Friday, August 8, 2008

Bring Back "I Am Rich"

Dan Frommer of the Silicon Valley Insider thinks the Apple iPhone "I Am Rich" application that Apple pulled from their store today is "for jerks" because it costs $1,000 and "doesn't do anything" except twinkle.

I disagree entirely.

I think Armin Heinrich, the developer of "I Am Rich", is possibly smarter than just about any other developer on the iPhone platform. Not only has he created the first $1,000 program, he's come up with an app that acts exactly like a Rolex watch or a Gold Card, except in software.

Yes, you got it. "I Am Rich" meets a need that is as old as time: creating attraction by proxy.

Let's compare: Real gems are typically purchased from trusted brands/stores. Real gems feature hefty price tags. Real gems do nothing - except twinkle and assist in attracting mates, which in turn helps us, their owners, propagate the species.

Yes, I know, anthropologists and economists would have us believe that people also buy gems and precious metals in order to make their wealth more portable - but I think people also buy gems for the same reason people buy silver BMW convertibles and Apple iPhones: to show off/try to be more attractive.

Think about it. What need does the iPhone really serve, aside from creating a sense of status? Do we really need all those sleek, cool design components, just to make a call? If it's all about "personal communications" and "productivity-based applications", why isn't there a brown-paper-bag version? Why is the iPhone always on display?

The answer, as everyone knows, is that "cool is attractive" - and being cool is as important to us humans as shiny chrome objects are to bottle cap-collecting magpies.

"I Am Rich" may indeed be crass, and it may be a little too "in your face" for some (or possibly many) iPhone users - but that doesn't mean it deserves to get yanked from Apple's store.

One of the benefits of living in a free society is that you get to choose what kind of jerk you want to be. In revoking this application, Apple has acted more like an old-style communist dictatorship than an innovative, capitalist-led technology company.

Apple should recognize what's going on here and bring back "I Am Rich". It doesn't matter what people think of the app - revoking it wasn't cool, and will just create unfair competition for a space that Mr. Heinrich had targeted well - almost as well as Apple itself.

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