HP and Samsung Dig In: Has the Apple Cool Run Out?
Back in the 1980's in New Jersey I was among a group of impressionable teens who didn't like Bruce Springsteen. Our disdain was a matter of ridiculous principle: if everybody liked The Boss then how good could he be? And everybody--especially everybody in New Jersey--liked Bruce. (Ladies and gentlemen, I call Governor Chris Christie to the stand.) There is a term for this now, not so much in use then: we were haters. The problem with hate, of course, is that it blinds you. Turns out Bruce Springsteen is one hell of an artist. (Just because Van Gogh sells a lot of postcards doesn't mean that's not one crazy beautiful Starry Night.) Ah, teenage wasteland. (We didn't much care for Deadheads either, which distraction made us late to understand how good the Grateful Dead could be.) Anyway I think now of our shallow Bruce condemnation (Talking Heads for us!) when I hear people gang up on Apple, which has been so ubiquitously cool for a decade that its comeuppance was virtually guaranteed. But Apple is complicit, too: it sold cool as much as it sold gadgets. It was clubby and it designated all its users geniuses and it didn't pay so well in China either, for that matter. Yes, for a beautiful moment in Apple time the brand and the tech did a glorious pas de deux. But then, as had to happen, the brand emerged the winner. Gadgets expire--brands live on, goes the thinking. So Apple is now a voracious brand, a lifestyle label, that needs constant fueling. It's a hungry monster only as good as its latest hit. It's no Springsteen.
You know who's more like Bruce? Working class? Hewlett-Packard. Sure there was the Carly Fiorina thing and the nasty boardroom sex stuff--but that's not the engineers. That's not the designers. And it's the engineers and designers who make the technology products that make us happy and productive (or miserable and mindless--only history will tell). HP is really just a product company. HP couldn't sell cool. HP sells things. And what's interesting about HP is that it's making it safe to go Apple-free, if you so choose. Along with Samsung, HP is making Apple-free living a real choice. It's the kind of freedom that actually fits right into the complicated Apple ethos, which is built on freedom of expression--as long as you express yourself within Apple's framework! (That said the Samsung and HP are Chromebooks, so in a sense you trade Apple for Google, which may or may not be more open.) But the latest HP Chromebook 11 is just $279. That bears repeating: $279. And though there's hardly a bounty of storage on board, you get 100GB of space on Google Drive with your purchase. The HP Chromebook 11 has an 11.6-inch screen, weighs just over 2 pounds, packs an excellent keyboard, looks svelte and sharp and powers up on your MicroUSB cellphone charger. And not too often, either: with up to six hours on a charge, it was born to run.
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