What is it about Apple that drives people insane? I ask because, though the company is doing quite well, I still regularly read that it’s not just headed for a fall but is already in a nosedive. Despite its profits, its stockpile of cash, and the fact that more people buy iPhones, iPads, and Macs every year, we should be looking for a comically large fork to stick into the company.
Some superficial data points support this story: Steve Jobs is gone. Android is gaining global market share. The iOS 6 Maps app was a fumble. Wall Street analysts have realised that the company’s guidance on next quarter’s financial performance reflects only what it’s reasonably sure it can do — but they now expect the company to shatter those estimates every quarter, which no company can do.
The fact is that a lot of people still don’t understand the appeal of Apple and its products — and, therefore, conclude that the company’s success can’t last.
Features for the Few
One reason for that confusion is that the areas in which Apple excels — build quality, simplicity, and attention to design — aren’t always easily quantifiable. Meanwhile, reviewers look at checklists of features and declare the Samsung Whatever III FX II DS superior because it has a projector.
Seriously, did you even know there are phones on the market now with built-in projectors? That is, inarguably, a feature. But it’s a feature that few people will ever need, and I feel confident that Apple will never include it in an iPhone.
That is because another key part of Apple’s approach to products is that it deliberately creates devices that will appeal to the broadest possible market. However, many people don’t seem to understand that Apple doesn’t chase niche markets. All they know is, someone else in the industry has a phone with a feature that Apple doesn’t include.
The Cult of the ‘Apple Cult’
The other reason Apple seems to make people crazy is because it has such a vociferous following.
So when Joe Pundit writes, “I put the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Universe IV 9 3D 4G LTE Roger Niner into my spreadsheet, and the Samsung came out the winner!”, commenter MacLuvr4Life replies in the comments, “UR AN IDIOT. YOU SHOULD BE RIPPED APART BY ANGRY HAMSTERS.” (Of course, we Apple fans are always moderate in our speech.)
Now Joe Pundit is confused. “How could my evaluation process cause such an irrational response?!” He can’t imagine that his checklist-based system is flawed, so he searches for other answers.
“Since I’m using science, the only explanation for your hatred — and the fact that people keep buying iPhones despite the fact that I tell them other phones have more features — is that you’re tied to some kind of religious belief system centered around Apple. That explains everything!”
And, of course, it explains nothing. When you can’t or don’t want to take the time to figure out why people like the company’s products, you can just trot out the religion argument and call it a day.
This is not to say there aren’t Apple fans who go around the bend. But it’s not reasonable to say that the 30 million or more people buying iPhones every quarter are all part of that same cult.
The Secrecy Strategy
Stock-market and financial analysts have always had a hard time understanding Apple because it doesn’t sell commodity products or chase market share at the cost of everything else. Its modus operandi is: Enter a market, stake out the high end, and scoop up all the profit. As copycats flood the low end, continue to hold the high end by evolving and differentiating products, while looking for new markets.
One key to this approach is to never telegraph your punches; that way, no one knows which market you’ll remake next. Hence Apple’s famous veil of secrecy, which further frustrates analysts.
The bottom line is that the appeal of Apple’s products and its business strategies are both inscrutable, which makes the company a Rorschach test. People see what they want to see, and the idea that Apple’s fortunes are plummeting is more appealing to many than the idea that it might continue to ride high.
John Moltz is the once and future proprietor of Crazy Apple Rumors Site.