Friday, June 11, 2010

Macintosh Empire

A certain someone for whom I care a great deal is celebrating her birthday today. You could pay her DeviantArt page a visit if you like, her work is fantastic - more than worth your time!

Seriously, I'll still be here when you get back!

I heard the other day - I think it was on last week's Maximum PC No BS Podcast - that Apple's market capitalization has exceeded Microsoft's, making it the largest tech company around. The podcasters mostly addressed the whole "underdog" versus "big evil corporation" shtick that may not play quite so much in Apple's favour, but they missed something. They mentioned iPads and iPods and iPhones throughout the show when supporting/mocking Apple, but no one said "this market cap thing is probably because Apple sells hardware devices, and lots of them". I don't know what percentage of Apple's business is what, but I do know that Microsoft doesn't manufacture and sell its own branded platform of computers, and I'm not even going to spend more than this sentence talking about the Zune. We have two companies with platforms that work in different ways. Consider that you'll hear grudging MS users talk about the "Microsoft Tax" when they have to install windows on a system for specific software, or because their company requires it...but that's only $100-200 on top of your base system cost which is maybe $1000 on average. For a $1000 Mac system the "Apple Tax" is 100% (or near enough) of the purchase price.

I would not go so far as to say that this the case of - pardon the pun - Apple v. Orange. We're looking at tech companies that see themselves as competitors, the differing nature of their platforms be damned! The rhetoric of their feud does - I think - have a reasonable analog in the rivalry of Coke and Pepsi. Coke doesn't compare itself to Pepsi in its ads because it doesn't have to; in fact, to do so would legitimize their opponent. Coke needs only be coke - the original, the iconic, the go-to beverage - something it has been for decades, and might be for centuries assuming we don't blow ourselves up before then. Apple and Pepsi, on the other hand, are operating in markets where even after years of competition there is a clear market leader who will not displace easily. Hence the "3/4 Canadians prefer Pepsi over Coke!" ad you probably saw a million times in the '90s. Apple with its' "buy a mac" ads look rather like a win for Apple on the surface, because hey look how hip and cool and secure and crash-free mr.Mac is! But in mentioning the PC at all, Apple has already acknowledged the uphill battle that it's fighting. If you doubt me, how about this: do you see Apple comparing the iPod or the iPhone to ANYTHING else in their advertisements? Of course not! Droid and the others have been saddled with the burden of proof in this case, and the sale is lost unless you can explain in 15 seconds why the customer wants your puny phone and not Steve Jobs' latest toy.

But I may be accused so far of avoiding the issue. It's not an unfair charge, because I'm strongly pro-PC. Yes, Apple is bigger than Microsoft, but I think that it's not so much a case of the tables being turned and all of a sudden MS users have to play the underdogs and talk about how "big Apple" is now the monolithic bad guy. Competition and adversity are necessary to avoid stagnation. If Apple doesn't ever pose a threat to the dominance of Microsoft, they retain the power to bilk us for the same shitty code year after year after year. It's evolution in action: if the Microsoft Entity can't adapt fast enough to preserve its own existence (something that it is at present in no need of, but one may hope) then it must perish. Again, that's far from immediate, but in the now they are facing a situation that does not make for the very best of PR. Who cares what this means in actuality? All most people are going to see is "Blah blah Apple > Microsoft blah market capitalization". It's not that people are dumb, just that most of them aren't economists or enthusiasts who care about the details.

I have just had a tragic epiphany. In this corporate rivalry our choices are between a corporate giant bordering on the soulless that carries a strong distaste for free code and free culture...and a slightly more stylish version of the same.

There are days when I just hate software.


No comments:

Some Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.