The lunacy of Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field”

Fri, Mar 4, 2011

Analysis, Featured, News

Steve Jobs has charisma. He has panache. Hell, he might even be the most interesting guy in the world. Whatever you wanna call it, Jobs has an uncanny ability to pitch a product in a way that makes you think “Man, my funds are running low, but jeez, I gotta pick me up one of those brand new <insert Apple product here>.”

Jobs’ ability to conjure up cash from the wallets of eager consumers has been dubbed the reality distortion field. Naysayers often scoff at the amount of attention devoted to Apple products, claiming that Apple fanboys are merely victims of the RDF, and therefore unable to think rationally. Steve Jobs is a cult leader, they say, and the Mac masses follow him blindly and willingly.

But here’s the thing, the reality distortion field doesn’t exist. Sure, Steve Jobs can pitch a product like no other, but his presentation skills have nothing to do with the millions upon millions of Apple products that are happily purchased by consumers every year.

Writing for CNN Fortune, Seth Weintraub takes Steve Jobs and his reality distortion field to task for bending the truthduring Wednesday’s iPad 2 announcement.

To wit, Weintraub points out that Jobs’ assertion that the iPad 2 is the first dual core tablet to ship in volume is incorrect. The Dell Streak 7, Weintraub writes, has been shipping since January. Well, I guess it depends what Jobs means by “shipping in volume”.

Weintraub also takes umbrage with Jobs’ assertion that the iPad has more than a 90% share of the tablet market.

So Samsung sold 2 million (in the last quarter) in 2010.  Apple sold 14.8 million (in three quarters).  That seems like a pretty fair comparison.

Apple would have needed to sell 3.2 million more to reach 90% of 2010’s tablet market share against just Samsung alone (in triple the time).  That’s not including all of the Android-powered Nooks out there, those cheap $100 Androids you can buy at Walgreens or Amazon and even Windows-powered Tablet PCs (which are mentioned two bullet points above!).  

Fair points, and Jobs is likely using out of date figures with respect to the 90% market share data point.

Next up is Jobs’ blurb about iPad pricing and how 5 of 6 configurations sell for below $730. The Motorola Xoom, meanwhile, is $799. Weintraub subsequently writes that Apple failed to mention that the Xoom has a bigger screen, a superior camera, two stereo speakers, 4G, and a micro-USB/SD Card reader – all features the iPad 2 lacks.

You see, Apple loves to talk about specs when it is in its best interest (speeds and feeds).  There are plenty of specs on size and weight that were repeated over and over:”8.8mm thin”, “1.3 lbs”.  Tech Specs?  Lots: “Retina display has 326PPI”, “1GHz Dual Core Processor”, “64GB of storage”, “Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating”, “Back camera: Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio; still camera with 5x digital zoom”, etc. etc.  But ask them how much RAM the iPad has and they’ll tell you it doesn’t matter.

To this I say – no shit!

Apple, like every other tech company on the planet, flaunts information that makes its products more appealing and consciously ignores talking points that put competing products in a better light. This has nothing to do with a mythical reality distortion field but is rather the reality of Silicon Valley, and to be honest, business in general.

Do you think Motorola is going to talk about the Android ecosystem when hyping up the Xoom? Do you think HP is going to brag about the number of apps they’ll have available when their tablet device drops? Do you expect RIM to brag about the PlayBook’s battery life if it turns out to be subpar?

Of course not. Apple wants to sell iPads and will twist and bend the truth in order to get a pre-determined narrative out into the ether and into the minds of consumers. It’s no different than what every other CEO does, and to be sure, we call them out on it as well.

Not too long ago, Samsung said that they sold 2 million Galaxy tablets. In reality, the 2 million figure referred to units shipped to suppliers, not the actual number of devices purchased by consumers. Moreover, Samsung made no mention of the fact that the Galaxy tablets had a high return rate of ~15%. in December.

Does this mean that Samsung executives are wielding their own reality distortion field?

Of course not.

This alleged RDF of Steve Jobs would mean nothing if Apple’s products ultimately failed to strike a chord with consumers. And besides, it’s not as if every single Apple product is a runaway hit. It’s not as if the RDF makes Apple impervious to criticism and controversy. Remember the iPhone 4 antenna debacle? Apple was getting torn to shreds from all directions and was forced to give consumers free iPhone 4 bumpers. Still, people were snatching up iPhone 4s in record numbers. Was it because of Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, or maybe, just maybe, did it had something to do with the product itself?

It’s laughably ridiculous that corporate selling points are fine when Apple’s competitors do it, but when Apple does it, look out! The hypnotizing reality distortion field is in full-effect and a mass of Apple zombies are already preparing to lay siege to their local Apple Stores now that master Steve Jobs has given the mindless drones the go-ahead.


Did Steve Jobs fudge the truth yesterday? Sure. Is it unusual? No. Do other companies engage in the same behavior? All the damn time.

Call Jobs out if you must, but let’s leave this reality distortion field nonsense at home, shall we? After all, the vast majority of iPhone and iPad owners have never seen a Steve Jobs keynote, aside perhaps, from a snippet they might have seen on the local news.


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Gary Says:

    I see why no one comments on some of these articles. They are full of misinformation.

    Dell streak shipping in volume. (What a joke, they gave away more than they sold and the developers who got free ones don’t use them)

    Xoom has a bigger screen than iPad. (How do you measure. Xoom 10.1×5.7=57.57 Sq Inches. iPad 9.7×7.275=70.57 Sq Inches. Since when is 57 bigger than 70 square inches of screen

    Samsung sold 2 million units. (Samsung admitted that was wrong. Putting 2 million units on store and warehouse shelves does not equal sales, they would never admit how many they actually sold. But they sure got a large percentage of those they did sell return for a refund.)

  2. RayCon Says:

    The Reality Distortion Field is just competitors’ way of explaining/deriding Apple’s product appeal. The term, itself, when analyzed is clearly derogatory but, in essence, it is, as you would say, business as usual for anyone trying to sell their product over the competition. The difference here is simply that the target is Apple.

    I, myself, realize that there are features that are included in competitors’ products that are not part of the iPad. I am particularly frustrated with Apple’s refusal to include an SD port. That being said, I buy Apple products (and will be upgrading my original iPad to the iPad 2) because of iOS and the integration of iOS products with Macs. The Apple “ecosystem,’ for the most part, rocks.

  3. AppleFUD Says:

    This article and its current comments, and many of the comments on the article cited are proof positive that the RDF & the Cult of Jobs/Apple is alive and well.

    Anything Apple & Jobs does and/or says is vehemently defended by this cult! No different than any cult or fundamentalist religion filled with zealots. The lack of criticism from “Apple fans” is the second proof. . . so, go on rationalizing that you all are not part of this RDF/CULT.

  4. User Says:

    I agree with AppleFUD.

    “I, myself, realize that there are features that are included in competitors’ products that are not part of the iPad. I am particularly frustrated with Apple’s refusal to include an SD port. That being said, I buy Apple products” …just another proof of RDF@work.

    In addition, if some other company would have said to its customers (not cultists), if you wanna use our new product you MUST get all or some of our other products because their all interconnected to benefit you. I bet they would say “why should ?!” even when the “benefit you” is actually true.

    That just reeks of vendor lock-in!

    Or the “freedom” for developers to design applications and even base their business on them afterwards introducing them to all kinds of fees, taxes, scrupulous approval process that makes startups bankrupt or costs millions to large companies adding the numerous restrictions and hoops they need to overcome in order to provide THEIR users with appealing and useful products, to help THEIR platform succeed. I think in most scenarios developer’s response would be “F*.. you!”.
    Thats just a complicated way of saying – hey, here’s a free chocolate bar (but we’ll screw you over for it later)
    But, hey its no ordinary company.
    Give it up 4 RDF!

  5. Diflucan Says:

    The only place you’ll find success before work is in the dictionary

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