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One Size Fits All, Moron

Apr
15
2004

San Francisco Chronicle critic John King wanders downtown to the new Apple Computer store and comes away unimpressed. The building – skirting building regulations with an audacity that San Francisco planners and urban designers now know to be sadly acceptable – sits squat and silver at the corner of Stockton near Market. Unlike all the beaux arts wonders in the neighborhood, Apple proclaims the virtues of Bauhaus.


To some extent, King’s problems with the store are those of an atheist confronting a cathedral. He fails to understand that, in San Francisco in particular, the Apple store is a place of worship, a place where the initiated go to commune with their hero – Apple Computer and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs – and all his works. They know, as I do, that Jobs had a strong hand in how that store, along with all the others in his neighborhood, looks. Apple’s San Francisco store is a shrine. That’s why the MacAddicts lined up and slept al fresco the night before the store – which looks just like every other Apple store – opened here in San Francisco.
King doesn’t seem to realize it but his difficulty with Apple, the store, could serve as a nice metaphor for the arrogance that tech folk, in general, have toward the world around them. You don’t like it? That’s because you don’t “get it.” It’s not an argument for their cause; it’s just condescension toward an opposing point of view — I’m betting King’s email box is filled with sharp nasty notes from MacAddicts decrying his stupidity and lack of taste for having the nerve to criticize the store’s architecture. It’s effective if you’re an engineer trying to stare down a fool from marketing (engineers think everyone in marketing is a fool) but not so good for long-term alliances. Ask anyone who’s ever written a skeptical story about the Cupertino-computer company.
Apple’s one-color-fits-all-neighborhoods approach to architecture is an example of how tech people see the world: they are, in a phrase, high-handed. Tech gizmos have been their main playing field for years but they’re moving onto politics, now. Like Apple CEO Jobs, many of the people wrap themselves in the banner of do-good Liberal accomplishment, but the end result is often very good for the bottom line. It’s not Apple’s fault that San Francisco’s weak building and zoning codes – not to mention the lousy inspection process that supports them — allowed them to work their way with the new store. Apple’s ROI – it’s smart and disciplined approach to branding all stores the same regardless of site or other needs – would have triumphed regardless. But King has presented us with a good metaphor for the way high tech deals with the world and its one San Francisco politicians and their brethren across the country might want to bear in mind as Silicon Valley once again flexes its financial muscles.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 12:06 PM | Permalink

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