The Pursuit of Appiness

Credit the early swoon, in part, to Apple’s ingenious marketing, which positions the iPad (and the entire holistic Apple experience) not as the self-absorbed hedonistic pleasure that it is, but rather as a rewarding route to self improvement in the service of your job, your profession, your city and your family. It’s a powerful pitch, in no small part because the desire to, say, precision-edit our siblings runs deep in all of us.

Apple’s sexy designs also dovetail nicely with New Yorkers’ vanity. “It’s very thin,” was one of the first things Apple chief Steve Jobs said of the iPad at his keynote address in January.
“Apple devices are sort of quintessentially Manhattanite,” Andrew Essex, the advertising executive and former Details editor, recently told The Observer. “They’re sleek, and self-congratulatory, and highly functional. Philip Johnson would approve. Once the price point comes down, you’ll see more people happily sitting by themselves engaged with iPads, rather than looking like social pariahs. I think it will dramatically change the subway experience. It will become an obligatory commuter accessory.”

The gospel of Apple, like the teachings of, say, yoga, promises to take the disjointed limbs of our personal and professional lives, made stiff from too many pulls in too many different directions, and set them straight again. The restoration of order, we are promised, is a preliminary step that will lead eventually to a substantial increase in power. The arrival of the iPad takes this promise of personal reordering and magnifies it to the entire city. Among other things, the iPad promises to simplify the messy entanglement of advertising and what is now called “content”—the unraveling of which in recent years has left so many members of the New York media tied in knots.

“As a former magazine maker, I always remember the collective groan when we first saw our precious book mucked up with a random assemblage of ads,” Mr. Essex explained. “As someone who now works on ‘the dark side,’ I often hear the groan of marketers who see their precious ads inelegantly inserted like uninvited guests at someone else’s party. Though you’re going to see lots of cool interactive ads (and edit), I predict that the iPad will ultimately end this increasingly artificial pas de deux and allow engaged readers to buck up for ad-free books. Meanwhile, the brands that subsidized all that content will start hosting their own parties.”

In other words—ohhhm—natural orders shall be restored.

ASIDE FROM APPEALING to personal vanity and professional hope, Apple products are remarkably effective at swallowing whole the nuclear family. The decision to buy one Apple device, be it a single iPhone or iPad, can soon lead from conversations about cell phone minutes, to discussion of music libraries, to possible reordering of photo collections, until eventually, the whole family must be gathered for the talk. So kids, we’re converting to Apple.

Currently, the New York–based author and public-radio host Kurt Andersen owns an iPhone, an Apple laptop and an Apple desktop. His wife and two children are also deep into Apple devices. The Andersens are an Apple family. Is an iPad next? “I haven’t pre-ordered one, like some of my friends,” Mr. Andersen told The Observer. “But I’d be surprised if in six months I didn’t own one.”

“Apple is a cult,” he added. “I’ve been a member for years. The Apple stores, as churches in the religion, are pretty effective.”

For weeks now, New Yorkers have been turning up in the Apple stores and attempting to pry loose bits of insider knowledge about the iPad, which will be available on Saturday for those who pre-ordered, from the men and women in turquoise T-shirts. “People have been asking me a lot—‘Have you seen one? Do you have one?’” one Apple store employee told The Observer recently. “Actually, no.”