“It is an easy and a vulgar thing to please the mob, and not a very arduous task to astonish them; but essentially to benefit and to improve them, is a work fraught with difficulty, and teeming with danger.”
— Charles C. Colton
The current firestorm surrounding Apple is one of those classic Internet storms, just like Antennagate. It’s been awhile since we’ve had Apple to kick around, and for some, it feels good again. I believe all the fuss is driven my three factors.
The Bandwagon Effect. Apple is enormously successful. Some people are jealous. For others, it feels good to get back on Apple’s case. It’s like stretching muscles. Cutting Apple down to size is almost an American pastime amongst certain writers. And there’s no doubt that with the advent of Twitter, tech columnists influence each other. No one wants to be left behind, and everyone figures that the affair is a great opportunity to rustle up some readers with a controversial subject. I said bandwagon, but that was being polite. It’s really a lynch mob.
Editorial Arrogance. The hidden, self-serving assumption in the current criticism of Apple is that the company is going to screw up unless it changes its behavior. Apple is in danger. Publishers will flock to the competing tablets. The fear is that Apple will, somehow, piss all its tablet success away and that we’ll have a repeat of the 1990s. The US$100 billion company will somehow fail. Then we won’t have our iPhones.
Apple can take care of itself. We’ve seen how Apple has responded to the Android competition by branching out to Verizon. That was the result of some calm, cool negotiations between Apple’s Tim Cook and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam. Most doubted that Apple could ever pull that off.
Do we now doubt that Apple’s executives cannot intelligently respond to any mass defections and imminent loss of the tablet market due to a publisher revolt? Do we really think that Apple cannot size up the situation and respond in its own best interests? That’s a lot of arrogance.
Self Entitlement. I submit, there is a feeling out there, in the Echo Chamber, that because some publishers are whining that the case against Apple is a lock. It’s not. What’s happening, and we should recognize this because it happens over and over, is that some organization whines, tech columnists pick up on it, and focus on it to create a story.
In reality, most Apple customers are oblivious to all this. Put on your white lab coat, get permission from the mall, and take a clipboard to any Apple retail store. Stand out front and interview Apple customers exiting from the store with their new iPads in hand. Question: “How do you feel about Apple’s onerous new subscription policy?” Answer: “Apple’s what?”
Even the most balanced articles that explain the plight of publishers ignore convenient facts. First, publishers have, by and large, failed to set standards, then create and define their own digital marketplace. So now they want to jump on the Apple bandwagon. Second, no one is forcing publishers to be on the iPad. The iPad, for the first time offers publishers a uniform marketplace with close to 200 million credit cards on file. If they don’t want to play in that market, they’re free to negotiate with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Google. Many have.
Finally, it’s a false assumption that each publisher will have 30 percent of all its revenue grabbed by Apple. Rather, it’s just the iPad/iPhone revenue. If they didn’t build other outlets, if they haven’t figured out how to be successful without the iPad, if the iPad, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is their only hope, then they should be seriously concerned about their business model. If that’s the case, then the iPad alone isn’t going to save them.
End of the Road
Have we come to this? Is there no American publishing company that can stand on its own two feet and thrive? Can publishers, the curators of the greatest ideas mankind has to offer, not figure out how to develop, market and sell digital media on their own? And do they now estimate their only recourse is to grab onto the coattails of Apple?
Of course, once they give up, once they figure they’re lost, then the only alternative is to cling to Apple. And once they do that, then every dime they pay Apple is paid grudgingly.
And that’s what all the whining is about. What you’re witnessing is yesteryear’s business practices and old businesses dying — and blaming Apple because they can’t ride along for next to nothing.