Is there no larger contingent of armchair corporate CEOs than Apple fanatics? Let’s examine the so-called wealth of opinion out there and see how it measures up.Editorial Notice: All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of osnews.com
Back in 1996, I had the opportunity to travel with a friend to San Francisco, where he was going to visit Stanford and Berkeley as potential grad school locations. I went for two reasons:
- To leave the early-spring bitterness of Toronto for a five day trip to Paradise;
- To make a pilgrimage to Cupertino, headquarters of Apple Computer!
Admittedly, the second goal was the most important. After all, what kind of Mac Geek would I be if I couldn’t claim to have placed my hands on my own Kaaba?
So it was with great wonder and awe that I approached 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino. The headquarters are a ring of six buildings with a central park where well-heeled employees caper and play when they’re not busily manufacturing world-beating computer products.
It wasn’t until I was standing before the receptionist’s desk that I realized my error. In all my excitement and anticipation, I had neglected to plan for this moment. To this day, I kick myself for having been so stupid; I blame it on youth.
Do you have an appointment?’ The receptionist asked.
‘Well, no”, I answered. ‘I’ve come from Toronto to see the corporate headquarters. You don’t offer tours?’
The receptionist looked as if I was the eight millionth person to have come here and asked. Perhaps I was. ‘Do you know someone here?’ She offered, for the eight millionth time.
And that ended it. I was allowed to walk the lobby, take some pictures of the inner sanctum through a plate glass window, and buy some funky trinkets at the company store. It was, when all was said and done, a very dispiriting experience.
I felt let down. Rejected by a company that I had adored, admired, respected.
Well, let’s not make too much of this. I continue to advocate the Mac, and I still respect and admire the company. But these days, it’s for more mature, dare I say, rational reasons.
Apple Computer is a publicly-traded business. The purpose of a business is to generate profit for shareholders. The purpose of a business is not to cater to the needs of a minority of fans.
This distinction appears to be lost among some in the Macintosh community. This is a group of folks who grapple with what they would love to have Apple do, as if they were Apple’s only customer. So without further ado, here is a sample of some recent armchair CEO-ing for your enjoyment… with commentary.
iCheap. This extensive discussion on Macintouch is just one of many places where Mac users seek an inexpensive ‘headless’ Mac. They cite market share as their primary argument for Apple adding a sub-$500 computer to their product line. Surely, they argue, if there were a very inexpensive Mac on the market, all the fence-sitters and secret Windows-haters would finally make the leap. How many forum-posters have uttered those words, ‘I’d go Mac, but they’re too expensive’?
Repeat after me: Apple is a business. Sure, the iCheap might convert a few Windows users, but it would also convert a lot of iMac and eMac users, and Apple needs those margins to stay competitive. Let’s not forget the clone debacle of the mid-nineties. Power Computing, Motorola, Daystar and others made cheap Macs, and they came this close to putting Apple out of business. The last thing they’d do is risk that kind of danger again.
Licencing FairPlay. MacRumors.com recently hosted this well-discussed tidbit about RealNetworks’ offer to licence Apple’s DRM software for its music store. As we have learned, Apple has rejected the offer, preferring instead to stand alone as the only service offering protected AAC files for play on the iPod, and for sale online. Many people decry the decision, pointing out that Real will now likely take on Microsoft’s WMA format. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, goes the logic.
Hogwash. Repeat after me: Apple is a business. To quote a recent story on the subject , Apple is the undisputed king of the music download business. Real’s share of that market is so vanishingly small that it’s not even worth mentioning; Napster is the boogie-man in this story.
And let’s never forget the main point of the music store and the FairPlay format: to sell more iPods. And it’s working: Apple is now selling more iPods than all their Macs combined. Because Apple is a business, their focus on making money rather than playing ego games with other companies means they don’t have to dilute the brand with other services. That’s what Apple has always been about.
Charging for OS Updates. It’s the annual belly-acher’s reunion. Since the introdution of OS X, Apple has released a major yearly update to the OS, and each one has been a solid, clear improvement over the previous version. It started with the original Cheetah release, and went a year later to the free 10.1 release of Puma, which cleared up so many of the initial OS’ growing pains. But with a solid baseline, Apple started improving on the original, with Jaguar and finally Panther, which brought tremendous performance and feature improvements. But the latter two releases cost $129 a pop (and that’s US dollars!).
Repeat after me: Apple is a business. For those who complained that they were forced to pay for these upgrades… grow up. I’ve got Apple’s 2003 Annual Report on my desk here, and on page 32, it says the company spent $14.7 million developing Panther, and $13.3 million developing Jaguar. You can’t just eat that and expect to stay in business.
Most companies can run their business, and the only people who care are Wall Street analysts. For Apple, however, the story is vastly different. As sole guardians of the Macintosh platform, a critical error that puts them out of business means the end of the Mac. So, like a pack of berserking mothers-in-law, we worry and muse aloud about what we would do if we were raising the baby.
Fortunately, this baby is doing just fine, thank you. Having made it through the recession as the only computer company (along with Dell) to turn a profit, Apple chose to innovate instead of insulate. The new OS and the iPod are just the beginning; we should all sit back and enjoy our role as spectators more than critics.
About the author:
Aaron Vegh is a newsletter editor and freelance publisher based near Toronto, Canada. His machines include a Fedora server, Gentoo laptop and his beloved G4.