Apple doesn’t understand why you use technology

By Elizabeth Lopatto, a reporter who writes about tech, money, and human behavior. She joined The Verge in 2014 as science editor. Previously, she was a reporter at Bloomberg.
I wonder if Apple CEO Tim Cook was surprised by the visceral revulsion many people felt after viewing the newest commercial for Apple’s iPad. In it, a plethora of creative tools are flattened by an industrial press. Watching a piano, which if maintained can last for something like 50 years, squished to advertise a gadget, designed to be obsolete in less than 10, is infuriating. The backlash was immediate.
The message many of us received was this: Apple, a trillion-dollar behemoth, will crush everything beautiful and human, everything that’s a pleasure to look at and touch, and all that will be left is a skinny glass and metal slab. 
Astoundingly, this is meant to sell a product. “Buy the thing that’s destroying everything you love,” says Apple. This is quite a change from the famous “1984” ad, where Apple styled itself as smashing boring conformity. Sure, the new ad is tone-deaf — after all, Apple rose to prominence by aligning itself with creative types. But it also takes an embarrassingly narrow view of technology. Imagine being such a rube that you believe that the only good technology is new technology.
The iPad doesn’t replace those experiences
That view of technology is fundamentally disrespectful. We are surrounded by stuff that’s meant to endure. Technology, in a much broader sense, is innately hopeful. It’s a bright golden thread between our past and our future.
Language is the most basic technology, the one that lets us build everything else. Writing down our thoughts meant we could begin to access lifetimes of experience. The Pythagorean theorem was so significant when it was first discovered that a cult formed around it; I learned it in sixth grade because it was foundational for a lot of things we created later. These foundations — language, math — made possible a chain of events that allowed Apple to exist.
There’s still a place for the technology Apple crushes in its ad. A TV screen is larger and more enjoyable to use than an iPad if you don’t need to be on the move; that’s why most people still own one. A record player allows the secondary joy of trading physical objects, and get-togethers at record stores. The arcade video game exists in places where you gather with other people. 
The iPad doesn’t replace those experiences. At its best, it complements them. I have never met a professional carpenter who uses only a multi-tool to get their job done. But if you’re trying to travel light, that Swiss Army knife is probably better than an entire toolkit.
This ad does highlight a particular Silicon Valley attitude: It scorns the past as outdated
This ad does highlight a particular Silicon Valley attitude: It scorns the past as outdated rather than respecting it as clever. In some sense, these companies have to: they’ve got products to sell. If Apple were to build something as durable as a piano, it would sell a lot fewer computers. In fact, the company has a history of kneecapping its own products in order to sell more of them: it deliberately slowed its older iPhones, for instance. It also has a history of making repairing and maintaining its products difficult.
In this ad, technology is disposable. I flinched when that piano got crushed. But apparently, no one inside the company did — and a lot of people had to sign off on this ad. The emotional valence of crushing is unmistakable; simply reversing the ad, as Reza Sixo Safai did, so that all the creative tools spring from the iPad immediately improves it. After all, the iPad can also be a creative tool, and isn’t that what the commercial was meant to suggest? 
Apple has a habit of suggesting its older devices are obsolete by releasing new versions that change their shells and styling without altering what they do in any meaningful way. The point of this ad is not about the iPad’s creative uses — it’s that it’s skinny. That’s the big selling point: the skinniest ever. Apple was so focused on its exciting new marketing feature that it lost sight of what’s really important: the tools that make the things we love. 
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