I have just returned from dinner with my engineer friend George.
He was frustrated. He was diluting his viognier with tears.
No, it isn't his personal life. Well, not only. Among the weird yogini, the peculiar myopic (emotionally) UX designer, and the large-boned, wayward-intentioned social worker, he's doing alright. Just.
But his phone isn't.
He decided to buy a Nokia Lumia 920. He had good reasons for this. It's a very good phone. Its additional weight gives it a touch of gravitas. The camera is very nice, especially in the dark (which the yogini especially appreciates).
But it doesn't have Instagram. And for this George weeps.
To be clear, George isn't 14. He doesn't need to use Instagram as his primary means of communication. He has data and action points for that.
Yet somehow he has fallen into the habit, trap, or sinkhole of trying to find intimacy, love, and kinship through strange purple images of wine he has drunk, food he has scoffed, and mountains he has seen in some far distance.
Yet his Windows Phone doesn't let him perform this artistic function. It doesn't have Instagram. This is, unaccountably, driving him insane. Suddenly, he feels as if he's been shortchanged at the Met. It's as if the painting he's just bought might be a fake. Or, worse, a Thomas Kincade.
It used to be that phones were rather attractive things, to be coveted just for themselves. Yet now some of those phones have decided they're not pretty enough. It's got to the point that they're begging the apps for a date.
What could be sadder than a fine, intelligent manufacturer of phones like Nokia bowing to Instagram? The company has created the hashtag #2InstaWithLove in order to encourage Lumia users to pester Instagram with pleas to make a Windows Phone app.
#2InstaWithLove is an app begging an app maker to give Nokia its app. And you thought love came only from 'appenstance?
"It's all about showing Instagram just how passionate the Windows Phone community is," Nokia declared.
But it's like George Clooney begging Kelly Pickler. It's Mark Wahlberg going down on both knees and serenading Snooki.
It's like Bono begging Kim Kardashian for a blessing.
How troubling, vexing and insane it is that those who have spent years creating gadgets that endure and pulsate with innovation should feel bound to beg a bunch of pimply youths who had an idea to make cool(egedly)-looking photos.
How many years of investment, R&D, testing, engineering and design are being prostrated in the face of an app that makes your photos look like something Yoko Ono would have turned up her nose at?
There is something profoundly inverted about the substantial finding itself at the mercy of the superficial. It's like Spearmint Rhino (look it up -- and down) on a Saturday night during CES.
This is Lord Grantham begging Ashley the lap-dancer (whose real name is Melinda).
How can this be happening when the Lumia has had wonderful product placement in "House of Lies"?
Might this not be a lesson to all those who make hardware? Find a way to make wonderful apps too. Don't rely on some egotistical, louche left-coasters to flick their quiff in your direction.
Indeed, rumor has it that Microsoft is getting around to building an Instagram of its own. But why think about this now? Why must Nokia debase itself? Make it part of the phone's original experience instead. Don't rely on idealistic, money-grabbing youths to hold you up in a dark alley.
I want George to be happy. And I want him to be happy with his Windows Phone. Why must it be so hard?