Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Big Apple: Why Mac Rules

Apple has pushed past arch-rival Microsoft to become the world's biggest technology company, it is reported this week. Changes in the share price values of the two in Wednesday's choppy trading left the total value of Apple at $222bn (£154bn). Microsoft is now valued by investors at $219bn. However, Microsoft still enjoys higher profits than Apple. Its most recent annual net profit was $14.6bn (£10bn), compared with $5.7bn for Apple. Microsoft also reported bigger full-year revenues of $58.4bn, with Apple on $36.5bn.

Much of the credit, if not all, should of course go to Steve Jobs, the wildly creative and energetic genius of design and marketing, who, with Steve Wozniak,  was also the inventor of the original Mac, the first really personal computer.
"ease of use combined with excitement of accomplishment. I see it in every Apple product"
This isn't just another battle of corporate giants. It's not just a battle of brands with Apple enjoying a passionate following which no other international brand perhaps enjoys. Apple and Microsoft are two different, if not opposite attitudes to life and the creative element in it. To me, it is the battle of the original vs the mundane. Of all the things that can be said about Apple Mac,  the closest to me is that it inspires creativity.

But how? I have often thought about it and tried to understand - why? what's in it? where is that core element in all things Apple, that clicks in with its fans - and even neutral users? 

Strip off the inimitable beauty of design (every new Mac quickly turns into a generic image of the product family, just look at cartoons or product placements in films); ignore the hard to beat range and intensity of the outpour of new high-tech cutting-edge products, both computers and gadgets, 'hard' and 'soft' (iTunes, iWork, iMac, iPod, iPhone and now iPad); take away no-worry-about-viruses factor; discount the solidity of the current OSX main software (based on Unix); overlook the compromises with the opposition, i.e. flexibility and manoeuvre  (iTunes work on Windows, MS Office has a Mac version, current Macs are increasingly Intel-based and iWork programmes are compatible with corresponding MS Office and Open Office applications, there is hardly anything incompatible about Macs these days), try to forget about personalities (Jobs isn't the easiest man to work with, they say), – do all of that and you'd get to what I call the 'child factor'.

The Child Factor is ease of use combined with excitement of accomplishment. I see it in every Apple product, hard and soft. If you ever did cut, glue and paste (I'm talking paper) with a toddler and saw their eyes lightening up, you'd know what I mean. Remember the gasps of amazement in 1970-s when people first tried copy-pasting on Apple Macintosh machines? 

Of course it doesn't mean that creativity always wins. Sony didn't win over Matsushita (Panasonic) for example. It's a long and never ending story. Were German Tigers better than Russian T-34s? Did Michelangelo beat Leonardo?

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