Like my coastal, urban, and enlightened brothers and sisters, I am a proud and loyal Apple Computer aficionado, and my new-found loyalty lies like so many others in my gradual progression from the iPod > iPhone > iMac as I became more familiar with and passionate for the product line. Just last week, my Windows Vista laptop crashed and burned at the hands of the Vundo Trojan, further cementing my likelihood to continue with the safer, sleeker Apple brand for future computing purchases.
Apple is also a powerhouse in the marketing and business communities, renowned for its original and witty advertising campaigns (some old horses in the business still stake their claim to fame on even perfunctory associations with the famous “1984″ campaign). Graduate classrooms are filled with presentations and case studies extolling the virtues of the company and its savvy business sense. Steve Jobs is a lion, revered to the point that consumers and investors actually fret his every health drama because of how it might impact their beloved brands.
For all it’s praise and accolades, though, sometimes I can’t help but feel that this is one damn incompetently run company. Some examples:
1) Missing the Netbook Craze: Apple will always be dependent upon the business of repeat, affluent customers drawn to the line for its sleek style and positioning as a premium product. Unfortunately, while dabbling in $1500+ manila-folder-sized Macbook Air laptops, the rest of the computer world saw fit to take advantage of improving technology and a weakening economy to unleash dirt-cheap, ultra-small “netbooks” that offered most students and traveling business users all that they ever really needed, Internet access and basic Office-style applications, for less than a third of the MacBook Air’s price. Adding further insult to injury, some netbooks are actually rather stylish and aesthetically pleasing to boot. Apple could have been a leader in the small, user-friendly notebook market, but instead it looked away and missed a golden opportunity.
2) The iPhone App Store: What, you say? The iPhone App Store is what made the iPhone the juggernaut it is, with an application for anything and everything available at the mere flick of a finger. Two billion programs have now been downloaded by users since its inception! Unfortunately, the grim reality of the situation is that 99.999999% (I vouch for that statistic only to four significant figures) of the programs available either as free or paid downloads in the store absolutely suck monkey balls. Finding that perfect app for your needs at any given time can often prove impossible in a sea of iFarts, myriad Twitter interfaces, cheap knock-offs of top console games, and otherwise utter crap. In a world of impulse micropayments and little-to-no quality control — or arbitrary and dubious quality control at best — you are far more likely to find yourselves never using an app again mere days after downloading it. Case in point: I’ve downloaded nearly 50 different programs over the course of the last two years. The total number I still use with any regularity? Four: GroceryIQ, Facebook, TweetDeck, and FML…all accessing content I could have just as easily gotten on the Web anyway. It probably would not have gotten to the multi-billion download plateau with stronger controls, but I wonder if a little more discretion in terms of what makes it out there to the App Store might not have resulted in an even larger, more-engaged revenue base.
3) AT&T Sucks Even Worse Sometimes: Faced with the prospect of unleashing the most popular and successful mobile platform of all time, Apple decided to sign an exclusivity agreement with…the carrier with the shoddiest and most easily overrun broadband network. Shortly after first getting my iPhone, I had to attend a conference in Miami where it seemed as if at least 50% of the attendees also sported the new device. The result? No ability to complete a simple telephone call for days. While vastly improved since, iPhone users still suffer from disastrously slow network speeds (often comparable to 28.8 K modem rates) and only this last week received the capability to send and receive multimedia messages. Whoever negotiated the deal with AT&T in the United States deserves a swift and definitive kick in the keyster.
Much to its credit, Apple Computer knows exactly what its loyal and passionate user base wants and needs and also gets them to come back for more. It also had the foresight to lead a shifting technological tsunami and embrace downloadable music and programs that can be played on mobile devices.
Imagine, though, if the company really had any clue what it was doing: the world of Microsoft domination might already be a thing of the past. Instead, it’s Windows 7 house parties for all!