Apple is on a rise. The company enjoyed an incredible growth in the past decade, climbing up from being nearly dead to eventually become the rising star of the tech industry that it is today.
For me as an Apple-enthousiast, this is a good thing. The more people who jump on the Apple bandwagon (either by using an iPod, an iPhone or a Mac), the better. I have explained this before in a previous post: more users means more income for Apple, which might spend even greater amounts on R&D than it does today, resulting in even more an better products for us to enjoy.
I think the growth of Apple’s market share is the direct result of more and more people recognizing the benefits of using its products: its extremely easy to use user inteface, its gorgeous software design, but most of all, the way everything is designed to work seamlessly together, from the hardware to the operating system to its core applications to its web services and now even to its companion devices like the iPhone.
There is only one single company in the entire world that offers its computers as completely in-house designed products: both hardware and software are designed by the same people. This is completely the opposite to how all other computer manufacturer’s work. They buy a generic operating system (which in 99% of the cases is Microsoft Windows), and build a PC using generic parts to run this OS. This leaves them very little room to differentiate themselves from each other, which generally comes done to competition purely on price.
For a lot of people, this is not a problem. To them, a computer is a device that shows a button labelled “Start” at the bottom left corner of the screen, and which has an icon in the shape of a blue letter E to represent “the Internet”. Most people are not aware of the meaning of the term operating system, let alone knowing that there are alternatives available to choose from. Therefore, it is no wonder that these people will compare PCs on hardware specs, having various brochures lying side-by-side to determine where they can get the most megahertzes, megabytes and megapixels for the buck. Not that they know what these numbers actually mean, or if or how they actually represent an increase in ease of use or productivity, but its an easy thing to compare bare numbers for anyone who has finished elementary school.
However, there seems to be an increasing number of consumers becoming aware of the fact that there might be an alternative to yet another PC from the local supermarket running Microsoft Windows. Apple is gaining enormous momentum, and I will be the last one to deny that this is in part due to the popularity of its other products, the iPod and the iPhone.
Like I said, I can only welcome those who are switching their computer experience to the Mac. The more souls, the marrier. But there is one thing that really, really annoys me in this regard. There are still far more people out there who have not yet experience the benefits of the Mac in particular and the Apple eco-system in general, and some of these people are quick to declare that Apple users “fell for the hype” to buy “overpriced products”. If there’s one thing that insults me as a Mac user, it is the fact that some people accuse me to have choosen my daily computing experience to make a “fashion statement” !
It is true that Apple has generated an enormous hype around its products. And yes, the company excels in its marketing efforts. However, this still does not mean that its products aren’t far superior to what anyone else in the industry has to offer.
Let’s reverse the “overpriced” sentiment for a second. Yes, Apple products are generally more expensive than those of other PC vendors, however instead of seeing this as “being fooled into buying expensive, over-hyped products”, one could also argue that Apple is in a unique position not having to compete on price alone. As the sole company to offer computers with this unique integrated design of hardware, operating system and application software, it has no need to. And exactly the fact that Apple doesn’t need to try to sqeeze out every possible Dollar of the design process, makes that its products can offer a sense of quality that no-one else can match. Apple doesn’t have to re-think a good design of a latch that closes a laptop just because a competitor made a quality trade-off at this point and offers an inferior, but cheaper design. Other PC vendors do have to take this into account, as after all, price is about the only thing they can offer the consumer as the reason to choose them. In contrast: Apple knows that its customers value good design and excellent engineering over a bargain, and hence it is able to produce its one of kind class of products.
This brings up the question: Why is there only one Apple? Why is there not a single other company in the entire world that designs its own hardware and software to work extremely well together, and offer this as an integrated end product to the customer? I would kill for another company like Apple. More competition would result in even better products, right?
However, reality quickly points me to the facts that it is one lucky combination of owning the right technologies for the last 3 decades, having the brilliant visionary of the company’s CEO and most of all: operating the company based on a proven corporate culture. No other company would be able to develop a new dedicated operating system to run on its own dedicated hardware, at least not within a time frame that makes economical sense. It’s funny to see that in the 70s and early 80s, it was common practice for computer companies to write their own operating systems for their hardware. Only Apple remained doing so in a world that became aquintanced to the model introduced by Microsoft some 25 years ago: get your software from one company, and your hardware from the other.
So there are some pretty rational explanations as to why people love using their Apple products. But this leaves one unanswered issue: What about the pretty fanatical appreciation, or in some cases even worshipping, of the company, its CEO and its products? I think this is easy to explain. As most people know, Apple had a hard time competing with Microsoft and the PC vendors in the late 80s and during the 90s. During this period, most Mac users felt the need to explain more often why they choose to work on such a “strange” machine, instead of using Windows like everyone else. People who feel like being forced to the wall in general respond more explicitly when having to defend their choices. Nowadays, the Mac market share is large enough not needing to be “defensed” anymore, however there is some pro-Apple behaviour that quickly becomes part of most people using Apple products. I think that most of this is largely “tongue in cheek”. I found that most Apple users have a great sense of humor and in general they have the great ability not to take themselves too seriously. There is no place on the Internet where there are so many jokes being made about Apple fanaticism as within the Apple community itself. Examples range from people replying to news posts that “just the announcement of this new update of Apple software makes my machine feel more snappier” to the great comics of the Joy of Tech web site.
So to summarize: Yes, Apple operates a great and successfull marketing machine. No, this does not influence their ability to market the most well crafted products of the industry. Yes, we Mac users do know of the Apple “cult”, and most of us are perfectly able to put ourselves into perspective. No, I do not use Apple products to make a fashion statement, I choose them because I want to enjoy the best computer products I can get.