Apple is a very visible and successful company. As a result, everyone who pays an attention to the company has an opinion about Apple. Emotional opinions. And basking in the glory of Apple with seething opinions is the Thing To Do. However, that doesn't relate to Apple's goals or insights into the company very well.
Apple, Inc. just reported earnings (profits) of over US$13 billion dollars. Not revenue, profits. (The revenue was $54.5 billion in roughly 13 weeks.) Apple is doing something right, and CEO Cook told his employees exactly that in a town hall meeting recently. And yet, the Internet has provided ample opportunity for critics to express their dissatisfaction with Apple. In some instances, the reaction is to despise Apple. Why is that so?
1. Apple is Impossible to Manipulate
When a CEO is insecure and his company is faltering, he/she may come to doubt his/her judgment. When criticism is thrown at him/her, the CEO may make a mistake, say something stupid. Apple executives, on the other hand, are technically competent and don't suffer much in the way of insecurities. So they go confidently on their way, developing great products they know their customers will love. And the customers do love them, according to the chart above.
Along the way, people not too deep in the practical realities of running the largest consumer electronics company on the planet want to throw their weight around, perhaps even bask in the glow of the company they criticize. So whether its a bitch about inadequate dividend payments, that Apple's products aren't green enough, or some agitation about the plight of Chinese workers, if Apple doesn't handle that problem in a fashion that suits them individually, they get angry.
Because Apple knows what it wants and where it's going, it can appear arrogant and insulated from those who try to influence the company in a kind of twisted love/hate relationship.
The more individuals try to manipulate Apple, for their own ends (or opinions), and the more they fail, the madder they get. In the social media era, that fuming gets vented. Big Time.
2. Apple Knows its Customers, Ignores Critics
Perhaps no company knows more about how its customers use its products than Apple via the built-in reporting mechanism. This is why Apple can judiciously drop some features, knowing that they can move forward confidently. Again, however, there are always a vocal few who are upset with changes Apple makes.
In the news and on the minds of people lately is Snow Leopard. This has many facets. As Jonny Evans points out, Apple builds great hardware and Macs have a long life. "This must be a huge problem for Apple's executive team: how do they encourage users to upgrade their kit more often without sacrificing their reputation for delivering high quality machines?" The solution is not to look backwards.
Next, there is a mindset that tends to focus on what's perceived as a personal best product. That's Snow Leopard for many because it was the apogee of the perfect UNIX OS with a great GUI. After Snow Leopard, the best elements of iOS and mobility thinking started to seep into OS X, elements that some users don't need or like. As a result, there is a kind of emotional (and in some cases, technical) attachment to Snow Leopard as a personal OS. But look at this chart referenced at The Mac Observer, based on a Computerworld story. (Mr. Evans did as well.)
One can look at this chart two ways. First, there's a whopping 30 percent of Apple's customers till using Snow Leopard. Those customers want Apple to protect and cater to them, much as Microsoft customers clung to Windows XP for so long (and still do.) The other way to look at the chart is to look at Mountain Lion (in purple) and conclude that ML is on the rise and SL is dying. For a company that moves relentlessly forward, there's only one course of action: continue moving forward. Look at the chart again. If you were Tim Cook, how would it affect your decisions?
Moving forward relentlessly brings about serendipity. If Apple hadn't made the technical decisions it did after Steve Jobs returned in the late 1990s, the company would still be a boutique UNIX computer company. Instead, all those agressive decisions we saw at WWDC each year that took our breath away eventually laid the groundwork for iOS, the iPhone and iPad -- now generating most of Apple's enormous revenues.
There's no looking back. Change or die. Get on board with Apple and enjoy the relentless drive into the future. But some people can't take it and hate Apple for not catering to them.
3. Apple Closes its Systems
There are technical users who have found a platform for themselves, perhaps a popular blog. They know their computer technology, and they want flexible, expandable, tinkerable systems. However, Apple knows that 99 percent of their customers just want to get on with their lives and their work. A Mac or iPad is a modern appliance, not a '81 Chevy that needs its spark plugs and oil filter changed every 10,000 miles.
A a result, Apple designs its Macs and iDevices for maximum ease of manufacture, minimum fuss, awesome appearance, best utility to the customer, and goodly profits. The OSes are designed for maximum ease of use and personal security, not fiddle factor. Tinkerers hate this, but they want the quality and sex appeal of Apple products. So they grouse when Apple doesn't give them low prices, high quality and maximum tinkerability. But those people are not Apple's customers. The tinkerers complain anyway and threaten to go over to Linux or Android.
Related to that is the desire for Apple to steadfastly hold on to the purity of the concept of the desktop and notebook. I admit, I am as eager as many to have an awesome Mac Pro. That's because I'm one of those Steve Jobs labelled truck drivers. I like fast, awesome desktops. (And my iPad mini too.)
Apple however, follows the money and the future. Look at this chart showing the relative sales of Macs (blue) and iPads (yellow).
It's far more likely that Apple, through technology development and serendipity, will let the tablet evolve rather than fixate on the classic Mac for business or tech geeks. That may mean that the iPad will evolve in fast, unexpected ways that will delight most customers but piss off the curmudgeons. It's another fun thing to hate Apple for.
4. Apple is All About the User Experience, Not Specs
Apple focuses on the exploitation of technology to make life better for its customers. It specializes in hardware/software integration for the best User Experience (UX). That means that if a particular hardware technology is immature, the User Experience -- in software -- will suffer. That's why Apple isn't always at the bleeding edge of every technology.
A good example is LTE and NFC. Samsung and others have made a big deal about these technologies in their advertising because they know they can gain some traction (against a giant competitor) by making it look like they're a technical leader -- and Apple is being a doofus. Never mind the fact that over a year ago, when Apple was planning the silicon, these technologies weren't ready for or anticipated to be ready for prime time.
Pundits who fall for that clever advertising strategy by Apple's competitors simply want to be able to brag about having something geek-cool. If Apple can't deliver the technology, even in an ill-formed state, then they ridicule Apple for not being the leader in tech. Why? It's the geek way. Being supercilious and seemingly well informed gives one self-esteem. And something to write about for bucks.
Don't fall for it.
These are the significant reasons why people love to hate Apple. It's a very emotional, self-satisfying thing to do that perhaps garners some attention, pays the bills, and makes one look learned. None of that has anything to do with understanding Apple.
Tech News Debris -- next week
I've used up all my space for this preamble, so the normal technical news debris will have to wait until next week.
Angry guy via Shutterstock.