If Apple Gets Bigger Than Microsoft, Will Fans Still Forgive Any Villainy?

The Apple iPad

It looks as though Apple’s market cap is soon going to exceed that of it nemesis, Microsoft.

Unless you are some sort of programming geek, or one of those ardent fanboys which Apple seems to inspire, this is no doubt meaningless.

So let me paint a simple picture:

In 2003, Apple was worth just $10 billion – while Microsoft was worth $400 billion. At the moment, Apple is worth $204 billion and rising in value, while Microsoft is worth $250 billion and is on a slide.

Tech sector watchers are eagerly predicting when they will pass each other.

But it’s not just the tech sector willing this to happen, is it? Here’s a quote from slaphead, bovine-meister and all round new media and marketing guru, Seth Godin:

Over 25 years, Apple has earned the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to their tribe. They can get the word out about a new product without a lot of money because one by one, they’ve signed people up. They didn’t sell 300,000 iPads in one day, they sold them over a few decades.

The past seven years have been defined by Macs being portrayed as sleek and elegant and used by all the cool design people.  Over the same period it became de rigeur  to hate the great MicroSatan and to cheer when Bill Gates was eclipsed as the world’s richest man by the bland Swedish fella who created Ikea.

It actually became terminally square to use a PC – not least because of those online ads which  used an accident-prone,  fat bloke in a tweed jacket who looked even Geekier than Bill Gates to represent PC users – and a T-short sporting, chilled-out dude to represent Apple users.

Three years ago I watched in awe the launch of the iPhone. I hankered for one without fully realising we were witnessing the birth of touch computing, apps and augmented reality. Like the iPod before, it was genuinely a game changer.

Strangely, the biggest Apple fanboy I knew back then now uses a BlackBerry. Various other enthusiasts who’ve advocated the iPhone for the past year now seem to be shifting to Android based touch screen phones.

Sure, Apple have captured the imagination again with the iPad launch – as referenced in the Godin quote above.

However, the basic functionality deliberately omitted from the iPad raises some questions about Apple’s intention to shamelessly milk those diehard fans for all they are worth. Other questions are being asked about the true depth of Apple’s commitment to the device.

It also seems Apple can do no wrong when it comes to the firm’s secretive attitude – or its unrelenting commitment to a ‘walled garden’ approach to third party developers, despite this being the era of open source and API.

Now there is the rise of iAd – a statement of intent that Apple intends to shoehorn advertising into the online experience of its customers.  Presumably those same customers who have spent the past decade using technology to, er, filter out interruptive marketing and advertising messages?

Apple fans have long forgiven the company such sins. Until now the firm’s been niche, edgy and the underdog – so it was easy to portray itself as an uber-cool alternative to The Man at Microsoft.

Should Apple’s market cap genuinely eclipse that of Microsoft, then its underdog cachet will be gone.

All I need now is for Seth or some other marketing guru to wheel out Hype Cycles or Adoption Bell Curves to show what such a backlash might look like.

What was once de rigeur could develop a very bad case of de rigeur mortis.

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2 thoughts on “If Apple Gets Bigger Than Microsoft, Will Fans Still Forgive Any Villainy?

    • Hey Shaun,
      The sheer quality of Apple products helps ensure its success.
      What bothers me is the fanboys who’ll brook no criticism of the company.
      Simply making and selling good stuff doesn’t elevate any business beyond questioning.

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