Something to Realize about Apple’s Corporate Spats

by Chris Seibold Apr 19, 2010

If you have a sandbox and your kids happen to be corporate entities the one company you wouldn't want to invite over to play is Apple. Sure, Apple is the coolest kid, the only kid that can pull off the sunglasses and detached look while wearing an outfit purchased at Gymboree. And part of you wants the Apple kid to come over and play with little old Adobe and Google but you know that would be a mistake. Everyone knows Apple just doesn't play nice with other kids.

Apple not getting along with other companies is an old story. Way back in the day, before there were Apple stores, Apple was selling Macs at Best Buy. This was seemingly important for Apple at the time. The only other places to see a Mac before you bought it was Comp USA or one of those musty Apple Authorized resellers where Grandpa Joe bought his cable splitters back when he used his Apple ][ hooked up to 13" B&W TV.

Best Buy had a simple request, the company wanted more of the Indigo (or whatever) iMacs than the other colors available(scratchy green, vomitous red and so forth). You'd think the request wasn't much, Best Buy was just asking for more what consumers actually wanted right? Plus, face it, Best Buy held all the cards. Apple looked at the situation and told Best Buy to hit the freakin' bricks. They'd take the colors Apple sent them and they'd smile. Relationship over (for a while anyway).

So Apple's recent jabs at Adobe (a former centerpiece of Macworld Keynotes) and Google just reinforces the notion that Apple is just a real bastard to work with right? Can I get a big old "Amen?"

Of course not. You're likely an Apple fan so you're thinking Apple is justified for the company's recent action for a variety of reasons. Adobe's shift to the PC in the olden days, Google's temerity at producing android phones and so forth.

Turns out that both haters and apologists are wrong. Those that think that Apple is a dirty player in the world of tech are wrong and those that think that Apple's recent actions are justified because the company reacted to slights from other companies are just as wrong.

The thing that has gone awry here is that many people have personified Apple. It is easy to see why. When you think Apple you think Steve Jobs. You can identify with an individual whereas it is very hard to identify with an entire corporation. So you get your friends back and all, even if that friend happens to be a extremely valuable multinational corporation. Or maybe you hate Steve so no matter what your going to see the things Apple does in the worst possible light.

Forget the personification of Apple, forget the demonization of the competition and realize things for what they are. Corporations going at it to make some money and get an advantage. While Steve Jobs might seem like a friendly guy, he's not Apple. When Steve is making decisions for Apple he isn't making decisions for Steve because what is good for Steve ("I think our entire research budget should go into synthetic organ research") isn't neccessarily good for Apple. Steve makes the decisions that (he thinks) are in the best interest of Apple.

It's time to grow up, just a little, and realize that Apple isn't in this to make Silicon Valley a friendlier happier place. That Apple isn't your BFF and that Apple is just another company that makes stuff for dough. There's nothing wrong with that, and Apple does make some of the coolest stuff and have some of the best customer service around, but Apple is still just another company. When Apple sees an opportunity to make something nifty the company will jump on it without regard to the toes it has to step on.

If you're one of the long time Apple fans it is time to shed yourself of the Florence Nightingale effect. Apple isn't sick anymore and the company has has moved on. It is only natural or Apple to exert the companies newfound clout no matter how much you hate the notion of no Flash on the iPhone and so forth.  If you're busy drinking glass after glass of Apple flavored hater-ade thinking your favorite company would never try to control the market for one of their products you either need a new CEO for your favorite company or the realization is that the reason your "good natured" company is so good natured is because it has to be.

Apple doesn't have to be nice anymore. Expect more of this behavior in the future but don't be disappointed by it, that's just the way large powerful corporations act. 



  • “There’s nothing wrong with that”

    Well, yeah, sometimes there is.  Otherwise this site could have been devoted to defending any and every policy of Microsoft because, hey, the company’s in it to make money and therefore anything they do, no matter how unethical or anti-competitive, is justified.

    Of course, that’s not what happens.  Microsoft is labeled a bully and monopolist (and rightfully so, btw) but when Apple does it, “there’s nothing wrong with that.”

    Apple isn’t just the cool kid in the sandbox.  He’s the cool kid who turns out to be a douche bag, and makes you play by his rules or he’s going to kick sand in your face then take his ball and go home.  Yep, certainly behavior that should be defended and applauded.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Apr 19, 2010 Posts: 2220
  • “Well, yeah, sometimes there is.  Otherwise this site could have been devoted to defending any and every policy of Microsoft because, hey, the company’s in it to make money and therefore anything they do, no matter how unethical or anti-competitive, is justified.”

    I find that criticism completely justifiable. It’s my fault, I worded that badly. I should’ve said “there is nothing surprising about that”

    What I was trying to to say, and apparently failing, was that expecting Apple to act like your old pal from college or something is unrealistic. Apple is a great big, healthy corporation now and the company is going to do stuff that makes long time fans cringe. Or would make them cringe if they weren’t so smitten with the company.

    In short: Apple is a great big company now, expect Apple to act accordingly. Hell, they couldn’t even play nicely when they were beleaguered!

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Apr 19, 2010 Posts: 354
  • There is something that you are missing, Chris. Apple, like many professionals, is looking for the Next Big Thing. To be really successful in the Next Big Thing, you must get on the ground floor, concentrate your energies and ignore the old Big Thing which you plan to replace. The best way to capitalize on the Next Big Thing is to grow the computer market, not just steal users from Microsoft.

    A computer company must bet on technologies, like Apple has bet on multitouch technologies and HTML 5. Apple has had great success as a trend setter in the last 12 years. Why? Because Steve Jobs has good taste, is very hard to please and won’t let a product out the door until it is ready. This is why Apple’s products are so successful.

    Not everyone agrees with Steve’s taste, especially those companies who own the old Big Thing, Like Flash. Those companies might think they can push Apple around.

    Apple has had a problematic relationship with Adobe. Using your sandbox illusion, Apple and Adobe were once best buddies. They did everything together when they were starting out. Then, a New Kid, Bill Gates, moved into town and build a bigger sandbox than Apple’s. The kids at the Apple sandbox said that the Microsoft sandbox was cheaper, shoddier and had lower quality than Apple’s.

    The problem was that the kids at the Apple sandbox started leaving to hang out at Microsoft, but Apple was going through management problems then. The real crushing blow was when Apple was doing poorly, Adobe publicly abandoned Apple and told all the neighborhood kids to come over to Microsoft’s sand box. Since then, Adobe would drop by the Apple sandbox periodically, say some nasty words, drop some buggy, bloated, cross platform Apps and rush back to Microsoft.

    It wasn’t until Apple got its success with the iPhone that Adobe realized that Flash was in jeopardy, not just on mobile phones where Adobe had never seriously tried to play, but also on desktops. Since then, Adobe has been badmouthing Apple constantly. It has been misrepresenting the fact that Flash cannot work, at all, on multi-touch devises and few iPhone users missed Flash on the web, anyway.

    Apple has little reason to cooperate with Adobe. Back during Apple’s beleaguered days, Adobe and Microsoft were essential to Apple’s existence. Now, Apple is no longer ill or badly managed. Its products are in great demand. Apple’s sandbox is growing larger every year while Microsoft’s sandbox has seen better days and is decaying at the edges.

    Adobe and Microsoft no linger call the shots and need to learn that lesson. If this looks as though Apple is being dictatorial, then Apple is willing to live with whatever consequences come from that.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Apr 20, 2010 Posts: 111
  • I’m going to go out on a limb here.

    I don’t think any company should be forgiven (or worse, hailed as ‘good’) for putting financial concerns before doing good things for customers and society. Money is something we all need in life, and yet we balance it with other needs - and it’s fair to hold companies to standards just as it’s fair to hold individuals to standards (despite someone having a “duty” to earn enough money to support their family, for example)

    On the financial side of things - it’s also fair to say that the way your company treats people will affect how many people buy your products or services. So even from a selfish standpoint a company can gain from acting in a socially acceptable way.

    I like Apple for some of the standards they have set. I’ll like them less if they lose those. I don’t care what their reasoning is or from which perspectives it makes sense, there’s a lot of things that make sense in the world that I still would rather see done differently.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Apr 22, 2010 Posts: 228
  • Greg, you have it slightly wrong. We customers have the power to buy or not to buy. If companies don’t serve us well, then we shouldn’t buy.

    The problem comes in when there is a lack of competition; That is when companies get arrogant and stop serving us. The computer industry’s problems are a result of Microsoft’s monopoly. All the competition was in the hardware markets for a decade and a half.

    Apple made many mistakes and came close to going out of business. Adobe chose to be fickle and suck up to Microsoft; It is paying a price for that. These spats are not personal; it’s just business. It’s just a result of Microsoft’s unraveling dominance.

    Monopolies don’t last forever. Microsoft is under serious attack from many quarters; it has shown enormous arrogance and incompetence. The chickens are coming home to roost.

    Microsoft is under threat from Apple. Apple moved out of its traditional niches of education, graphics and design and has made huge inroads in the upper end consumer market. It is now appealing to the Small to Medium sized Business market. But, Apple’s market share is unlikely to exceed 25%.

    Few people realize that Microsoft’s market share is mostly inactive. Sixty per sent of the world’s computers are using Windows XP and will likely remain there for the next couple of years. These are old computers running old software in Enterprise. Companies have no reason to upgrade, because the hardware is working adequately, if slowly. Businesses don’t have the money to buy new computers. That will be necessary for these business functions to upgrade to Windows Seven.

    Hey! Even the Vista computers aren’t moving very fast to upgrade. Sure, at 2% growth a month, that is twice as fast as Vista was, but it is less than half as fast as Snow Leopard’s adoption. At this rate, it will take another year for Windows Seven to get 35%.

    The real threat to Microsoft is that Google’s Chrome OS is coming out this year. Google is going after the low end consumer market, initially, but this will expand into Microsoft’s business and government niches. The Chrome OS will be much safer and more secure than Windows Seven—cheaper, too. Chrome, in combination with WINE to run the old XP software, could take over much of the Windows XP market share. That is a WIN-WIN situation for the Enterprise companies and Google. It is a losing proposition for Microsoft and its allies.

    This is good because there is competition again. Markets are supposed to be combative. Why? Because it is not about the companies; it is about how well they serve their customers. Adobe’s Flash got its dominance because HTML was so crappy and Adobe climbed on Microsoft’s coat tails. It didn’t matter for a decade that Adobe got arrogant and did not serve its Macintosh customers well.

    As Microsoft loses its dominance, many of its old business arrangements and alliances will break up. Apple and Google are competing fiercely and they are unlikely to steal much from each other. Apple’s target is hardware sales; Google’s target is web views of advertising. Both will be going after Microsoft’s established base.

    This will gore Adobe’s ox as well. This trouncing comes from aligning, too closely, with the Industry leader. Adobe will, thus, suffer Microsoft’s fate.

    The handwriting is on the wall for both. Adobe’s FUD campaign against Apple is not working. Next year, most web sites will offer both Flash and H.264 access to video. Many web sites will do this easily by parking its video on YouTube.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Apr 22, 2010 Posts: 111
  • I believe strongly in competition.
    And you’re right, our choice is to buy or not buy (providing competition is functioning properly)

    My disagreement was that it’s acceptable for a company to behave in a way we would consider bad if it were an individual - just because it is a company. We don’t have to take on the belief that since profit is important we should accept lack of care.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Apr 22, 2010 Posts: 228
  • Greg, You are making the very mistake the article brings to light - personification of a corporation. Just to be clear what I mean:

    “the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman”.

    Apple is not a person.  A corporation has not morals.  It is designed to make profit within the rules (the law) of engagement.  So long as no law is broken, it’s all okay.

    Khürt Williams had this to say on Apr 23, 2010 Posts: 45
  • “My disagreement was that it’s acceptable for a company to behave in a way we would consider bad if it were an individual - just because it is a company. We don’t have to take on the belief that since profit is important we should accept lack of care.

    But who can you trust to correct corporate behavior? Are individuals, courts or governmental regulatory agencies any less corruptible than companies?

    Often, corporate problems are from an excess of power where companies become arrogant and unethical. Some of this is part of our culture. If amoral behavior is ignored by the Press or the company’s customers, then corporate practices can get injurious. The courts are best used in curbing that.

    I think our solution is plenty of competition and exposure. Companies need to duke it out in the markets and in public opinion. Companies who use FUD get found out; they get horrible reputations. Governmental regulatory agencies often get suborned by businesses or associations of businesses, so politics solves nothing. That just adds a layer of bureaucratic corruption.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Apr 23, 2010 Posts: 111
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