But this nerd isn't joining the howls of anguish. When I got my first Mac (from a skip, 1997), I had no idea what was odd or distinct about it other than the fact that you could make it quack like a duck: it was a free, small computer discarded by my university. Needing something more portable later on, I acquired a used laptop and gradually became aware that a) people laughed at Mac users and b) the company was in deep trouble. For a while, I was dumb enough to identify with the corporation, thinking that using an 'alternative' system made me a culture warrior, something more than a consumer. I revelled in being in a minority, sucked up the rumours about the origin of the bitten apple logo (supposedly referring to the poisoned one eaten by poor persecuted Turing, which now seems like a monstrous appropriation by a capitalist corporation).
It wore off. I became conscious of the fact that Apple was then simply a less successful corporate monster, and is now the most successful one in the jungle. I continue to use Macs because they're designed beautifully, in visual, computing and interface terms, but my membership of the Cult of Mac has long been over. I'm hopelessly compromised, as are we all - I know through friends in music, design and other fields that the Mac has transformed Western lives. But I also know that 'Designed in California, Made in China' means that for all its modernist sleekness, the Macintosh, my iPod and everything else Apple - just like whatever machine you're using to read this - is soaked in blood and the sweat of exploited workers. Apple is a capitalist machine, nothing more.
This is the guilty secret in which we're all complicit. While Jobs, Ive, Gates et al. wow us with shiny toys, their real innovation is in the financial sphere: they've all harnessed the legal and political forces of darkness to make billions on the backs of their subcontracted non-employees, customers and states, while hiding the vast majority of their profits from the legitimate demands of government. Apple is a company with 50% profit margins and virtually no employees: like most companies, manufacturing is subcontracted to distant, poorer places with few or no environmental or labour regulations. You might say that the iPad or iPhone are classically postmodernist: the smooth lines and virtual absence of physical presence hides an economy based on globalised exploitation.
As an aside, our lovely Tory government thinks that the way to revive our economy is to ape the world's sweatshops by removing the minimal worker and environmental rights for which we've fought. Witness the egregious Louise Mensch, scion of massive inherited wealth and privilege, who is unlikely to ever require the kind of protection she's happy to abolish for others:
The obituaries for Steve Jobs make much of his famed attention to detail, which frequently slipped into dictatorial, 'asshole' territory. He became a billionaire who refused to join that group of philanthropic rich men who tried to make amends for their distortion of the economy. Apple used lobbyists and lawyers to extract tax concessions while sitting on a cash pile of $50bn and exporting manufacturing jobs to dictatorships: with those profit margins, Apple could have thrived while running factories in the US.
To me, Jobs and Branson are the true products of the 60s: underneath the easygoing grins, the polo-necks, jeans and Converse which convey rejection of stuffed-shirt orthodoxy beat the hearts of cold and ruthless entrepreneur who parlayed the period's fascination with self-improvement into pure self-interest.
Like your Apple. Just don't get sentimental or superior about it.
(For a witty in-joke memorialising Jobs, see this XKCD cartoon and don't miss the roll-over panel).