It's Apple's world, we just click in it

People can't get enough of Apple's aura of cool. But a bit more humility would make the company easier to live with

Well, it finally happened. Digital versions of the Beatles' catalog are finally coming to Apple. It's just not the Apple you're thinking of.

On Dec. 8, you may be able to buy all of the recently released digitally remastered Beatles songs -- along with 13 mini video documentaries -- on an apple-green 16GB USB stick stuck into an apple-shaped container, courtesy of EMI and Apple Corps, the corporate entity started by John/Paul/George/Ringo way back when. The DRM-free tunes will only cost you $280, or roughly $100 more than the same music in a 13-CD boxed set on Amazon. Only 30,000 will be sold, so if you're a BeatleManiac you'd better act now and pre-order yours (operators are standing by).

[ Love Apple or hate 'em, you have to agree with Cringely that the iPod changed everything | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

A clever marketing ploy? You bet. And it works precisely because of the point I alluded to in my first paragraph: When you think of digital music, it's always the second Apple that comes to mind. Remember, Apple Corps has sued Apple Computer several times over the past 30 years on various copyright and trademark issues. This silly little product is clearly Apple Corps' cheeky way of tweaking Steve Jobs and years' worth of "the Beatles are coming to iTunes" rumors.

This is yet another demonstration of the profound influence Apple Inc. has had on our culture, and not just among the geekerati. The news is chock-full of examples. Like:

* Today Apple announced that more than 100,000 apps are available for sale in its iPhone store -- blowing away all of the other mobile platforms combined. Apple has created the App Economy, just as it created the Digital Media Economy with iTunes. Along the way, it's revolutionized our notions of what software is supposed to do and what you can expect to pay for it.

* Microsoft just announced a dog-to-dish makeover for MSN.com's home page, its first full redesign in 10 years. As AllThingsD's Kara Swisher points out, it's "Apple-icious":

The new MSN homepage debuts tonight and you would be completely correct for thinking the recipe Microsoft has cooked up to inform its design ethos -- white, clean and hiply modern-- has definite echoes of a certain longtime tech rival....That would be Apple, of course, with a big dollop of Twitter and Facebook tossed in and finished off with a generous sprinkling of Microsoft's new Bing search service.

* Yesterday, consumer shopping site Retrevo released yet another of its silly surveys, this one about the iPhone. The results? Apple iPhone owners think owning cool gadgets is three times as attractive as having a college degree; roughly the same percentage would consider dumping a potential partner if they had uncool gadgets (like, say, a Windows smartphone); and one out of three iPhoners has actually used their beloved handset to dump said person. The iPhone generation sends more texts, reads more news, watches more video, and, yes, surfs more porn than users of BlackBerrys. They also have higher opinions of themselves.

Like I said, silly. Thing is, in the pre-iPhone epoch, nobody would have thought to survey Nokia or Motorola phone users about their lifestyle choices. It's the notion that owning an iPhone defines you as a type (the way using a Mac defined you as a type) that's key. Call that one the Gadget Ego Economy.

I don't need to go into the Apple Tablet rumors that erupt virtually every week. In fact, just putting the words "Apple Tablet" into this blog post automatically boosts its Google Juice (so expect to see a lot more completely pointless references to that mythical device from here on out).

Apple mania is becoming a cultural obsession, and not necessarily a healthy one. So there's little wonder why Apple is often so arrogant and impossible to deal with, for users and developers alike. The company's obsession with control -- from what users can do with Apple products they've purchased to what bloggers can reveal about the company's future plans -- is legendary. When you're the king, you don't have to worry about the peasants until they're storming the castle walls.

A little more humility would make Apple an easier company to deal with, without damaging their aura of cool. As a wise man once said: In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Is Apple too powerful? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This story, "It's Apple's world, we just click in it," was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

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Robert X. Cringely

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