Friday, August 04, 2006

Apple schmapple

The Apple nuts are after me. I said something bad about Apple and they just don't like you to do that.

The independent ran a big Apple feature yesterday asking whether the Apple brand was faltering? It's a fair enough question:

"Computers were just dull, grey boxes until Apple came along. The 'rebel' brand's beautifully designed, brilliantly marketed products became the epitome of plugged-in, wired-up, 21st-century chic. But as the company has prospered, so its devotees have become uneasy. Faulty products, poor service - and worse - the list of grievances is getting longer. Is Steve Jobs' empire losing its cool?"

As part of the feature, I provided my one or two pence worth laying out what I thought about Apple. I've never been a fan of Apple I have to admit and have always found the devotion of Apple fans to the their machines slightly odd, obsessive:

It's just not special anymore, by Gordon MacMillan

In its early days Apple was seen as almost a rebel brand, which appealed to a community of creatives and geeks. And in design terms, Apple was the technology that was made for creative people: journalists, designers, programmers, writers; people who had a less mainstream take on life. The company built up a strong following as a result.

But Apple wasn't just about appearances. The most important thing about Apple was what it wasn't. It wasn't another IBM. It wasn't Microsoft. People saw it was offering something different - something that complemented a less corporate-driven lifestyle.

Of course, personalities were involved. While a cult grew up around Steve Jobs, Bill Gates was seen by Apple's users as an antichrist figure. In their eyes, he was the head of a massive company that wanted to take over the world, that wanted its stuff on every desktop. They always thought Steve Jobs was fighting from the other corner. They thought he was bringing diversity to their desktop, and to their world.

When Apple was driven to the brink, it fought back - first with the iMac, and then with the iPod and iTunes. When the iPod took off, Apple broke away from its core group of users to become something global, a company whose appeal extended far beyond its traditional advocates. Suddenly, the people who were using iPods were not the people you might have associated with the brand say two years beforehand.
But the Apple had been on the way back well before the iPod. The iMac and iBook started the resurgence, because these funky luminous plastic machines were on everyone's desk. They played on what Apple has always played on - this is not just another computer. Its advertising was saying "Think Different", and, with the iMac, genuinely looked different, too. In reality, Apple may not have been that different from any other computer company, but the people who bought its products bought into the idea.

Now there are different categories of Apple users. There are those who have been with Apple all along, and there are those who love their iPods, but who, like me, have never really liked Apple. So the company is in new territory - it has a new audience, which doesn't have the devotion traditional Apple users have. Apple has become ubiquitous, which has changed the brand beyond recognition, and, perhaps that's the real reason some of the shine has come off. It's just not as special as it was."

I should have expected it. I had my first email from an Apple fan as a result this morning:

Dear delusional Apple hater:

Give me a break! It was "struggling Apple." Then, once Apple starting
rocking, it became "Once struggling Apple," and now that they
continue to confound the street with record sales and record profits
and iPods are selling in greater numbers, you come out with this
unsupported-by-the facts bullshit conjecture about Apple losing its

GET OVER IT Gordon, Apple is here, Apple is successful, Apple owns
the downloaded music market, Apple is entrenched, and Apple will
continue getting stronger, despite the crap that's been spewed about
Apple for decades now.

Once at least there was some back-up for the whiny Apple haters. But
now? You're living in fantasy land.

Michael Fremer
senior contributing editor, Stereophile
not an Apple stockholder

And here's another one:

Ms Pierce, Mr MacMillan,

Dear oh dear. You two really aren't much in touch with reality, are you?

You may not like Apple, as indeed you admit Mr MacMillan. You may just be trolling for hits with faux opinions. Either way I hope that your mail boxes are flooded with people like me who will challenge your standpoints.

Even with corks in your eyes, it will be impossible not to see the the massive growth taking place in Apple's customer base. What's more, it's easy to see via any number of online feedback sites that the new Apple customers are just as loyal as the old hands are, and indeed are often even more prepared to enthusiastically promote Apple products.

If the faults you see in Apple products are symptomatic of anything, it is that Apple is producing more radical ideas, better products, better software and generally more life changing ways of doing things than anyone else today.

And of course Apple is set to do even more of this and you can both look forward to having to work a lot harder to convince anyone that your views have any value whatever.

Either way, I shall indeed keep this article on file and I shall enjoy reviewing it in 12 months time. No doubt I will also enjoy reminding you of it too!


Jonathan Tilney


At 11:35 AM, Anonymous the online pixie said...

To be fair Gordon you're being misunderstood by this guy. You were talking about the evolution of the brand rather than the company's profits. The brand itself represents something different now thanks to the ipod's ubiquity.

The products are alright, nothing special in my opinion. It was nice having PCs that looked a bit different but it was still just a bloody computer. It was always the brand that was so significant, at least until the ipod. Now though, this has changed and you've noted it.

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous get with the times said...

I think Apple has embraced the change in varying degrees of success. To make it in the mainstream was alway going to cause problems. For example, they had to break the view that Apple was only for geeks and/or creative types.

They did this very well and didn't initially offend any of their core market.

Of course, when you become truly enormous (with the iPod) the cool crew are pissed cos their brand is too well known.

Its the same as with bands who make it big - suddenly they've sold out. Well actually, no they haven't - you just can't keep up with them and haven't found anything 'cool' to replace your b(r)and.

There's nothing wrong with Apple Gordon, if you don't like them growing into a large company - deal with it because its happening

At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Apple who? said...

With the battle of MAC vs PC, this really was important when designing a few years back, when agencies and printers would only accept files in certain MAC formats. And this is where Apple has lost out big time, with the likes of Adobe & Macrmedia (before the merger) building traditional Mac software specifically for the PC market and make it commercially available.

Now I have all my tools on my laptop rether than having 2/3 machines because different suppliers needed different formats.

We're always going to see die hard Mac fans who sadly think that the iPod will hold their hero's share of the market place.

So good on you Gordon, you only said what everyone was thinking anyway....

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Captain CaveMan said...

The fact is that What Apple once stood for and the reason it developed hard-core fans was because it was the small guy trying to survive in the big jungle. Now apple is as big and as corporate as everyone else.

Apples ambitions are the same as Microsoft, they want their products in everyone’s hands and on everyone’s desks and thanks to the Ipod they could achieve this.

Amazing what one small device can do !!


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