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Friday, January 6, 2012

The Cult

My laptop's hinge came undone (again), so two days ago I bought a MacBook Pro. Most people seem to love theirs; I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

My first impression upon walking into the Apple store was of how many salespeople there were. There seemed to be a mildly festive air there, at least compared to most retail stores.

I was helped by a pleasant young man named Romar. I asked him a few questions, undoubtedly betraying my ignorance of Apple computers.  He actually started one of his answers by saying, "Well, since you're new to the ecosystem....."

Ecosystem? That's a somewhat pretentious -- if not entirely inaccurate -- word to describe Apple computers.  It's also an indication of the way the company -- and its employees -- think of themselves as a world apart. (As in, sniff, we don't sell cars, we sell Rolls Royces.)

When I bought the MacBook, I made a point of using Romar, since he was the one who helped me initially.  But it was apparent that they weren't on a commission system; that would evidently have detracted from their communal spirit.

I'm certainly not the first to point out the cult-like nature of the company, but it was the first time I'd experienced it firsthand. It does seem at times as if Apple is roughly halfway from Dell to Scientology.

Apple stock has always attracted its share of near-religious devotion from adherents who seem to just want to own a piece of the magic. And people line up early in the morning for the launch of a new product like the iPad the way the Star Wars geeks used to camp out to get tickets to the opening of a new episode.

Certainly the company had its own cult of personality, as all proper cults should. In retrospect it's almost surprising that unlike, say, Kim Jong Il, Steve Jobs didn't just appoint one of his own children as his successor.

Walter Isaacson's recent book makes Jobs sound like a sociopath. Evidently Saint Steve never invented a thing himself, he just cracked the whip until others did for him. He was extraordinarily harsh with those around him; as a result, a lot of his employees, at least the ones who had extended contact with him, disliked him intensely.

But that seems only appropriate as well. What kid of self-respecting cult would worship a well-adjusted nice guy?

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