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Semiotic and Strategic Misspeaking: Tim Cook and Cars that Fly and Float



Color me confused. Apple made its big announcements this week. And they were big. Apple’s entire product line (except for the desktop Mac Pro) has now been updated in the last month or so. That fact alone is impressive. Lots of focus obviously was on the iPad mini. (note the small ‘m’). I had sorta kinda chalked things up to Apple doing what it was going to do. The vaunted iPad line with a new smaller version was going to continue its juggernaut like roll through the computing industry while the other players took the field this fall with stronger entrants. But then the Apple earnings call happened yesterday.

flying-carNo, this isn’t about units sold/not sold or beating/not beating expectations. That game is one that I find as farcical as presidential elections these days. This is about Tim Cook’s statement regarding Microsoft entering the fray with Windows 8 and Windows RT. Cook, dismissively tossed out a line saying “I suppose you could design a car that flies and floats. But I don’t think it would do all of those things very well.” James Bond and Batman fans notwithstanding, I think Tim Cook misspoke in ways that make our current day politicians look like rhetorical giants and careful orators.

Call me crazy, but I think the primary reason Apple’s iPad has been so successful is that it is a car that flies and floats. Remember when the iPad was introduced. The technorati all said Apple had to show us a use case for this device. Then it was just a consumption device. Then it became a consumption and creation device. Then it became a consumption, creation, enterprise device. Then it became a consumption, creation, enterprise, education device. Bluetooth keyboards, styli, and other accessories popped up quicker than Christmas decorations in shopping malls. And low and behold, the iPad, while defined as a post-PC device, became a replacement for the PC in many categories.  What the iPad proved was that a large percentage of the world didn’t need PCs the way we thought of them previously. Instead many could get along just fine using this new car that flies and floats for most of its computing tasks. And besides they were new, sexy, and made us all feel closer to the world of the future.

I know what Cook was aiming for, but I think he missed, and missed big with his comments. Certainly the fan boys will disagree, but I think Cook disparaged one of products main strengths as he was attacking the competition. Dissing the competition is fair game, just don’t shoot yourself in the semiotic foot when you do so.

Will this matter? No. Not a bit. But in my view, Cook and his team, might need to think twice in the future before they script their lines for public consumption.  Words do matter. And Cook’s car that flies and float line will be remembered for quite some time. I love using my car that flies and floats called the iPad. I love the way I can sometimes drive, sometimes fly, and sometimes float.

If only it could be used as a skateboard.




  1. mikecane

    10/26/2012 at 6:48 am

    *snort* The first car I fell in love with could float, fly, hover, and dive under the water!

    Cook should have left it as the mini being another expression of the iPad motif. He could have scored points that way.

  2. Gary

    10/26/2012 at 7:14 am

    Love the image, as a 2nd gen Miata driver, I can attest it’s one of the few modern cars light enough to fly (~2200lbs).

  3. use_common_sense

    10/28/2012 at 11:03 pm

    meh… nothing to see here.

    • use_common_sense

      10/28/2012 at 11:04 pm

      btw i meant Tim’s comments not your article! :)

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