The Humility of Apple

Let’s face it, humility is not a word often associated with Apple, Inc.A� They are often perceived as having an elitist mentality, as if they and their users are better than everyone else.A� The PC vs. Mac ads clearly demonstrate a stylistic and functional advantage over the weaker, dumber, less coordinated, and generally sub-standard PC.A� You almost feel bad for the guy, in a “lovable loser,” Charlie Brown kind of way.A� I guess if you really believe you have a better product, the right way to advertise that is to say it.A� Comparison with inferior products is marketing 101.A� But the tone of these ads in particular seems to go over the edge.A� Furthermore, the Apple users can tend to have the fervent zealotry more often associated with religious cults.A� If you’re on the “inside” you get it.A� If you’re on the outside, your missing out.
Furthermore, Apple has taken this elitist perception another notch worse.A� They seem to have turned into a bully.A� Take, for example, the recent iOS App store submission policies.A� The requirements for approval are mysteriously unclear, as if there were some incantation that you must get exactly right, or some offering to the gods needed.A� They hold all the keys to the kingdom, and if you get on the bad side of the king, you could be banished, or worse.A� Take Flash, for example.A� Apple continues to claim that the outright exclusion of Flash on their iOS devices is due to performance and technical issues (which seem valid), but you can’t help but think a deal went horribly wrong in some back room somewhere, and now Steve Jobs has the power to make them pay for it.A� Nevertheless, having the ability to exclude a major part of the web from millions of devices that access the internet is a remarkable feat in itself, not to mention having the guts to actually do it.A� Apple, despite legitimate explanations for their behavior, continues to feed its perception as a bully who finally is carrying the biggest stick.
The critics aren’t helping.A� In fact it’s the critics who create and embellish this perception.A� Now, I will readily admit that criticism is easy, and in the age of instant, online journalism, much of what passes for “criticism” is actually link bait to attract readers.A� Articles are written for the moment and then discarded immediately in favor of the next article coming down the pipeline.A� But there are some critics who take their job seriously, and probably do have an axe to grind with Apple, or anyone else who wields significant influence.
To a certain point, criticism is good, because, if you only believed the official information you get from the company itself, you wouldn’t know any problems existed at all.A� Good criticism leads to better product development, better customer service, and I would argue that every High Tech Company Examples company values healthy criticism.A� But as Apple grows in influence, and their decisions seem increasingly non-traditional, the criticism is getting more “personal.”A� Apple’s App Store approval process alone is drawing comparisons to the Gestapo tactics of Nazi Germany.
What really is driving Apple’s decision-making, and making the critics so angry?A� Instead of the power-hungry beast many portray Apple to be, I would submit that at the bottom of all this is a basic and fundamental humility.A� Jobs With An Agronomy Degree So, “How do you figure that?” you ask.A� I’ll tell you.A� The idea became clear to me as I watched the recent Media Event online and saw the new product offerings, and then watched closely the response of the press.
Exhibit A: iPods.A� Every year or so, Apple does 2 things: 1. They sell more iPods than the year before, and 2. they change the iPod lineup.A� They just can’t seem to leave a good thing alone!A� Don’t they realize that people get confused with too many options?A� Don’t they realize that they are eating into their own sales?A� Don’t they realize that people who just bought iPods last week are all mad now?A� Of course they know, and yet they do the same thing every year.A� What I have come to realize is that Apple really hates failure (you can see this in every product they make), and yet, what they seem to hate even more is their success.A� They are never impressed with themselves or their products.A� The iPod is the single most popular music device in the history of man, and yet they attack it like a competitor.A� They have never been afraid to change a form factor, or discontinue a line, even when it was still selling.A� They are ruthless, toward their own products.
Exhibit B: Apple TV.A� This is a rare case of an Apple failure, or at least the closest they come to it.A� I’m sure they didn’t lose money on the device, but it wasn’t a smash hit like everything else they do.A� In fact, for many companies, this “failure” would be a flagship product.A� But the criticism always circled around what it “could” be.A� In fact, we’ll see that this is a very common criticism of Apple.A� They always leave the users wanting more, which is marketing speak for “this would have been really great if only it had (fill in the blank).”A� So what does Apple do?A� They cut even more features!A� The new Apple TV has no hard drive, fewer ports and a smaller footprint.A� It’s half the device it used to be.A� This is the exact opposite of what critics thought it should be.A� But let’s consider Apple’s reasoning here.A� Most of the changes came right out of actual user experience.A� They looked at how real people used the device in their real homes.A� The reduction was a trimming away of the unnecessary, like a sculptor removing only what doesn’t belong.A� Now, it’s easier to grasp what it does, and much less complicated to use.
This is the point: could Apple have taken Apple TV to the “next level” and put even more ports on it, increased storage, improved integration to content networks?A� Could they have made it a hub for all your content?A� Could they have made it slice and dice your veggies?A� Of course they could have!A� That’s what is so great about Apple.A� They absolutely could have built a device that would satisfy the most tech-savvy geeks out they DIDN’T!A� And what’s the reason?A� Because regular people don’t want that.A� Regular people get confused by too many features, and good design bears the fruit of usability, not capability.A� The reason they take so much criticism over what their products “could” do, is that they make products that simply “do” what they promise, in the simplest way.
This, in a nutshell, is the humility of Apple. They are willing to take the heat from critics, to play the part of the bully, and continue to make products that could be so much more than they are, in exchange for the loyalty and gratitude of their customers.A� Critics are a loud minority, but they are serving at least one good service.A� By creating this heightened perception, and doing it with such vitriol and vigor, when a new customer actually uses an Apple product, the response is unexpected delight, which is the recipe for success.

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