inessential by Brent Simmons

Bobo and the iPhone

Whenever I see a new product from Apple, I wonder if there will be a Bobo Concept.

Here’s what I mean by bobo:

When I was in middle school, there were certain shirts, jeans, and sneakers you could wear. Lacoste; Levi’s and Lee; Nike, Puma, and Adidas.

Everything else was bobo. Shirts with a fox instead of an alligator? Bobo. Toughskins, Wranglers: bobo. Keds: bobo.

(As in, “Hey Simmons! Nice bobos! [Snicker.] You’re so cooooooool!”)

The iPod is clearly not bobo—but everything else is. Zune: bobo. Those other ones whose names I can’t even think of: bobo. The iPod is the only non-bobo player.

But Macs, on the other hand—well, I don’t think there’s a Bobo Concept for computers. (At least, not yet.)

Will there be a Bobo Concept for phones? Will the iPhone be the only non-bobo phone? (Or one of the very few.)

If so, then Apple is going to dominate. (If not, they may still do very damn well, of course.)

The thing about bobo is you can never predict what will happen. New products can change the rules: sometimes the definition of non-bobo stretches, sometimes it narrows.

For instance, designer jeans came out while I was in middle school—and suddenly we were having real debates over whether to accept Jordache, Calvin Klein, and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans as non-bobo. (Consensus eventually reached was that, due to price, those were non-bobo. But I don’t think we ever settled the issue of Britannia jeans, since they were less expensive. I thought they were bobo, because I was a bobo purist, but opinion was mixed.)

If I were 12 years old—or 17 or 21—I might look at the iPhone and think that every single other phone is bobo. (In fact, right now, this minute, I do think every single other phone is bobo.)

Bobo is a harsh mistress. The thing about bobo is, you’d rather die than own bobos. To own bobos is to be bobo—internally, yourself, voted off the island, not on the bus.