Sunday, May 27, 2007

Randall Stross just doesn't get it: a computer is just a box

I was amused by an article in The New York Times by Randall Stross entitled "Apple's Lesson for Sony's Stores: Just Connect" which convinced me that poor Randall simple doesn't get it. Apple is in a completely separate market space, or alternative universe, if you will. Whatever Apple's "lessons" might be, they have no relevance to the distinctly separate market for Sony's products and those of a myriad of other "PC vendors."

To most of us (normal people), a computer is plain and simply just a box, a commodity, an appliance, actually an information applicance, that does some useful functions, but we have no more desire to form an "emotional bond" with this box than with a blender, stove, or refrigerator. Frankly, most of us reserve "emotional bonds" for more animate objects.

By all means give Apple credit for the cult it has created and the support environment that it offers its cult, but spare us the stupidity of suggesting that these cultish "lessons" should be inflicted on "the rest of us" who have no interest in annointing Steve Jobs as our PC (Personal Cult) leader.

I do fully understand that a minority subset of the American people do gravitate towards cults and cult-like "emotional bonds", and I really do feel that they are entitled to do so, but I don't see any merit to trying to suggest that Sony, et al should try to foist that dysfunctionality on the rest of America.

The article does remind me of a point that really does bug me, namely that if Apple computers are legendary for their "ease of use", why are all of these Geniuses and Genius Bars needed at all? Yeah, this is yet another instance of the legendary reality distortion field.

As far as Sony, they recognize that any damn fool can buy a PC "box" at the nearest mall or Wal*Mart or on the Web, so they are simply using their stores as another form of promotion, and even if somebody doesn't walk into the store, at least the "Sony" brand is implanted in their mind for the next time they are thinking about what brand of PC "box" to buy.

By all means, computers should deliver value to their users, but value should be measured by function and satisfaction with results relative to costs rather than by measuring the strength of "emotional bonds." Yeah, I am quite familiar with the desire of retailers to rise above the commodity and "value" aspects of their products and who see "emotional bonds" as a tool, but I'm an advocate for the interests of consumers, not for retailers who might seek to distort the interests of consumers.

-- Jack Krupansky

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