Donald MacInnes: Going backwards is the way forward to making a fortune


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The Independent Online

My Apple iPhone cost me, as we say in Scotland, hee-haw. That is not to say that I got the phone in exchange for a mule, but rather that it cost me absolutely nothing. [Point of order: the origin of the phrase "hee-haw" is almost interesting. The story goes that in 14th century feudal Scotland, a farm labourer was determined to get a pay rise from the English landowner. He requested thruppence a month more from the local laird, Sir Henry Oveur-Privelége. The answer came next morning, in the form of a dead donkey dumped on the labourer's doorstep. On the puckered hind-quarters of the ex-beast was daubed that eternal message to the working classes: "No."]

Back to modernity. The cost of an iPhone 5S is around £450, but as discussed, I paid nothing. Although, given O2's monthly tariff, I have ended up paying something in the region of £11,400 for my free phone. This is a great deal of money, clearly, but it slides into sad insignificance next to the cost of Apple's new smartwatch, which tops out at around £13,500 for the top-of-the-range model.

So what do you get for your money? Apple says you can use the wrist-glitter to make touchless payments and receive phone calls. You can also use it to open a (compatible) hotel room, instead of a key card. So, instead of spending 15 minutes hopping from foot to foot as your bladder balloons, while you repeatedly swipe your keycard through a disinterested lock, you can fail to gain entry by using your iWatch. Apple tells us it can also be used to open an internet-connected garage door. Although, how many garage doors have access to the internet is open to question. Mind you, our bathroom door is constantly Skyping a set of French windows in Ohio, so you never know…

Anyway, forgive my oldness, but don't digital watches belong in the 80s; in a world full of Duran Duran cassettes, Mini Metros and rudimentary video games? Apparently not, because aside from digital watches being hot stuff, rudimentary video games are also very much "of today". Indeed, the biggest game just now is Minecraft, which features graphics which make Etch-A-Sketch look like Renoir.

But the success of the game is obviously some sort of reaction among gamers to the astonishingly realistic worlds available in such games as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and the Halo series. After all, once a game offers flawless realism, where else is there to go? The answer, apparently, is backwards.

And that's fine. But it does rather stick in the throat when you find out that the creators of Minecraft sold their controlling shares to Microsoft for $2.5bn. So, rather than standing on the shoulders of giants, Minecraft's programmers climbed down a few levels, made their product look relatively rubbish and became instant thrillionaires.

Hardly fair to those of us who strive for greatness… (sniff).

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