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The Apple Clams Up


...stymied at every turn by the Apple behemoth.


Editor's Note: Relax, it's only money.

Here in the 'Ville we like to keep things smart, but we also love to laugh. All work and no know how it goes. With that in mind we proudly introduce The "Off-Balance Sheet", a place where Minyans can experience humorous takes on the world of finance, personal stories from our Professors and Minyans and all the other stuff that makes life worth living. So take a break from the flickering ticks and dive in.

Minyanville prides itself on bringing you writers and professors who are not just good at what they do but better at who they are. That is why we are pleased to bring you Justin Rohrlich, a veteran of the advertising trenches who knows how to cut through the spin that companies work so hard to hide behind. While Minyanville professors focus on cutting through the nuts and guts of market moving data and events, Justin will be bringing you a slightly different and entertaining perspective on what's really going on in the corporate world.

I was thrown out of the Apple Store today.

It seems a tad unusual that when public tours are being conducted of decommissioned Titan missile silos, getting candid information about Apple's iPhone (a Cisco (CSCO) trademark, which will likely be dealt with once Cisco finishes with Sisqo over royalties from "The Thong Song") is almost as difficult as discerning why Britney Spears divorced an educated, talented dreamboat like Kevin Federline.

I strode confidently into Apple's (AAPL) 5th Avenue retail museum in an outfit I assumed would make me look like I was there to buy a piece of well-designed, overpriced technology: a shirt that covered the majority of my torso, jeans, and black Converse All-Stars.

Making my way through a thicket of Japanese tourists gawping at American innovation, I wedged myself between two Harajuku girls and Shanghaied an appropriately Williamsburg-esque Assistant Manager named Glenn. When he saw me pull my wallet from my pocket, he smiled. When he saw me pull a business card out rather than a credit card, the smile turned as phony as the $40 "Gucci" bag the tourist next to me was holding.

"I'd like to ask you a few questions about the iPhone," I said. "Do you have a moment?"

The look I got made me feel like I had spontaneously gained 500 pounds, grew a Detroit Tigers cap, and had my name legally changed to Michael Moore.

Glenn reached into a desk-the only thing without an agog Japanese tourist staring at it like he was witnessing the Aurora Borealis-and came out with a business card of his own, on the back of which he scrawled the name and number of Amy Barney, the P.R. Director at Apple.

"Call her. She's in Cupertino."

This Glenn character would've been perfectly happy unloading a pack of iPod socks on me, but his lips were zipped on the iPhone. Funnily enough, I thought retailers displayed products, answered questions about them, and sold them. Guess I was wrong.

Since I wasn't going to be taking delivery of my Gulfstream V for a few more days, getting to California in time to interview Apple's big purple dinosaur about the iPhone before the close of business was going to be reasonably difficult. So I changed my angle:

I'd interview customers about the apparently Christ-like Apple iPhone-unconfirmed reports say it will turn water into wine, but because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has blocked the company from developing a peripheral that will convert household herbs into an Amsterdam-quality Northern Lights/Skunk #1 hybrid, this feature will be unavailable in America.

As it turns out, private citizens become de facto Apple employees when they pass through the hallowed revolving doors of the Jobs Shrine and do not have permission to speak freely to other members of their species.

When I approached a savvy-looking consumer with an incredibly trendy hairstyle, (was he human or Apple's next big thing, the iGuy?), three men whom I figured to be former members of the East German Stasi made sure I knew exactly where the exit was.

Before I was offered a Polonium-120 handroll, I left. Rather than waste valuable Playstation 3 time e-mailing questions to the Kremlin of Cupertino for canned responses from their answer bot, I decided to submit the questions to myself, and answer them by myself. This, I realized, would afford me as much, if not more, insight than I'd likely get from the Apple employees who have been terrorized beyond all human comprehension by sweet, cuddly Steve Jobs.

I checked my inbox, opened my e-mail, and, as a good company man, changed into a black turtleneck and Doogie Howser-wash Gap straight-legs. I then pretended I was on a massive stage with a video screen behind me and donned a headset mic, which actually made me look more like a member of Color Me Badd than Steve Jobs. I read my first question, to myself, out loud.

Q: Mr. Jobs, you want 1% of the cellphone market by the end of 2008. Is this a reasonable target?

I let out a sigh and rolled my eyes, so as to demean myself as much as possible for having the audacity to ask something as obvious as this.

A: Thank you for such an insightful question. Our research has identified three people that will continue to use phone products manufactured by Sony Ericsson (SNE)(ERIC), Samsung, or Nokia (NOK). They are: SEC Commissioner William Donaldson, John Sculley, and Michael Eisner. The rest of the world will use the iPhone.

Q: The rest of the world? What about people born without larynxes?

A: There is something we have in the modern world called text messaging. Tonight, while you're listening to your Victrola, send your carrier pigeon to look into it.

Q: I know what text messaging is. But what if someone doesn't have fingers, either? Can you really count on them as a customer?

A: Didn't you ever see "My Left Foot?" The guy was playing piano concertos with his toes. This is a phone. We're not asking anyone to play Strauss. We're talking about typing "LOL" and "CU L8R".

Hmmm. Point taken.

Q: Since Cisco is willing to share the iPhone trademark-which they rightfully own to begin with-why are you insisting on turning it into a battle royale?

A: Because we're Apple.

Q: But-

A: Your haircut makes you look like a horse.

Q: What does that have to do with anything?

A: Nothing. I'm Steve Jobs. I can say and do whatever I want.

Q: Like installing so-called "crippleware"-

A: We prefer the term "FairPlay"…

Q: Alright, like "FairPlay" which forces people to buy Apple products in perpetuity because their files can't be read by other manufacturers' devices?

A: Let me say it again: that haircut is really stupid looking. Last question, Mr. Ed.

Good thing, because I had now had it up to here with Jobs. I mean, uh, me.

Q: Okay, when most consumers are accustomed to getting their phones for free-or for next to nothing-how do you justify an estimated $600 price point for the iPhone?

A: You think lawyers who deal with backdated stock options work for free? To paraphrizzle my nizzle Bigg Snoop Dizzle, I've got my mind on my money and my money on my mind. Rollin' 20 Crips for life. Peace out, homies.

In the end, I was stymied at every turn by the Apple behemoth. And the Rollin' 20 Crips? I always thought Steve Jobs was a Blood.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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