Fear is directly proportional to the size of the coward.— Xenocrates
|What does a giant like Apple have to fear from two bit competitors?|
Are you frightened by crawling creatures? Does the sudden sight of a scurrying mouse startle you? Does the wayward flight of a random cockroach make you duck? Would the sight of a black spider resting on the wall across the room fill you with terror just after you turn on the light in your bedroom? If so, have you ever asked yourself why? Why would you, a human, the most fearsome animal on the planet be terrified of such tiny crawling creatures? Interestingly, I have found the same behaviour in giants of religion (Christianity fears Atheism) politics (GOP vs. Democrats) and even technology (Apple Inc. vs Samsung et al). Why do giants fear dwarves? This post will explore the psychology of giants. Apple fan boys will not be amused.
Apple: The most valuable company in the world
All hail Apple Inc.—the single most revolutionary technology company the world has ever seen. There has been none like it and there probably will be none like it thereafter (if a thereafter could possibly exist). Apple is one of the single most recognizable brands in the world. No other brand has been as imitated, copied or plagiarized as they are and with good reason.
From the get go in the 1970's, Stephens Wozniak and Jobs had a passion for technology and presentation respectively, that would later evolve to become a billion dollar company. Apple is the very embodiment of the idea that superlative technology is not reserved for superlative minds. Because of Apple Inc., we now have technology that looks and feels exactly like the science fiction of Flash Gordon's universe, except that it is being owned and operated by people who are anything but as dashing or intelligent as the intrepid Flash Gordon ever was.
When Stevens Jobs and Wozniak put their minds together to build the first Apple computer, it was a time when computers were just an expensive hobby for people with incredible IQs. At the time, building computers as a hobby would be today's equivalent of building a Large Hadron Collider in your backyard just for the fun of it, or a time machine in your basement because you were bored. However, Steve Jobs had a brilliant idea: Why not build a computer that everyone could use? Why is it necessary that computers be so complex? Jobs was right.
These two men went on to develop a company that embodied the idea that technology need not reflect the hard, unfriendly edges of the Star Wars universe. Instead, what they developed was technology that looked as slick as the Star Trek universe. Notice I said that they developed, not invented. Even so, while Apple Inc. may not be the inventor of many of the technologies that it popularized, it is still largely revered as the great technology innovator.
Today Apple is the mostly valuable publicly traded company in the world, setting a record 623.5 billion in total stock value as at August 21, surpassing Microsoft's 620 billion stock value in 1999 during the dot com bubble. Even though Microsoft's 1999 share value adjusted for today's market would amount to 820 billion, if you own Apple stock, you are already quite wealthy. Simply put, this makes Apple the biggest technology company in the world, bar none.
So why does Apple fear the likes of Samsung?
Good Artists Copy. Great Artists Steal.
If you've been keeping up with the latest developments in the worldwide technology sector, you'll know that Apple has been on a warpath with several other technology companies. These include Motorola, HTC and most notoriously, Samsung. Why? Well that's what this post is all about. Apple claims that these other companies have copied their flagship product, the iPhone (which is solely responsible for over half of Apple sales). iPhone clones are bountiful.
Android fans, don't be in denial. Apple's claims are 100% accurate, irrespective of the South Korean court ruling (which is not surprising at all since Samsung is a South Korean company). In fact, you should not be surprised that Samsung wins in any Asian court (Apple has lost cases in both China and Japan). Anti-American sentiment runs high outside of America and Samsung for one is not exactly guiltless about shamelessly copying even Apple's store layout.
But that's not my problem. This is my problem:
.That was Steve Jobs in a 1994 interview when the Macintosh computer began to take off. Note the point in the interview where Jobs quotes Picasso as saying that "Good artists copy. Great artists steal". He also goes on to say that Apple has been "shameless" in copying other technologies or stealing them outright and re-engineering them in slick designs. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find a single technology in Apple's repertoire that was actually invented by them. Apple fanboys are probably outraged at that. If so, I invite you to watch this video:
.So there you go, Apple fan boys. About 98% of the technology that Apple has "innovated" were actually invented by other companies. Apple did not invent the mouse. Apple did not invent the GUI interface. Apple did not invent the flat panel monitor or the studio monitor. Apple did not invent the OSX operating system. Apple did not invent the chips, processors or memory in any of their products. Apple didn't invent the iPhone, the iPad, AppleTV and most of their other products. What Apple has done is design them better than anyone else. That is it.
|...while shamelessly copying others.|
The Apple Fan
.In fact, it's because of this emotional appeal why Apple fans exist. As we all know, emotions cloud our ability to reason. That's why some of us can't see beyond the emotional appeal of religion, bad relationships, bad assets and Apple products. The emotional appeal of a well designed product has created a whole new type of religious zealot we call the "Apple fan boy":
.Did you catch all that? Does it sound familiar? Good design can elicit emotions so powerful that it creates cognitive dissonance in even the most intelligent people when faced with an obvious flaw in the design. For example, you will get a sound counterargument (okay, not sound, but aggressive) from Apple fans when they are challenged with the following types of questions:
- Why doesn't it have a DVD/Blu-Ray drive?
- Why doesn't it have expandable storage?
- If iOS is immune to viruses, why do trojans for it exist?
- Why can't I install certain iPad Apps from the App store if I'm not in certain countries?
- Why can't I install iOS Apps that aren't in the App store?
- Why do I need Apple's approval for an App that I wrote to be marketed to on the App store?
- Why do I need to jailbreak (i.e. hack) my iOS device to use it for cool after market features?
- Why am I paying $500 for 16 gb iPad when Samsung/Asus tablets at 32gb go for the same price?
- What is Apple's problem with Flash? (and why is Android following them?)
- Why do I have to send back my entire laptop if I just want to change the battery?
Claim: Macbooks last longer than PC laptops
.Fact: False — Macbooks have the same failure rate as comparable high end laptops that cost half their price. They use the same internal components. Some of the later Macbooks do however carry sturdier unibody shells. However, the new breed of Ultrabooks (like the Asus Zenbook) are comparable to the latest breed of Apple Macbooks in terms of design sturdiness.
. Claim: iPhones are the thinnest smartphones on the market
.Fact: That is debatable at best.
. Claim: Macs consistently outperform PCs
.Fact: False — Macbooks outperform standard level PCs (about 80% of all PCs out there designed for cheap, everyday computing purposes), as would any high end laptop in the same range. The performance of most Macs is identical (but not better) than comparable high end PC laptops (such as gaming rigs). Apple doesn't make mid range devices. Making this comparison is like comparing BMWs and Hondas. BMWs (like Macs) are high end luxury products made for the high end luxury PC market. Buying a Mac is quite an emotional decision.
.Corollary: You can't dual boot an Apple OS on a PC (or Windows on a Mac) to compare them and declare one the winner over another. The Apple OS should be bench marked on an Apple machine, while Windows on a PC. However, if you compare a brand new regular PC to a two year old Mac, the Mac will outperform the regular PC for all the same reasons a 2008 BMW 3-series would still leave a 2013 Honda Civic in the dust of its wake. There's no comparing them.
Claim: iOS / Mac OS has the best user interface
.Fact: Debatable — iOS has the simplest user interface. Simplest ≠ best. With the advent of Android 4.1 Jellybean as well as Windows 7 / 8, we can't even claim that it is the slickest anymore. With that said, there's no real quantitative way to objectively quantify a supposedly "better" user interface. A PC user would be lost in a Mac OS environment, largely because the Mac user interface is so simplistic that it is effectively counter intuitive (no right-click?—really?)
.Furthermore, don't get me started on that dreadful iTunes application. Adding and deleting files that aren't specific to movies or music from an iOS device through iTunes can be a real headache for first time users. There is simply nothing intuitive about how it sequences the necessary tasks for such a simple activity. With that said, the brushed metal finish on all of Apple's user interfaces does add a sense of "polished universe" to their products. But is that really enough? That is a wholly subjective matter and is very specific to quirky, individual taste.
Claim: iOS / Mac OS platforms are impervious to viruses
.Fact: False — No computer software is finitely deterministic. Any software engineer will tell you that it is impossible to foresee all of the possible permutations of input that may be directed at a piece of software. This means that no matter how secure a platform may appear to be (which Apple's is not), someone can write a piece of software to exploit it. In layman's terms, if man can make it, man can break it. So don't be fooled by propaganda—Apple viruses do exist.
.Furthermore, Apple Mac OSX / iOS relative freedom from viruses has more to do with its lack of ubiquity. In layman's terms, Apple OSX / iOS platforms aren't targeted as much as the Windows family of platforms for all the same reasons that you don't need bodyguards while a celebrity like Ellen Page or even the US President would. Popularity increases exposure to risk.
When Bullsh!t and Money speak the same language.It should not be surprising that Apple fans talk this much garbage. After all, if you can convince several million hard working sheeple to drop over $500 on your products every five to six months, it doesn't matter what level of BS you spin to get them to open their wallets. This is part of what Apple is viciously defending: The rabid ferocity of its addicts. Allow me to explain:
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With fans like these...
.With fans like these, making as many BS arguments as those, it is not hard to understand why Apple fights so vigorously to protect its patents on technology it steals from others. But what you may not yet understand is that the fans are only half of the equation. Apple fans are notoriously rabid customers. Every time a new iPad or iPhone launches, there are epic crowds at Apple stores worldwide. In fact, the recently announced iPhone 5 sold out in under an hour.
.When you're a cash cow company like Apple, making money is not exactly difficult. You have an established brand that is guaranteed to make a profit with every new version that comes out. Apple is in such a position that people are guaranteed to upgrade even if they don't need it. At this point, Apple could push out fecal matter encased in two thin panes of glass and call it iPad 4 and people will still upgrade. The rapid snatch up of the inferior iPhone 5 upgrade is proof of the pervasive cognitive dissonance thriving among Apple fans. There's even a meme for that:
.So the real question is this: If Apple is making such a mockery of the pre-sales figures of technology rivals like Samsung, Motorola and HTC, why would it bother to take these two bit competitors to court over such petty claims? Well it all hearkens back to Steve Jobs' quote from Picasso about what good versus great artists do. Whenever Apple stole, it was quite OK.
.The trouble is, Apple is no longer the only great artist out there. Samsung, Motorola and HTC have proven to be artists just as great as Apple ever was. By that I mean they're stealing just as proficiently as Apple had and that really pisses Apple off. Now Samsung, Motorola and HTC are going to have rabid fans. Now you know what they say about honor among thieves, right?
When you do unto others, they will do unto youApparently, it's OK to for Apple to steal from others, but it's not OK to steal from Apple — wait, what? Apple has been on a litigious warpath since the iPhone first debuted. When I was in China, Steve Jobs loaded up a plane with lawyers and headed down to Shenzen to sue the crap out of a manufacturing company that was flooding the Chinese market with its iClones.
.Since then, Apple has turned its sights on all things Android, with Jobs initially promising a "thermonuclear" war on all such devices. Apparently Apple is of the opinion that it and it alone should inhabit the smart phone market with anything that looks even remotely as slick as an iPhone. It took Samsung and others to task over designs as vague as curved edges, eventually winning a decisive victory over Samsung in a US Court in its battles over patents.
.Again, there's no surprise there: Apple is a US company. That effectively throws out any notions about the impartiality of law. Apple will never win a lawsuit in an Asian court. Likewise I don't expect Samsung to win any lawsuit in an American court. So even though Apple does infringe on Samsung's wireless technology, a US court will be biased in favor of Apple.
.But just in case you think that somehow this is new behavior for Apple, or that this behavior is somehow tied to the success of the iPhone, know that they have been suing everyone and everything since time memorial, and virtually all of their lawsuits have been marginally frivolous. Apple has sued a Polish grocery company simply because it's name, combined with Poland's top level domain (.pl), sounds like Apple. (I'm not kidding). Heck, Apple even once sued the State of New York, simply because its Big Apple logo looked vaguely similar to theirs.
.All this litigation has not earned Apple many friends outside of its rabid fanbase. Unlike other technology companies that actually work together to drive technology forward, Apple wants to hoard the entire technology hemisphere for itself, inclusive of hardware and software. Apple is using its litigious buying power to stifle any competition that is even vaguely similar to it just as much as it has stolen technologies from others. This has unwittingly created a side effect for the company's litigations going forward. It's victims are fighting back. Together. En masse.
When victims fight back
.In their bid to start a nuclear war with the rest of the industry, Apple has unwittingly created an unspoken alliance between every other technology company competing in the same mobile market. The courts have taken notice and the effect is creating ripples. After their recent epic loss to Apple, Samsung has made plans to go on the counter offensive if Apple dared to release a mobile device with LTE broadband technology. The smartphone wars have begun.
.Apple lost most of its cases outside of the United States (with the exception of a successful sales ban of Samsung Galaxy tablets in Germany) and has failed to get HTC patents overturned. If you think it can't possibly get any more ridiculous, Chinese manufacturers have released an iPhone 5 clone before the official iPhone 5 launch in the United States, thus threatening to sue Apple for copyright infringement if they dare to sell the iPhone 5 in China.
.Yeah. That actually happened. These litigious battles are only going to get more ridiculous because the patenting system worldwide is effectively broken. Therefore what is going to happen is that every Apple competitor is going to join forces (they already have on the use of the Android platform for their hardware) and use their collective clout to make life miserable for Apple in the smart phone market just as how they did for the Macintosh in the 1990's for the PC market. It has already begun. Note the highlighted area versus the search term below:
.What this means is that Apple was only afraid of its own shadow. It knows what it had done to get where it is (and no, that has nothing to do with innovation). Now that it has gone and thrown rocks in its glass house, it is going to spend an awful lot of time dodging the many deadly shards of glass falling upon it. In fact, if you spend your life using the same chemicals to manage the tiny creatures you are so afraid of, sooner or later, they'll build resistance and become something else. So maybe the opening image for this post should look more like this:
Why Giants Are Afraid
.Apple is its own worst enemy. Getting as big and unwieldly as it has, the company has become drunk on the stench of its own piss, ultimately losing itself in the headiness of its new found power over the people. Like any other giant, the only thing Apple really fears is the size of its own shadow. Proportionately speaking, the higher you climb, the farther you have to fall. The bigger you are, the more devastating that fall will be. When a company gets as big and as high as Apple, the potential destruction from that fall is nothing short of absolutely terrifying.
.That brings us back to the question with which I opened this post. Why do we fear smaller, crawling creatures? You don't fear other humans as much as you fear spiders. We fear tinier creatures because of our size. That's part of the reason why most humans have never seen a giant squid. Fear is directly proportional to the size of the coward. Similarly, because of its sheer gargantuan size, Apple fears the rise of a dozen tiny competitors, using the same platform for all of the same reasons humans flee the oncoming swarm of a billion tiny locusts.
.Samsung may be a much tinier company than Apple, but of all the Android brands, they are the single biggest threat to Apple in terms of sales. Samsung's Galaxy S3 smartphone is set to outdo Apple's iPhone 4 before year's end. That appears to be a direct, unintended result of Apple winning a lawsuit against Samsung. Can you imagine the combined threat of all Android devices versus Apple's iOS platform? Do you think Apple would care that Samsung wantonly copied its designs if it didn't fear the sheer unimaginable terror of its own fall? Apple is afraid.
.Apple's lawsuits are a show of cowardice. It is stomping around at Samsung, Motorola, HTC and a dozen other Asian manufacturers for all the same reasons you would get into a mad stomping frenzy when swarmed by cockroaches. No one will design products like Apple. No one will sell products like Apple (at least, not for now). No one has as rabid a consumer base as Apple. Therefore Apple is merely overreacting to the cockroaches in the market, using the law to stifle what amounts to little more than innocuous threats to its market dominance.
|Remember these guys?|
.In case you forget, Apple was once considered the underdog, the choice of the unsung rebel who dared to give Microsoft the finger. Apple was once the choice of a select elite who prided themselves on owning an overpriced piece of art masquerading as innovative technology. Now look at them: Too big to be made in America and at one point being more liquid than the US Government. That is serious buying potential. That why they can waste so much material in developing the manufacturing process for the unibody of their MacBook line of computers or afford to throw more lawyers at their competition than could be comfortably seated in a 747.
.Then again, maybe I'm being unfair. Remember when Microsoft was the underdog and IBM ruled the world? Remember when Microsoft blew up in 1999 and became "evil"? Remember when Google was the underdog and Altavista ruled the web? Remember how Google blew up in 2006 and became "evil"? Wait, do you see a trend here? Yes, you should—it is so obvious.
.Now that Apple rules the world and Samsung et al are the underdogs, I suppose it's Apple's turn to be evil. For as I mentioned in an older post, every human being is intrinsically evil and Apple is staffed by humans. Maybe Apple is just fulfilling its humanity and I should just shut up. When Samsung replaces Apple in half a decade, they too will become drunk with power and choke on their piss. It will also probably segue nicely into the era when Asians take over the world. For as the old adage goes: "power corrupts while absolute power corrupts absolutely".
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■ Special Thanks to Stewart Panton (Twitter: @Stewpert) and Alex Albert Sim (Twitter: @bertzzie) for contributions to this article.■ E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com