Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Rational Explanation for Apple's Irrational behavior

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.

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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:

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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:
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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.
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...while shamelessly copying others.
What a lot of people don't seem to understand is that design often determines whether or not a product is adopted wholesale or not. Even if the product is ultimately a piece of crap (ahem: Macbook Air), just the look and feel of it will cause it to fly off shelves. It's that simple. All that Apple has done is take other people's inventions, like the great artists they really are, and designed them in a way such that they have a strong emotional appeal to all their consumers.
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The Apple Fan

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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":
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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:
  1. Why doesn't it have a DVD/Blu-Ray drive?
  2. Why doesn't it have expandable storage?
  3. If iOS is immune to viruses, why do trojans for it exist?
  4. Why can't I install certain iPad Apps from the App store if I'm not in certain countries?
  5. Why can't I install iOS Apps that aren't in the App store?
  6. Why do I need Apple's approval for an App that I wrote to be marketed to on the App store?
  7. Why do I need to jailbreak (i.e. hack) my iOS device to use it for cool after market features?
  8. Why am I paying $500 for 16 gb iPad when Samsung/Asus tablets at 32gb go for the same price?
  9. What is Apple's problem with Flash? (and why is Android following them?)
  10. Why do I have to send back my entire laptop if I just want to change the battery?
I could go on, but I think you see where I'm going. Apple has been very successful at creating what is arguably the most innovative design for technology (not necessarily the most innovative technology) so much so that they have completely revolutionized the market. This creates an emotional connection with consumers that transforms them into fans of another order. Fans for this order will easily forgive these glaring design flaws simply because the product is beautiful to look at. So in addition to the fan boy above, you'll hear Apple fans say:
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Claim: Macbooks last longer than PC laptops

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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.

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Claim: iPhones are the thinnest smartphones on the market

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Fact: That is debatable at best.

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Claim: Macs consistently outperform PCs

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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.
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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.
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Claim: iOS / Mac OS has the best user interface

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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?)
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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.
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Claim: iOS / Mac OS platforms are impervious to viruses

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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.
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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.
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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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■ 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

2 comments:

  1. I was watching the news the other night and saw an Apple fanboy that had FLOWN in from Europe and camped out on the sidewalk just so he could have the latest version of his favorite device. He says he takes a trip to America every time a new Apple release hits the shelf.

    I could help but smirk and think of this blog entry.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've seen windows vista run on a mac before !!!

    ReplyDelete