The ugly politics of fanboy culture

The blue/red political divide is being replicated in the technology world, but among Apple, Google, and Microsoft enclaves

Last week, I wrote about the irony -- and in some cases, hypocrisy -- that 46 percent of IT pros surveyed last month were committed to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 deployments, despite the negative reviews on the widely available Windows 8 beta and lack of real info on Windows Phone 8 at the time. (By the way, InfoWorld now has all the details on Windows Phone 8 security that IT needs to know.) I called them fanboys, in the same way the term is applied to users who want Apple or Google products -- the pot calling the kettle black and all that.

I'm quite familiar with the fanboy slur, as I am often on the receiving end. What's funny is that I'm called an Apple fanboy, Android fanboy, and a Windows fanboy -- OK, most of the time an Apple fanboy. If I write something nice about Windows, I'm a Microsoft fanboy. I'm a Google fanboy if I'm complimentary toward Google. Conversely, if I go negative on Apple, I'm accused of being an Android fanboy or a Microsoft fanboy. If I'm critical of Google, Microsoft, or Research in Motion, I'm accused of being an Apple fanboy -- apparently the common enemy of the other platforms' fanboys. (It doesn't help that my current preferred platforms are Apple's iOS and OS X, though in the past I had different preferences and no doubt will again as technologies change.)

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As a columnist who writes about multiple platforms, I'm used to it. But I'm seeing a deeper phenomenon emerge, especially as the shrillness has risen and the ecosystem war among Apple, Microsoft, and Google has intensified this year, at the same time the afficionados of clearly dying platforms such as the BlackBerry lash out in anger and fear.

There's always been a contingent of trolls and flamers on the Internet, where lack of direct human interaction and a degree of anonymity seem to spur on impolite -- and worse -- behavior. But there's something else going on, similar to what's happening in our political discourse (or lack thereof), where liberals only talk to liberals and conservatives only to conservatives. We're living in separate political realities. Sadly, we now accept the notion of red states and blue states -- political enclaves of self-reinforcement and rabid true believers -- as our political state.

It's becoming clear separate technological states persist, too. Here, people are self-organizing into blue (Microsoft), green (Google), and aluminum (Apple), and they're creating walls around themselves. The Apple Store becomes the equivalent of MSNBC or NPR; the Microsoft Store is Fox News and Bloomberg News. Google Play is the local TV station, a grab bag of prime network shows, syndicated fluff, and happy-talk news.

As a fanboy, you shop in your store or order safely from Amazon.com, where you can essentially ignore other platforms. As a fanboy, you stop listening to the others and find a way to love whatever your vendor delivers.

That's why despite the anger of iPad 3 owners of the iPad 4 announced just seven months later, nearly half plan to buy the new model anyhow. Or why there's no outrage that Apple's new Lightning connectors cost half again to twice the price of the previous Dock ones.

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