“I’m no longer in love with Apple. I think I’m going to switch from Mac to PC,” I said out loud as I walked out of the Apple Store in the Staten Island Mall, past tables of iPads, iPhones, MacBooks, and iMacs.
Okay, no—I didn’t really say that out loud. In that crowd, at best it would have just made me look crazy.
Clearly the popular momentum is toward loving Apple. Disliking Apple is like swimming against a tsunami—or at least like being one of those people who aren’t on Facebook. But here’s what I’ve been wondering lately:
When did cool become un-cool?
When did different become the same?
When did the renegade become the sheriff?
When did genius become arrogant?
When did Apple become Microsoft?!
Anyone can dislike a company, and that’s not very interesting. Often it’s just sour grapes, or the reaction of one consumer with just one unpleasant experience. But when a devoted fan begins to entertain the notion that their idol might not be as cool as they thought—well, I find that interesting!
It might be helpful, then, to tell you a bit of my history as a devoted fan of Apple:
I bought my first Mac when I was about to start law school, in 1991. It was a Mac Classic, with 4MB of RAM and a 20MB hard drive. Running on OS 6.0.8, it could run only one application at a time.
Graduating law school in 1994, I started my own firm. And as I took on an employee, I also bought another Mac.
At the time, System 7 was the big innovation. It gave you the ability to run more than one application at a time—as long as you had at least 8MB of RAM. Then you could keep two, maybe three applications open.
As my law firm grew, I began to buy more Macs. Soon, I was among the few to have a Mac-based law firm.
I was proud that we were Mac based! The “Think Different” campaign that came along years later really nailed it for why it was fun to be an Apple Computer supporter in the early years. And it was more difficult to be a Mac supporter than to just ride the PC wave.
You couldn’t walk into just any computer store to buy a Mac. There was no Apple Store. There wasn’t even an online store. It was mail order all the way, for just about anything Mac related. MacMall and MacZone were the go-to for everything from Mac-friendly monitors to the infamous Ram Doubler application.
Most software was written for PC. Yes, we had our Mac version of Microsoft Word. And of course, graphics applications like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe PageMaker were aplenty. Just about every cool software available for law practice management, docketing, or even business management in general, however, was written for PC only! Like many Mac-based businesses, we created our own workarounds and devised our own productivity and record-keeping solutions.
So yes, I owned a Mac when it was not easy to own a Mac. In fact, my office was full of Macs, when it was not easy to run a business on Macs!
I openly promoted Mac—the underdog—when the world barely noticed that small Northern California based computer company.
And yes, on June 29, 2007, I stood in line among other early adopters, waiting for the Apple Store to open, so I could purchase the very first iPhone. A year in a half later, when my snowblower sucked it up and spat out pieces of what was my first iPhone, I went straight to the Apple Store to buy a 3GS. [See photo above of my iPhone, mangled but still working]
When the iPad was announced, I preordered it and FedEx delivered it to me on the morning of the release date.
iPods, Cinema Displays, colorful iMacs—too many to name, I’ve had them all. I paid the higher ‘early adopter’ price, and then watched the price drop.
My kids were using Apple products before they were playing with LEGOs.
Today, perhaps a hundred Macs later in my own history with Apple, I’m not sure what happened to that company that was so cool to love, and so cool to root for. The fact that it is now ranked #6 in the Fortune 100, with $150 billion in cash, shouldn’t, by itself, make it un-cool, should it?
I think Apple is like that friend we love and have loved for a long time, but over time has become kind of a jerk—but we don’t want to admit it to ourselves. We want to remember that version of them which, in truth, exists now only in our memories.
I went to the Apple Store yesterday to buy another Mac and asked for my customer business discount (typically a paltry 5% but still worth asking for). They looked me up on their iPad and said my purchase was not eligible for a discount. They said my ineligibility was based on the last “12 months of purchases” and apparently the computers I bought this year in the Apple online store didn’t count.
“What about my 22 years of purchases, shouldn’t that be a better measure of customer loyalty than 12 months!” I thought, but of course did not say. Instead, I quietly handed them my credit card to charge me whatever it was without the discount. This Mac purchase, however, was noticeably less satisfying for me than my many others.
As I walked out the Apple Store with my knapsack-like Apple bag in hand, it felt less like the usual excited-about-my-new-purchase experience. I felt more like I was walking out of the DMV—glad I got it accomplished, but not so thrilled with the process.
What suddenly began flashing into my mind was a whole lot of uncool behavior by Apple, such as ‘forcing’ its customers to buy new computers by releasing new software and operating systems that orphan computers which are only a couple of years old, or releasing applications that contain cool new features that “won’t work” on older computers. I mean, does Drop Zone (which allows you to share files between Macs on the same WiFi network) really require an Intel Core 2 processor to operate? Of course it doesn’t!
With such a huge profit margin, tons of cash, and still lots of market share to grab, why force your loyal fans to buy a new computer every couple of years?
Sometimes being loyal doesn’t pay. When I got home from the Apple Store, I had an email waiting—from Apple. They were informing me that my complimentary 20GB iCloud upgrade (for being a loyal Mobile Me subscriber) would be discontinued as of 9/30/13, knocking me back to 5GB in storage—unless I paid.
Luckily, it also told me that I am only using 2.3GB. I was glad that I never fully bought into the idea of iCloud and wasn’t using their 20GB upgrade—glad I hadn’t fallen into that classic ‘drug dealer’s trap.’ Well, at least this time I didn’t.
[Sarcastic follow up statement to myself: “It would really stink if so much of my life depended on one company! Wouldn’t it?”]
Am I really going to switch to PCs? No. And not just because I’m in too deep, but because Macs are still the best thing out there. I just wish Apple didn’t take advantage of that fact to the detriment of their loyal fans—and especially, their early adopters.
If I took the money I spent on Macs and bought stock in Apple instead, I would easily have $100 million in stock.
Perhaps that’s the lesson:
If you like a product, don’t be an early adopter!
Don’t be a raving fan!
Just be an early shareholder!