Despite the rags to riches to rags to riches storyline, and despite the tens of billions in cash and a billion happy customers, let’s show both some respect and sympathy for the world’s richest tech company and most valuable brand name.
Apple deserves such consideration because it’s not easy being Apple. Think about what Apple does for a moment, then compare that to all of Apple’s competition. Apple is a hardware company. That’s where most of the money comes from these days. Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Watch, retail stores, accessories, and everything else is just a little gravy-like icing on the cake (Friday is mixed metaphor day at the Mincey HQ).
Apple designs and builds the hardware, yes, but also the stores, oh, and the software that runs on all the gadgets. Who else does that? Samsung? Puhleeze. Samsung is a chip maker that dabbles in refrigerators, washers, dryers, and copiers. What runs on a Samsung Galaxy-whatever smartphone? Android. Where does Android come from? Not Samsung. Google.
What about Google? Don’t they make hardware? Nope. Not really. They farm our hardware designs to various hardware makers and give away the software for free so users will search and see ads along the way. Google isn’t so much a technology company– despite the endless parade of PR hacks chanting otherwise– as it is an advertising company. You know, like your local newspaper or radio station, but bigger.
Hey, wait. Isn’t Microsoft just like Apple? Doesn’t Microsoft make their own software and hardware, just like Apple? Ha ha. That giggle and smirk you heard didn’t actually come from me.
Microsoft makes most of its money the old fashioned way. Windows and Office. Yes, the company has new ventures like cloud computing and subscription services, but the real money comes from Windows and Office and PC manufacturers who pay for the rights to distribute said Windows and Office.
Wait. Doesn’t Microsoft sell hardware? Puhleeze. XBox-whatever has never made money or a return on the investment. Today’s Microsoft copies Apple more than ever with the Surface notebook tablet hybrids, but funny thing– and a true story– only Microsoft knows how many of those quasi-tablets have been sold and they’re not saying. Whatever numbers you read about regarding Apple’s competition and what and how many they sell of whatever are guesstimates. Only Apple publishes real numbers. We all know the truth. Microsoft’s Surface is a new name for a netbook with a touchscreen. It’s not so much a tablet as it is a cheap notebook with a detachable keyboard and a touchscreen. They must be selling like ice cream in July because all those sales guesstimates couldn’t be wrong, right?
It’s tough being Apple. They have to compete against companies with known criminals in their ranks of executives, against companies that claim to be technology giants but really just sell advertising, against companies that have failed to diversify their product line for 20 years, against a company that still hasn’t figured out how to make a profit as the world’s largest online retailer despite a couple of decades of trying (while other companies have figured it out). What some of these companies are better at doing than Apple is hoodwinking investors into believing that their future dominance is just around the corner; maybe next quarter; or the year after. But soon. Honest. Really. Maybe.
On the other hand, Apple does it all. Everything. The whole shebang. The complete widget. The hardware and the software and the stores and the chip designs and succeeds without having to bribe politicians or playing sleight of hand with Wall Street.
The price of being the world’s most valuable technology company and the world’s most valuable brand is this constant requirement to keep a billion customers happy with their hardware and their software.
Who else does that?