Do you recall the browser wars? Microsoft Explorer vs. Netscape and the cute absurdity of the earliest-known battle for Web supremacy, in the late '90s? That's OK. It's worth forgetting.
How about the platform wars, Mac vs. PC? That one ended only recently, with everyone agreeing not to really give a damn anymore, given how Steve Jobs is dead and Bill Gates is now a kindly, gray-haired philanthropist and their respective companies are now both monoliths of such staggering international ginormity it's no longer any fun to take sides.
How about the megapixel wars? That one's mostly over, too. Did you notice? Probably not; digital photography has been completely adequate for most consumers since about megapixel number three, despite how Canon, Nikon, Panasonic et al kept racing well past 20, not to mention how all the most widely used camera apps, like Hipstamatic and Instagram, are designed specifically to look like they used barely a single megapixel, underwater, with a piece of dirty Kleenex over the lens. Ironic!
It ain't over yet. Right now we're smack in the midst of the smart phone wars, which consists of the iPhone versus, well, everyone else (mostly Samsung). While the iPhone is supposedly still "winning," Samsung's Galaxy is apparently moving up quick, thanks to the cheapness of the Android OS and also because oh my God blah blah blah who cares just shoot me now.
Meanwhile! The Bay Area recently gushed all over the massive, megageek frat party of dreadfully dressed white boys known as Google I/O, an enormous developer's conference in which the Web's most powerful overlord rolled out an awesome slew of upgrades, features and services that blew everyone's mind - that is, if your mind consists of swipe-able interfaces, indefatigable widgets and a hundred nifty applications that send your BFF an exhaustively detailed map of where you like to go for sushi. Neat.
The media coverage of I/O was all kinds of feverish and silly, featuring countless wide-eyed headlines about Google stealing Apple's limelight, or how Apple had better watch its back, or how Siri is now obsolete thanks to Google's new voice commands, on and on, ad nauseam.
Apple will reply shortly. The programmer orgy that is Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) starts June 10, and tickets sold out in less than two minutes ("95 percent faster than Google I/O!"), despite costing at least $1600 each. This is because the WWDC is the senior prom of tech conferences, and the Black & White Ball, and the highest paid prostitute money can buy, all rolled into one. It's where you go once you graduate from making dorky widgets for Google. Ooh, snap.
WWDC is where Apple inspires its army of devoted developers and reveals its own most dazzling upgrades and widgets, mostly centering on iOS, which increasingly runs the Apple universe. Are you ready? Can you sense the WWDC excitement? Yeah, I'm guessing not.
Here's the thing: Somewhere in the midst of all those silly wars, epic battles and amazing OS revelations, somewhere between Steve Jobs quietly revealing the first iPod (in 2001) and Sergey Brin wearing the dorkiest eyeglasses ever built, we quietly passed the point of everyday miracle.
Did you notice? The wow factor of what our consumer tech can do is now so routinely high, so commonplace, we look right past the fact we're no longer heading toward a truly miraculous tech age; we're already there.
Don't just take it from me. Scan, if you dare, any of the geek forums, from Slashdot to Engadget, Technorati to MacRumors, and skim the discussions of Google I/O or WWDC. Behold the furious fights over inane, microscopic OS feature sets, app functionality, just how fast or slow, say, Google Earth renders a live-updating photo of our planet in real time (or whatever).
It's sort of embarrassing. Battles absolutely rage among pale geeks, and even many consumers, over the most inane and miniscule application tics, hang-ups, lack of a certain phenomenal feature in this or that device. It would all be sweet and hilarious, if it wasn't so frequently hateful and nasty.
It's like two naïve snobs fighting over the saltiness of the caviar. It's like arguing over the brand of jet fuel used in the Lear. It's an embarrassment of riches, with both sides attacking each other over whose enormous pile of gold coins is slightly glitterier on a given day, from a given angle, if you're wearing the right slouchy hoodie and never have sex.
Sweetheart, can't you see? It's a goddamn pile of gold coins. No one cares which one's slightly better at drunk texting your ex-girlfriend via slurred voice command in the dark. Check that: far too many still care, and modern culture is the worse for it.
Small anecdote: Jaguar has a new sports car coming out, the F-Type, a ridiculously sexy two-seater that's set to compete with the likes of the Porsche 911 and the Mercedes SLK55 AMG. It's utterly gorgeous. It's getting rave previews. It starts at about 70 grand, goes to 110.
In one of the reviews, amid the usual talk of horsepower and torque, awesome handling and sumptuous, leather-wrapped everything, came the definitive discussion point: Is this car better than the Porsche? Than the Audi TT-RS? Than the BMW Z4? Which one, oh rich and pampered CFO with four other cars and a third home in Italy, is the best?
The reviewer summed it up perfectly: The question is ludicrous. If you're shopping in this category, there are no bad choices. There are no "wrong" $85,000 sports cars. You are in rarified space indeed and if you...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the new Mark Morford's Apothecary iOS app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...
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