In yesterday’s Apple Keynote, Phil Schiller used almost the exact same phrase while talking about the new Retina MacBook Pros (26:40):
For all the things you love to do: Reading your mail, surfing the Web, doing productivity, and even watching movies that you’ve downloaded from iTunes.
And about the iPad (65:15):
The ability to hold the internet in your hands, as you surf the web, do email, and make FaceTime calls.
It gave me pause to think, “If my computers can already do this, why then should I be interested in these new ones?” Surf the web, read email? My computers do this just fine.
Although Macs, iOS devices, and computers in general are capable of many forms of software, people seem resigned to the fact this sort of thing, “surf the web, check email, etc” is what computers are for, and I think people are resigned to this fact because it’s the message companies keep pushing our way.
The way Apple talks about it, it almost seems like it’s your duty, some kind of chore, “Well, I need a computer because I need to do those emails, and surf those websites,” instead of an enabling technology to help you think in clearer or more powerful ways. “You’re supposed to do these menial tasks,” they’re telling me, “and you’re supposed to do it on this computer.”
This would be like seeing a car commercial where the narrator said “With this year’s better fuel economy, you can go to all the places you love, like your office and your favourite restaurants.” I may be being a little pedestrian here, but it seems to me like car commercials are often focussing on new places the car will take you to. “You’re supposed to adventure,” they’re telling me, “and you’re supposed to do it in this car.”
What worries me isn’t Apple’s marketing. Apple is trying to sell computers and it does a very good job at it, with handsome returns. What worries me is people believing “computers are for surfing the web, checking email, writing Word documents” and nothing else. What worries me is computers becoming solely commodities, with software following suit.
How do you do something meaningful with software when the world is content to treat it as they would a jug of milk?