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Okay, here’s my review of the iPad and it isn’t about the product, but the brand.

If there is a smarter better-run, better-managed brand out there, I don’t know what it is.

Perhaps what I like most about Apple is how they run directly counter to the accepted customer-driven business model. They don’t need no stinking focus groups to tell them what to create. They figured out a long time ago that customers don’t know what they want until someone gives it to them. Which is why there’s never been a focus group in Cupertino with a nervous facilitator dishing out M&M’s and saying, “We sure hope you like this new thing here and if you don’t, what kind of thing should we make?” (God bless companies with vision and boldness. I didn’t know I wanted a flower vase on the dashboard of my car until VW showed me I did.)

Apple is a company aligned from CEO to store level to a single vision of “insanely great,” the very words first used to describe the original Macintosh. This is a company that has been doing fantastic advertising for several decades, one incredible campaign after another. Yes, we’ve all heard about “1984.” But it’s just the tip of the iceberg, my friends. Go through the old awards annuals; Apple is everywhere. In fact, I still remember how I loved reading a copy of the November 1984 issue of Newsweek. Apple bought every ad page of the popular post-election issue, owned the entire thing. (I’m still looking to buy a copy on eBay, haven’t found it yet.)

Perhaps my favorite Apple commercial ever aired in 1996 when Chiat/Day, Lee Clow, and Steven Jobs reunited. The copy from this marvelous TV spot still kills me. And it’s remarkable how true Apple remains to this credo even today, 14 years later. There’s not a jot of difference.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The trouble-makers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do
is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world
are the ones who do.

And then the quiet logo and super:
Apple. Think Different.

On top of being aligned to a common purpose, Apple has incredible visual cohesion vertically, top to bottom. The TV spots have a spare white background, as do the print ads, as does the color of the store I walk into, as well as the box I carry when I walk out.

Furthermore, these people go way beyond creating things that are functionally exceptional. The design ethos of this company is legendary. So much so that people will put up with things the iPad doesn’t have (Flash) just to enjoy all the cool stuff iPad does have. Apple makes everything way better than it has to be. The curved edges on the clean metal backing of the original iPod. It didn’t have to be cut that way. But it was. The little “Orgami” slide show option in iPad’s iPhoto. It didn’t have to be that cool; they coulda just lifted some Powerpoint application and done it on the cheap. Even the damn boxes they sell their products in are made so well I have real trouble throwing them away.

Apple? I bow to thee.

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