For years, Apple has ruthlessly ridiculed Windows users with its Get a Mac ads - but like many a schoolyard bully, Cupertino can dish it out, but it can't take it.
American comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres apologized to Apple on her eponymous television show for a parody iPhone commercial that ran on Monday in which she gently chided Cupertino's smartphone for, among other things, having a keyboard that was difficult to use.
One representative line of her lampoon: fumbling through an attempt to send a text message in the fake commercial, she mused: "My fingers are so much thicker than I remembered."
But on Tuesday's show, she sat in her trademark easy chair and told her audience: "Today I got in trouble. I did a fake commercial for the iPhone." After showing her audience the troublemaking parody, she said: "I thought it was funny. A bunch of people thought it was funny. Do you know who didn't think it was funny?"
On cue, her audience responded en masse: "Apple!"
"Yeah, the people at Apple didn't think it was so funny," DeGeneres said. "They thought I made it look like it was hard to use." Then she started to grovel. "I just want to say that I'm sorry if I made it look like the iPhone is hard to use. It's not hard to use. I have an iPhone, Portia has an iPhone, I just learned how to text on an iPhone, it's the only phone that I can text on. And I love it."
Attempting to salvage her honor with a snippet of humor, she said: "I love my iPad, I love my iPod, I love IHOP."
Then she returned to full-on self-abasement. "So everybody at Apple - Steve Jobs, Mr. Macintosh - I apologize. I'm sorry. I love the stuff."
This cringe-worthy daytime-TV moment wouldn't even be worth reporting if it weren't yet another indicator that Apple is losing - has lost? - its once-cuddly aura.
As Cupertino has transmogrified from the scrappy underdog of the late 1990s to the consumer-electronics juggernaut of today, it has become increasingly heavy-handed in its dealings with its developers, its staff, and the media.
Examples are legion: the App Store police and their cavalier developer dealings, the iPhone SDK license agreement's draconian secrecy requirements, that same agreement's recent banning of cross-platform coding, Steve Jobs's highly debatable attack on Adobe - the list goes on.
While most of these skirmishes have been under the radar of the mass media, the recent dogfight over the stolen/misplaced/whatever iPhone 4G prototype has brought Apple's secretive self to the attention of the broader public. And whether you believe the blame in that convoluted narrative lies with the engineer who lost the phone, the phone's finder and seller, Gizmodo, Apple, or the Palo Alto police, it's fair to say that the whole sorry story has put Apple under an unflattering media microscope.
As Jon Stewart said in a nearly nine-minute dissection of the story on The Daily Show last week - entitled, by the way, Appholes - "Apple, you guys were the rebels, man, you were the underdogs. People believed in you. But now ... are you becoming The Man?"
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
"It wasn't supposed to be this way," Stewart continued. "Microsoft was supposed to be the evil one. But now you guys are busting down doors in Palo Alto while Commandant Gates is ridding the world of mosquitoes! What the fuck is going on?"
Stewart's analysis of Apple's authoritarian attitude led him to the corner office of One Infinite Loop. "C'mon Steve. Just chill out with the paranoid corporate genius stuff. Don't go Howard Hughes on us. We don't want to picture you holed up in a tower somewhere, peeing in Mason jars while designing a giant wooden touch screen that you'll use once. 'It's the new iSpruce.'"
All fun and games, to be sure - after all, Stewart consistently goes to great pains to remind the world that he is a comedian.
But now Apple has gone after Ellen DeGeneres, a homey housewives' heroine. Can't be good for Apple's image. Apple may be riding high today, but as The Reg has pointed out before, there's more than a little truth in the ancient adage that "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." ®