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We Love To Hate Microsoft But What About Apple?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on July 9, 2008 in strategy apple microsoft 16 Comments

The reasons so many people hate (or intensely dislike) Microsoft are plentiful and for the most part, pretty easy to understand.  If you were to ask around, reasons cited would centralize around too much power, lack of innovation, stifling creativity, being "closed" and generally products that on average, fail to delight customers.  If you're one of those that hates Microsoft, I'm sure you have your reasons.  Many of us love to hate Microsoft.

And, of course, lots of us love Apple.  We love Apple in that sheepishly adoring way that causes us to want to run our fingers lovingly over our favorite Apple product when nobody is looking just because it makes us happy.  Happy in a good way, and not in that weird, twisted kind of way.  It's an innocent love.  All sunshine and daffodils. 

But, I'm going to argue that though we will likely continue to love Apple for a while, there may come a day we hate doing so. 

Why might we hate to love Apple someday?

One simple, fundamental reason:  Apple cares too much about customers, and the customer experience -- and not much about the community.  Apple has become a benevolent dictator.  They'll invest lots of time, energy and money making their products great and their customers "happy".  But, at their core, they want it to be them that delivers that happiness -- not someone else.  Third-party developers are a necessary evil.

There's a reason for this:  Apple (rightly) thinks that a phenomenal experience is created by closed, proprietary systems by companies that control the boundaries and edges of product design. 

Great experiences are created when the experience designer can dictate and control as much as possible.  The iPod would not have been great if the hardware were designed by one company, the device software by another, applications by another, etc.  The iPod was exceptionally great because Apple controlled it all.

This is why the original Apple computers had such a better experience than the IBM PC.  On the IBM PC platform different companies built the hardware, OS, apps, devices, etc.  Lots of creativity -- but understandably, lots of crap.  And lots of complexity for the user/customer.

So, Apple likes control.  But this advantage of control only goes so far.  Eventually, users will come to value something more than the delightful experience.  Might be performance of an individual component (larger storage), lower price, wider selection of add-ons, etc.  (Maybe even replaceable batteries, less confining DRM, etc.)

Now, thanks to Apple, millions of consumers are enjoying technology like digital music that would likely not have done so without Apple's fanatical focus on solving for ease-of-use and experience.  But, now that we're there, will our love of Apple endure? 

And, if we do continue to love Apple, will we hate ourselves for doing so someday?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The insight for startups?  Some of the biggest innovations and market successes come from companies that are total control-freaks and fanatically focused on solving the problem.  Often, the problem is best solved by an uncompromising purity of approach.