patrickrhone / journal » Blog Archive » Remembering Rodney

patrickrhone / journal » Blog Archive » Remembering Rodney

Voices of Reconciliation | Jeremy Cowart

Voices of Reconciliation | Jeremy Cowart

PEBKAC: The Normals’ View of Apple and the iPhone

This column originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

The last Macworld Expo I attended was in January 2009. This also happened to be the last Macworld Expo Apple attended. While in the Bay Area, I and some friends took advantage of the location and made the short trip to Cupertino, and the Apple Company Store. For those who’ve never been, the Company Store differs from your average Apple retail store in that it offers a variety of Apple-branded items such as clothing, hats, and paper and office products, in addition to the hardware and software you’d expect to see. I left with a black fleece pullover with a silver Apple logo on the left breast (on clearance, no less).

By now you’re wondering why this is at all important, and after all, aren’t I simply bragging? The Apple fleece has become my go-to sweatshirt. It’s comfortable and as we fashionistas all know, black goes with everything. So it’s not uncommon during the two or three days of winter we have here in north Texas to see me sporting the Apple fleece. It’s also a mainstay when I take our oldest son to the rink for hockey.

At a recent practice, a pair of fellow hockey dads were standing by the glass a few feet from me, discussing the iPhone, Apple the company, and Steve Jobs. One of them had obviously recently finished Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs, given some of the material he was regurgitating. This led to more material on Apple as a company, both under Jobs and without him at the helm, and about the iPhone and iPad. As I watched our sons practice and half-listened to their conversation, I was struck yet again at how differently I view the technology world, and specifically Apple and its products, than normal people.

Please understand when I say “normal” people, it is not a term of derision, like, say, muggle. I worked in IT for a decade and a half, nearly ten of those years exclusively on Macs. You wanted to know why Mac OS 8 wasn’t behaving properly once the Finder appeared on screen after boot? Why, you may well have a rogue extension or control panel installed, let’s take a look. What’s this, Mac OS X is actually based on UNIX and there’s now a command line? Oh, goody, something new to learn so we can better exploit the ease with which things can get done and we can get back to our game of Doom 3. Or Modern Warfare 3. Or whatever game’s the latest and greatest. (Because that last part is what normal people think IT people are really doing when we’re not actually working on a computer.)

As I said, I see these sort of things differently, as do many of my friends, including colleagues on this very publication. Normal people don’t buy black Apple fleece sweatshirts. And if they happen to, normal people usually don’t make a special trip out of their way to do so.

What I have noticed about wearing the fleece in the three years I’ve had it, is that fewer and fewer people will ask if I work for Apple. Or used to, if they know what my current occupation is. The why is easy to answer: today, more than ever, Apple is such an important part of people’s daily lives, it’s not an oddity any more. Apple is no longer the alternative-to-Windows company. Apple is now the iPhone company. And it seems every where I look, someone’s using an iPhone.

And interacting with normal people who use iPhones, I’ve quickly learned they use their iPhone much differently than we more-plugged-in techie types do. For instance, they usually only have one Twitter client, the official one from Twitter–if they have a Twitter client at all! <gasps, shock, horror> They don’t spend a lot of time obsessing over the latest and greatest apps, and most of the time what they have installed beyond Apple’s default apps are recommendations from friends. From my own random, completely unscientific observations of the iPhone-using normal masses, the non-Apple app I see in use the most is Facebook.

I realize that a lot of this sounds like common sense, but it’s hard for us techie types to sometimes understand how differently we see the technology world versus normal folks. Those people who just want stuff to work, just want to get stuff done so they can get on with their lives. For us, the tech stuff is our life. Those who can make the transition back and forth easily are the ones who do very well in the IT consulting arena. And normal folks, it’s always great to have someone like that in your corner.