Apple Fans, We Are the Machine
For decades, the percentage of PCs in the world far outpaced the very minor percentage of Macs. Apple users were underdogs. Rebels. Thinkers. Geniuses. We were bucking trends and doing something different. Now, though, Apple's the most valuable company on Wall Street. We Apple fans aren't bucking trends anymore. We are the trend.
This story was originally published on Aug. 23, 2012, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.
I've been an Apple Mac user since high school, using them even as I struggled through business classes on clunky PCs. As an adult, I used them in college. I have since purchased five Mac laptops and an iMac, and while I'm not a graphic artist, I've pounded on them most days of my life for years and years.
I lived through the dark time when Apple licensed its OS to the clone makers, and a couple of times here and there, particularly as my budget plummeted, I reconsidered whether I should hang onto the Mac way or throw in the towel and go with a cheaper and sometimes more "powerful" Windows-based laptop, while waiting and waiting for Apple to update its lineup.
But I hung in there. Partially because, hey, I'm just so much more prolific on a Mac. The OS makes sense to me. I appreciate the overall design. I liked Steve Jobs. And I've aligned my identity with quality, investing in a great product, taking care of it, and using the heck the out of it. I buy Macs because they're durable, they last, and I appreciate the overall build quality. It's the same reason I spend more for a great pair of hiking boots, then take care of them but still blast through creeks and up sharp rocky slopes.
The Dark Side of Apple Fandom
Some Apple product enthusiasts -- long-time users -- have been Mac users for so long they actually think of themselves as being the underdog. Everywhere around them, for years and years, they've seen PCs. Their PC-using friends scoffed at them. They faced pressure to figure out how to convert and share files. They were forced to use PCs at their day jobs. Linux was nearly as cool and way cheaper, more open. The percentage of PCs in the world far outpaced the very minor percentage of Macs. Apple users were underdogs. Rebels. Thinkers. Geniuses. We were bucking trends and doing something different.
Many of us thought we were cool.
There's always been a sense that Apple users are in the minority, even as white iPod headphones started showing up on the street, in airports, on TV commercials. Still, the iPod could be tied to a PC. Not really Apple, necessarily. And the same with the iPhone -- you could sync the iPhone to PCs. But to be a true Apple enthusiast, you must use a Mac, and you maybe even have an Apple TV. You happily gave any other Mac user you ran into free 24/7 tech support (though they rarely needed it). We were all still a minority of misfits, even as the mobile music player world (remember the MP3 acronym?) was dominated by the iPod. Absolutely dominated.
And what of the iPhone? It's the world's most popular smartphone with the biggest mindshare, and yet, it has always seemed as if it's the dark horse, the device that's fighting against competitive waves of smartphones ... that it will ultimately be overwhelmed by Android smartphones.
Apple Has Eclipsed the Giants
But now, with Apple's sales success, it has become the highest valued public company in U.S. history. It blasted past the US$600 billion mark, flirting with valuations well past $640 billion, and some analysts say there's enough growth left in Apple to track toward $1 trillion in valuation. Apple is valued more than ExxonMobil, more than Microsoft, GE and Intel. Name any big U.S. company and Apple is worth way more. This is all stock market talk, really, and revenue is a bit different. In terms of revenue, Apple might be still trailing HP by a hair, but its annual revenue will blow by plenty of the rest of the competition. And profitability? Freakishly high.
On a recent evening news broadcast, the newscaster made a comment that caught my attention, something to the effect that the Apple iPhone makes more money than all of Microsoft's products combined. Wow.
That sort of puts Apple's success in perspective, does it not?
When the iPhone 5 hits in September -- even if it's a technically lackluster upgrade -- the pent up demand for the next-generation iPhone will account for an insane amount of revenue for Apple. Some analysts even expect Apple's overall revenue to cruise by HP and slide past Samsung to become the world's largest technology company.
For a longtime Apple fanatic, this is crazy talk.
On the one hand, it's vindication for our way of paying a higher cost of acquisition, of buying music instead of renting it, of choosing Apple's locked-down ecosystems. Our way, the Apple way, has been validated by the masses. They're buying iPhones, they're buying iPads. They're shelling out for high-end MacBook Pros with Retina displays. And they're loving it.
So while Macs are still a minority computing platform, Apple is clearly not. Apple is something far different from its roots.
Apple is the man.
Now that the iPad and iPhones are synced to iCloud, it's not like these are all connected to PC users. So the flavor of Apple is clearly changing. The nuances for Apple users are blurred. We won't be seeing any more "I'm an Apple and I'm a PC," ads, because that metaphor has evaporated. The new Apple user is just an Apple user, and they are everywhere. Apple customers are now about as far from being rebels as can be imagined. It's exciting, sure, and it's nice to be able to find Apple stores all over the place -- and Geniuses on airplanes ready to save us.
But for those of us who've been on the long trek, we're not bucking any trends anymore.
We are the trend.
Our choices are driving developers to create the App Store ecosystem, and we're screwing with all sorts of publishing models -- books, magazines, newspapers, music, movies, television broadcasting. And sure, it makes sense to us, but we're part of the machine. We are the machine. There is no denying it and believing we're different.
We're not different.
And wow, for me at least, that's a weird twist of fate for an old-school Apple fan.