The Tao of Steve

The real reason we keep buying Apple products.

The column you’re reading right now was typed on an Apple PowerBook G4 whose fan is only slightly quieter than a Formula One racing car and which crashes in an equally spectacular yet horrifying manner. My previous Apple laptop began falling apart week one, when a flimsy plastic key on the flimsy plastic keyboard abandoned its tenuous hold and took a suicidal leap onto the nether regions of its owner’s desk. Other keys, perhaps despairing of their own mediocrity, eventually followed suit.


That keyless laptop sits next to a drawer I informally refer to as the iPod graveyard. Some of them were shipped back to their creator, where they were rescued from near death only to meet their demise weeks later, victims of what I presume to be the digital equivalent of internal bleeding.

And yet I keep buying Apple products. I could blame myself for continuing this sort of irrational behavior, which is particularly irresponsible when you consider that a computer is a professional necessity. I need it to do important things such as adding an aquarium with little pixelated fish to my Facebook profile and sending fake David Hasselhoff sightings to But I don’t blame myself, because that would be unpleasant. So I blame Steve Jobs, who has seduced me into buying his sleek machines, even if their delicate organs seem to fail with alarming regularity, like the beautiful consumptive heroines in Victorian novels.

Steve–we’ll call him Steve because he seems like a first-name-basis kind of guy–is the human incarnation of the average Apple product: He’s good-looking, he overpromises, and he’s notoriously temperamental. He evokes the feel-good indie populism synonymous with the company’s brand and manages to retain a solid reputation as a creative person while managing a $118 billion business. He wears casual black shirts, has talked openly about the benefits of his experiences with LSD, and takes an annual salary of $1 a year, all of which would seem to say, I am a man of the people, a spiritual sort of person who would drop out of my small liberal arts college to backpack across India…which I actually did, by the way. The image is, of course, a facade. The dollar-a-year salaryman has been rewarded with at least one corporate jet.

If people are known by their enemies, Steve can be usefully contrasted with his professional nemesis in Redmond, Bill Gates, who, while similar on paper, has not managed to successfully market or package himself as a creative visionary. Both Microsoft and Apple mass-produce for a global market and both tend to view shipping the way Al Capone viewed voting–it should be done early and often–buggyness and an imminent product update notwithstanding.

But we forgive Steve in a way that we won’t Mr. Gates. (We’ll call him Mr. Gates because he seems like a Mr. Gates kind of guy.) We do this because outward appearances are important to us, and the products are a reflection of how we think of ourselves. Apple products are stylish and innovative. (We’re stylish and innovative!) We love Steve for the same reason. He’s creative and he seems appealingly antiestablishment. (We’re creative and antiestablishment!)

In fact, I can envision Apple’s next big product now. Available in white (which always reminds Steve of one of his favorite Beatles albums!), it will wow us with something like projected 3-D holograms. Sure, it overheats so extensively that users can kiss their fertility good-bye. And yeah, there’s a security hole that drains bank accounts to offshore locales. But didn’t Steve look so cool when he demoed it?


Elizabeth Spiers was the founding editor of both and Her first novel, And They All Die in the End, will be published by Riverhead.