Why Apple users are happy to be more inept than Microsoft's

Critics of Apple's new Genius Bar ads declare that they make Apple users look "inept and foolish." But isn't that a good thing?

Chris Matyszczyk
4 min read
It's four in the morning, and still he's helpful. These are such nice people. Apple Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The other day, I received a tweet from someone supposedly representing Microsoft.

He told me the company was opening a new store near my local Apple store and please could I recommend some people to go work there.

I tend to steer clear of teenage techies and their superior tics and snorts, so I didn't reply. I had no idea who this man was anyway. It's not as if he'd offered a commission.

However, it did make me wonder about Microsoft's sudden enthusiasm for retail.

Just as Apple's new Genius Bar ads seem to have made many wonder about Apple's sudden enthusiasm for showing its customers as nincompoops who can't operate the simplest -- no, really, the simplest -- programs.

Should you have missed these ads, they show Boy Geniuses being ever helpful, even at 4 a.m. when strange men come knocking on their door asking for, you know, help.

Many seem to have branded these ads as terrible, awful. They have offered that Steve Jobs would never, ever have approved such, such stupidity.

The apogee, perhaps came in a headline from Digital Trends that hissed: "New Apple ads make Mac owners look inept, foolish."

Sometimes it's hard to explain to techies that real people are different from techies.

They're real people, for a start. They don't believe the world revolves around technology. In fact, they use technology because it allows them to get things done and makes them feel a little more sophisticated and sexually attractive.

Yes, like a car. Or one of those fancy bicycles that some Californians like to pay $10,000 for.

The thing about owning a car or a laptop for most real people is that they want it to look good and to work. They don't necessarily (or even at all) want to know how it works. Is there anything duller at a party than a car nerd talking to you about, um, engines? Or a fanboy talking to you about apps?

Real people also want to know that, should their machines break down or be in any way confusing, someone will help them very quickly while, hopefully, using words of few syllables.

So along comes Apple and makes really lovely machines that people instinctively know how to use. Or at least how to switch on. More than that, the company offers real live human beings in their neighborhood who can help them when there's something they don't understand.

Microsoft -- and others -- were rather late to understanding the power of real, live human beings helping other real, live human beings to, you know, get on with their real lives and even experience a little enjoyment along the way.

The enjoyable purpose of these new Apple ads is to tell people that if you migrate from Windows to Mac, your life will be made far, far easier. (It doesn't need to mention Windows. Apple's a little bored with that.)

And if there's something contemporary real human beings want more than anything in the world, it's for their lives to be made easier.

This is a world of sloth and slovenliness, as well as fear and trepidation. How beautiful, then, that someone will take care of this particular mess.

Techie critics have fulminated that some of the programs in these ads are desperately simple to use. For them.

Real people haven't quite caught up yet. They still get confused. They still don't always know which button to push. Just as so many still don't know how to format Microsoft Word.

Oh, loathe them for it, if you must. Feel superior, because it comes natural to you. And, yes, perhaps this will change with new generations. Or perhaps not.

But Apple isn't too worried whether its fanboys love these ads or don't. The company is trying to bring new, real people into the fold, people who have had their struggles with Windows over the years.

It's also trying to remind waverers -- at a time when Samsung and Microsoft threaten to create products that are not only pretty, but conducive to humans -- that Apple has something the others really don't so much: real human beings who can show you how to make pesky anniversary movies.

Oh, it's not terribly cool. But Apple's franchise has broadened enormously since it depended so much on mere coolness.

Perhaps those for whom these ads are sacrilegious lambs should spend a day with the ordinary, the downtrodden, the confused, the depressingly simpleminded.

Yes: a day with those who just want the world to be a less confusing place, so that they can get on with finding a lover, getting a paycheck, and knowing where all their photos are, just in case they want to make an iMovie.