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Is Apple old school?


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July 06, 2005

Is Apple old school?

Stephen Baker

In the same post I cited this morning, Nellie Lide dubbed Apple as an old-fashioned, top-down, secretive company. Her words:

Yes, I said Apple. Though it makes and sells innovative products, it doesn't look favorably on its customers' tinkering and it has sued bloggers who revealed information about new products.

So, here's the multiple choice question:

A) Apple is behind the times, and destined either to stumble or adjust to the consumer-driven, grass-roots, blog-powered wave.

B) The charges are unfair. Apple does learn from its customers, and its secrecy is necessary in a cut-throat consumer electronics market.

C) Leading pundits (including bloggers)too often reduce this complex and evolutionary trend into simplistic before/after, enlightened/benighted, grassroots/top-down dichotomies. Judge Apple by its results.

D) other.

I will register my vote after I've had the luxury of examining yours.

10:14 AM

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Hmmm... here's the dilemma: does a company that wants to be part of the open source and distributed business paradigm lose control, or can it retain some level of control over its image and product while still reaping the benefits of the brave new world of business?

The challenge with a completely commoditized marketplace is that everything gradually devolves into pure commodities, where "good enough" is, well, good enough, and the shining stars are those companies that can produce it cheaper or more effectively rather than better. Think Dell.

Instead, Apple has long since recognized the importance of design and quality (though they're not without their own embarassing quality glitches and product misfires) and when I look at whether it's a C&C company, I ask about whether Apple is trying to control its internal company (e.g., how many Apple bloggers are there?) or whether it's trying to control its position in the marketplace.

The answer is that both are true, and in that sense, yeah, I'll finally conceed, Apple is a traditional command and control company. But, oh, the results! :-)

Posted by: Dave Taylor at July 6, 2005 11:22 AM

:: C ::

Apple is very open and participatory where it needs/wants to be...check out the Safari team with it's blog, open source and nightly builds for all to sample.

The media and blogsphere make way too big a deal about transparency, community, etc. Of course they and everyone else want to know every tiny detail about every company/person...no way, doesn't compute for most.

:-)

Posted by: PXLated at July 6, 2005 02:00 PM

Sounds like both of you would choose C. I think I'm leaning in that direction myself... which raises the question: If many of us are making too big a deal about transparency and community, who's getting it right?

Posted by: steve baker at July 6, 2005 02:23 PM

B

Does Apple provide products that people want to buy?

Does Apple provide cutting edge design and functionality?

Does Apple operate in a hyper competitive environment in which secrecy is paramount and the leaking of new product information can cause a wave of "cloned" products?

The answer to all of these questions is "yes", therefore, Apple is only trying to protect its position and intellectual property, and not unfairly.

Posted by: jtruant at July 6, 2005 02:33 PM

Jeffrey, the point isn't that Apple's behaving unfairly, or that it doesn't have justification for keeping tight control of its design and development. Rather the question is whether the company, by pursuing this closed strategy, is missing out on a chance to harvest the smarts of its user community.

Posted by: steve baker at July 6, 2005 02:40 PM

When i wrote that I was thinking that Apple does miss out on using some of the most creative minds out there. And they'd work for Apple for free. It boggles my mind. It's like a rock band ignoring its fans. It does seem like all the apple fans out there connect with each other but not necessarily the company. I don't understand why Apple doesn't keep some things secret and yet put other products out there for fans to work on. The truth is I admire Apple's products (though I don't own any- my kids do) and my answer would be E) All of the above.

Posted by: nellie lide at July 6, 2005 03:58 PM


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