Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Apple Fanboy Dream Comes True — And It’s a Nightmare

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Apple fans have long believed in the perfect superiority of Apple products — and Apple users. Given that superiority, they’ve always chafed at Apple’s niche, one-digit market share status.

In the world of hardcore Apple fanboys, only two things can explain why Apple doesn’t have 100% market share in every market it enters: 1) the technology press is corrupt, and accepts bribes from Microsoft and other companies to lie about products; and 2) the Great Unwashed Masses are ignorant goobers who just don’t get it.

Apple fanboys have long harbored the dream for Apple to clobber everyone — especially Microsoft — and dominate the computer and electronics industries.

That dream — kept alive now by more than two decades of faithful fans — is now becoming a reality.

At some point during 2007 — it’s impossible to say when — Apple crossed some kind of invisible line, moving for the first time in 20 years from “niche” to “mainstream.”

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How Did It All Go So Right?

Apple stores were designed as lofty, minimalist expressions of the Apple aesthetic. “Flagship” stores in New York and other major cities still impress. But now there are 204 Apple Stores in five countries (178 of them in the U.S.), with as many as 40 more scheduled to open in 2008.

Most of them are in malls and nowadays jam packed with those same Unwashed Masses Apple fanboys despise. The experience is less like Hollywood’s Mondrian Hotel, and more like a New Jersey Best Buy on Black Friday. This “mallification” of the Apple store experience is undeniable. Apple loves it. Wall Street loves it. And the mall rats love it. But the fanboys hate it.

Everyone expects Apple to have an amazing holiday season, and is expected to break the record for total number of Macs sold in a quarter — probably more than 2.5 million computers and more than ten times that many iPods. What will all this success do to Apple?

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More than half of the people who bought Apple computers in Q3 were buying a Mac for the first time — either new buyers or “switchers.” Some Apple fans are already seeing the signs of “Windows-style behaviors” creeping into the Mac OS X.

Both Macs and iPhones are increasingly sold for business use. Will Apple start doing what Microsoft has always done, which is to compromise usability and functionality for consumers in order to make systems better for business?

One unspoken fanboy fear about Apple’s mainstream success and broadening appeal is that the company will start catering to the masses — actually change products and services to appeal to former Windows users.

And, after all, why wouldn’t they? The traditional fanboy base will buy Apple no matter what. But the switchers, corporate users and others still have to be won over and coddled.

Another source of mockery for Apple fanboys used to be the insecurity of Windows. Security specialists have long argued about whether Windows is more likely to get hacked because of Windows’ insecurity or its popularity. While still unresolved, the issue is becoming more interesting because hackers appear to be targeting Apple systems in larger and growing numbers. Security company F-Secure blames Apple products’ popularity for the rise in interest among hackers.

With Apple’s growing success, the company seems to be turning into target No. 1 for patent-infringement lawsuits. The most recent lawsuit involves the iPhone’s “Visual Voicemail” feature.

This feature — and even the branding of it — isn’t particularly unique. Why go after Apple? One possible answer is that the company is successful, so slamming them with a suit will gain the Klausner Technologies’ both publicity and potential revenue.

Lawsuits forced Microsoft to behave less like Microsoft. Will lawsuits — frivolous or otherwise — force Apple to behave less like Apple in how it designs, builds and supports its products?

The Apple fanboy dream of industry dominance is finally coming true. And with that dominance, mainstream users, corporate buyers, hackers and lawyers all now want to take a bite out of Apple. At risk: membership in an elite society, superiority, security, and more. For longtime fanboys, the dream-come-true looks more like a nightmare.

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