You can tell it's August because people are finding the weirdest issues to get worked up about. For example, Apple fans are getting their knickers in a twist about whether a journalist was out of line in asking Steve Jobs about why Apple didn't participate in the "Intel Inside" marketing campaign.
Bob Keefe, technology correspondent for Cox Newspapers, asked that question during the Q&A at Apple's press conference announcing a new line of iMacs last week. From the reaction among Apple fans, you'd think he farted in church.
John Gruber, author of the blog Daring Fireball, said: "Will someone please tell me who asked this question so I can name him jackass of the week?"
MacUser's Dan Moren said the question was so dumb he was was "currently in the process of converting into my iPhone's new ringtone."
CrazyAppleRumorsSite said the question was "mind-numbingly stupid."
Since then, we discovered Keefe's article about the "Intel Inside" campaign, which was the reason for his question.
Sometimes stupid questions are important to ask.
As a consultant, I often find myself asking questions that, on their face, may seem stupid. That's because terminology varies so much in organizations. When I say, "What do you mean by branding?", it's not because I don't know what the word means, it's because I want to know what the client thinks it means.
It all kind of reminds me of Columbo. If you're too young to remember, it was a detective show where a bumbling detective catches the bad guy because everyone generally thinks he's too dim-witted to do his job. Keefe should hang a photo of Columbo in his office after his sticker question.
To the Apple faithful, sure, it was dumb. But a PR event is not for the faithful (that's Macworld), it's for the rest of the world. And to the world at large, it's not a dumb question at all. Why does Apple get a pass when every other PC manufacturer has those awful logos all over their products? And to a reporter doing a story on the Intel Inside program, getting Steve Jobs to comment on it is pure gold. You can bet it made some hearts at Intel skip a beat.
I'll go a step further than Powazek: It wasn't a stupid question at all; actually, it was a smart question. It was also an obvious question, but sometimes obvious questions yield interesting answers. As did, in fact, happen at the press conference. Jobs responded:
"What can I say? We like our own stickers better." (big laugh from the crowd) "Don't get me wrong - we love working with Intel. We're very proud to ship Intel products in Macs, they're screamers. And combined with our operating system, we've really tuned them well together, so we're very proud of that. It's just that everybody knows we're using Intel processors, and so I think putting a lot of stickers on the box is just redundant, and we'd rather tell customers about the product that's inside the box and they know it's got a great Intel processor in it.
Another person, whose voice I can't identify but who is presumably an Apple executive, adds:
"It's not just about 'Intel Inside.' When you buy any off-the-shelf PCs, the boxes are covered with confusing logos and messages and icons. If you open it up, there's stickers to peel off displays and keyboards. They're all over the place. And then you start it up and you find junk laying all over your desktop and in your menus ... trying to upsell you on [additional software]
"We try to give you a great product that you're going to love and you don't have to peel stuff off to make it look better."
And Jobs concludes:
"We put ourselves in the customer's shoes, and say 'What do we want stuck on our product when we take it out of the box, and the answer is - nothing.'"
These things are obvious to Mac fans, but Keefe is not writing for Mac fans. He's not even writing for the technology industry and users (as we do). He's writing for mainstream newspapers.
Macworld suggests Keefe's question was unseemly::
Also, call me old-fashioned, but I am personally of the opinion that after a lengthy presentation, the most appropriate questions to ask of the presenters are ones that clarify information from that presentation. A few reporters asked questions about Apple TV and iPhone, and Jobs was very careful to point out that this was a Mac-related event and that he didn't want to spend time asking questions that weren't about the Mac.
Yes, access to Jobs is limited. So I can see why a reporter like Keefe would use the opportunity to ask Jobs a question and get a quote for a story he was working on. It's not something I think I would've done, because to me it's a selfish act that makes everyone in the room subservient to one writer's deadline and story idea.
I suspect, based on these comments, that Jason Snell, the author of the article, doesn't go to many press conferences. He's absolutely wrong about how press conferences work -- the Q&A is a forum where any reasonable question, on any subject, is appropriate. I once attended a press conference where Oracle announced a new database; reporters dominated the Q&A by grilling Larry Ellison about a squabble he was having with the city of San Jose about the rights to land his private jet at the airport.
What do you think? Did Keefe ask a dumb question? Was it at the wrong place? Are the Mac blogs getting worked up about nothing?