooler if everything is sleek and uniform."
"Why can't I have a choice with all this?  I mean, I'm sure that some people like this new sleek, modern look, but it doesn't seem like it would be that much trouble to offer the classic guitar, and then the new guitar look as a separate option.  Isn't that possible?"
"Possible?  Sure, it would be easy.  But it doesn't hold with our philosophy.  We offer you loads of choice.  That choice is 'our way or the highway'.  Lots of people like it, so we must be right."
"But I don't like it."
"Yes, but you're not going to switch to another guitar, are you?"
"Probably not.  I have too much invested in this one."
"Wow!  I'll have to send a note to our business strategists and tell them what a great job we're doing.  Our guitars are so enmeshed in our customers lives, that they don't feel like they can switch, even when they hate what we're doing to them.  Good news for our stockholders.  Have a nice day!"