The Humility of Apple

It’s true that humility is not a word that is commonly associated when it comes to Apple, Inc. It is commonly thought of as being elitist that suggests they and their users are superior to everyone else. The PC vs. Mac ads clearly demonstrate an aesthetic advantage and functional advantage over the dumber, weaker slower, less organized and, in general, substandard PC. It’s almost like you feel sorry for the man, in an “lovable lost,” Charlie Brown kind of way. If you truly believe that you are the best product, the most effective way to market it is to say it. Comparison with inferior products is part of the marketing curriculum. But their tone ads in particular seems to go to the extreme. In addition, Apple users can tend to exhibit the kind of zealousness that is commonly associated with religious cults. If you’re on the “inside” you get the benefits. If you’re outside, your missing out.

Furthermore, Apple has taken this elitist perception another notch worse. They appear to have turned into an oaf. Consider, for instance, the recent iOS App store submission policies. The requirements to be approved are not clear such as if they were an incantation to be able to execute exactly or some sacrifice to gods that is required. They hold all the keys to the kingdom. And when you are off with the king, you might be sacked, or even worse. For instance, take Flash for instance. Visit:-

Apple claims that the exclusion of Flash from devices like iOS devices is due to technical and performance issues (which may be valid) but you cannot be too sure that something went horribly wrong in some backroom somewhere, and now Steve Jobs is able to force them to take the blame. Nevertheless, having the ability to block an entire portion of the internet from millions of devices that connect to the internet is a stunning achievement in itself, not to mention having the courage to accomplish it. Apple, despite legitimate explanations for their behavior continue to reinforce its image of being an untrustworthy company that is in the position of being the most powerful stick.

The critics don’t help. In reality, it’s the critics who make up and embellish this image. Now, I will readily admit that criticism isn’t difficult and in this day and age of instant news, and online journalism, the majority of what is deemed “criticism” is in fact hyperlink bait that entices readers. Articles are written to be current but then deleted to be replaced by the next article that’s coming down the pipeline. But there are some critics who take their work seriously and may have an axe to grind with Apple or any other person who wields significant influence.

In a certain degree the value of criticism is becauseif one only accepted the official data that you receive from the business the company, you would never know the existence of any problems. Positive criticism can lead to improved product development and better customer service and I’d argue that every business should be able to benefit from honest criticism. However, as Apple expands its influence and their actions become more unorthodox, the criticism is becoming more “personal.” The Apple App app approval system is drawing comparisons with the Gestapo tactics used by Nazi Germany.

What’s driving Apple’s decision-making, and making the critics so angry? Instead of being the power-hungry beast many portray Apple as, I’d suggest that at the root of this is a basic and fundamental lack of humility. That’s why, “How do you figure out that?” you might ask. I’ll explain. The concept was apparent to me while I was watching the recent Media Event online and saw the new offerings in terms of products, and then watched closely the reactions of the media.

Exhibit A: iPods. Each year, Apple does 2 things one. They sell more iPods than they did the year before, and 2. they modify the iPod’s lineup. They are unable to let a good thing go! Don’t they see that consumers get confused with too many choices? Do they know that they’re hurting their own sales? Don’t they realize that people who purchased their iPods this week are all raged now? Of course they know yet they continue to repeat the same behavior every year. What I’ve come to understand is that Apple really hates failure (you will see this in every product they make) However the thing they seem to dislike more than their achievement. They’re not impressed with their products or themselves. The iPod is the single most popular musical device in the history of man but they still attack it as if it were a rival. They’ve never been scared to change a form factor or to discontinue a line even when it was still selling. They are ruthless, alright…but toward their own products.

Exhibit B: Apple TV. This is a rare instance of Apple failure or at the very closest they get to it. I’m sure that they didn’t lose money from the device, but it wasn’t a smash hit like everything else they make. In fact, for many businesses it’s likely that this “failure” could be the flagship product. The criticisms have always revolved around what this “could” become. In reality, we’ll see how this has become a frequent criticism of Apple. They leave users wanting more and that’s marketing lingo for “this would have been really amazing if it had (fill in the blank).” What is Apple do? They cut off even more features! The new Apple TV has no hard drive, and fewer ports, and smaller dimensions. It’s about half the size it used to be. It’s the complete opposite of what critics thought they should have. However, let’s look at Apple’s argument here. The majority of the changes were borne directly from actual user experiences. They examined how people used the device in their own homes. The reduction was a trimming away of the unnecessary similar to a sculptor taking away only the things that don’t belong. Now, it’s simpler to comprehend the function and it’s much easier to make use of.

The point is to consider: could Apple could have taken Apple TV to the “next degree” and added even more ports on it, increased storage, improved integration to content networks? Could they’ve made it a hub for all your content? Would they have been able to cut and dice your vegetables? Of course they could ! This is what’s so wonderful about Apple. They absolutely could have built devices that would have satisfied all the tech-savvy geeks out there…but they DIDN’T! Why? It’s because people don’t want this. The average person is confused by too many attributes, and good design bears the fruit of the user’s experience, not capabilities. The reason they take many criticisms about what the products “could” do, is because they produce products that “do” what they promise, in the simplest way.

This, in a nutshell, is the modesty of Apple. They’re willing to endure the ire from critics, and play the part of the bully, and produce products that could be so much more than they actually are, to earn the trust and appreciation of their customers. Critics are a loud minority however they’re providing at least one decent service. By creating this heightened perception, and doing it with such vitriol and enthusiasm When a brand new customer actually uses one of the Apple products, the result is one of surprise, which is the formula for successful business.