So you've built the best tablet, Apple. Show us why it matters

Has Cupertino been trolling us all along?

Opinion Apple! What the hell were you smoking? How can a market leader worth $2.9 trillion make such a massive marketing mistake as the advert for the latest iPad?

Said iPad is a little bit thinner than the last one, so the advert showed all the creative, lovely things in the world being squashed flat by a giant metal press. Books, pianos, paints – all crushed like scrap cars in a breaker's yard. At the end, 3D animated emoticons are snuffed out, their eyeballs popping out in a shower of smiley juice. It is truly gruesome.

Compare it to Apple's launch ad for the Mac in 1984. It too had heavy metal destruction – only that time it was a young athlete hurling a hammer through a giant glowering Big Brother video screen lecturing a gray, thuggish audience. Liberate yourself from the chains of conformity – a pretty good sell, given the IBM PC of the time had the creative potential of a tax bill.

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The latest ad, 40 years later, seems a cruel, cynical parody. It has already inspired parodies from the competition. 

There are of course lots of theories of how this happened. Apple has completely lost touch with its customers. Apple creates all its advertising in-house instead of using external agencies, and nobody dares criticize bad ideas from above. There are brainworms in the Cupertino water supply. Almost all are plausible, yet there's one more chilling than any other: What if Apple meant it to be that bad?

Simply put, the iPad Pro M4 is the thinnest, fastest, brightest iPad – but the only thing that matters is the iPad part. Most of the market will balk at the four-digits-for-starters price tag. Engineering miracle or no, it won't tablet any better than its far cheaper forebears.

It is not news – not in the real world. Until Apple fits the damn things into Star Trek transporter pads, they won't be news. Unless … something terrible happens. Oops. Is that our latest super-product all over the news? How did that happen? 

We can't exclude the idea that we've been trolled – and successfully. Here we are, after all. Were this to be the case, it would be the worst option of them all – worse even than the Cupertino cerebro-nematodes. It would mean two things: that putting what would have been a supercomputer not so long ago in a portable device is pointless; and that Apple is prepared to further alienate a society already nervous about new technology. The latter is truly dangerous.

This isn't about Apple's core creative customer base being worried about AI – although that's certainly part of the marketing misfire. It's that while people genuinely love the way digital delivers so much so easily – all the shopping, all the content, all the searching – they're also keenly aware that it takes away privacy, security and control. Now here's Apple gleefully demonstrating that all the lovely things are just there to be ground down and smushed up to feed the maw of Big Tech.

Unease is cumulative, especially in uneasy times. You were the brand of liberation, of promise, and you've broken both. Way to poison the well, guys. 

Apple could have sold its iPad the other way around: as the wafer-thin science fiction portal from which all good things come. As the back of the Narnia wardrobe. As the place where you get so much out of almost nothing. Want to make the news? Buy all the ads for 24 hours on a big TV network. On all the TV networks. Make the adverts good enough to watch. It'd be far more expensive a media stunt than having Timbo X-tweet out a single horrible thing just one time, but Apple can afford it. More than it can afford to look like, act like or be an actual force for evil technology. 

An even bolder move would be to demonstrate why something like an M4 iPad has a genuine reason to exist – not just because. High performance computing is the bedrock of much that makes positive, exciting, inspiring news.

Make a Science Edition iPad and send a few to the people who make the astronomical images that pack the wow factor. Send some to those using machine learning to crack whale language. There are people using big, compute intensive models in sport, in music, in medicine – all over the place. They make news, they inspire, and for them an M4-based tablet could well out-tablet all other tablets. Find these people. Help them. Be proud of it. 

In the end, it doesn't much matter whether Apple is out of ideas, is utterly tone deaf, or is so desperate for attention it'll do anything. It's a broken promise that's bad for the brand, for technology in general, and for the future health of the symbiosis between ourselves and our silicon offspring.

Broken promises can scar generations. Just look at nuclear power – still fighting for acceptance just when we need it most. One bad tech advertisement is not the end of the world, any more than one small crack in a reactor pressure vessel. But it is very wise to take notice. ®

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